From Iceland — Búllan


Published July 7, 2009


Hamburgers may not be traditional Icelandic fare, but when it comes down to it, it is no surprise that the fast food obsessed island hosts a brilliant burger joint. A sweet little hut by the harbour, Búllan is no secret – everyone knows that this is the best place for beef in a bun.
Búllan has loosened the tongue muscles and purple prose of the Grapevine editorial team several times over the years.  “Mysteriously good burgers,” say the current editorial team, who practically live off of them during layout. “Ideal American burger,” wrote editor Bart Cameron in 2006. “At Hamborgarabúllan, the good times never stop,” wrote Eliza Reid, the resident food critic in 2005.  In 2004, Padraig Mara was “nearly moved to tears.”
But Búllan’s burger is no gimmicky attention seeker. Not as innovative as the Keflavik Villiburger “hot-dog burger.” Not as large as the trucks of downtown eateries. The beauty of Búllan’s treasure lies in its simplicity: a white bread bun, slices of lettuce, tomato, cheese and 120 g of local beef patty—cooked so still slightly pink and topped with the holy condiment trinity of mayo, ketchup and mustard. A sinful meaty heaven, bite after bite. Yet you don’t have to ask a vegetarian twice to join either, as their vegetarian burger is crunchy, fresh, half-organic and tasty as a teacher’s apple.
Go for the offer of the century (ISK 1190) for soda with refill, fries and a burger. Add the coffee shake (ISK 550) too, you won’t regret it.  The prices aren’t the lowest in town, but they are not outrageous either, considering the quality. As for service—how many other fast-food joints regularly ask if you enjoyed the food as you walk out the door?
Owner Tommi Tómasson has said that one should never eat at a grill restaurant if the chairs match and Búllan—with its Christmas lights, Sopranos posters and “Be nice or leave” sign posts—is definitely laid back. I have also been told that, when in residence, the dancing Scooby Doo on the counter is a sight to behold.
The best burgers in town are grilled up by the same man who brought the dish to Iceland back in 1981. In honour of this burger king, locals may call the Búllan burgers Tommiburgers to try and confuse you, but now you know better.

  • Where: Hamborgarabúlla Tómasar, Geirsgata 1
  • Web:
  • What we think: If you want to eat a burger in Reykjavik, this is the place.
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