From Iceland — Food Festival Fun

Food Festival Fun

Published October 14, 2010

Food Festival Fun

It’s Airwaves, people! Sleep ‘til noon, drink all day, rock out all night, repeat. It’s a great time of year! So great that every sentence in this article should be ended with an exclamation point—it’s just! That! Great! But you’ve got to keep your body fed to avoid an otherwise certain crashing. You don’t want to skip a meal and then find yourself with an empty stomach and a spinning head at that Italian electro/Czech lo-fi/Robyn gig you’ve been dying to see. As always your dear friends here at the Grapevine have got you covered, whether you’re looking for a five-course affair, a casual pre-concert meal or a late-night bite. Read on, dear Airwavers, and satisfy the hunger within.
Grái Kötturinn is a wonderful place. Nestled somewhat underground at Hverfisgata 16a, this cosy little breakfast nook will feed your hangover away—with more food and caffeinated beverages than you can shake a stick at. There’s a fairly ample menu, but if you’ve just woken up hungry after a long night of Icelandic hardcore/ French accordion jams/Robyn then the Truck is for you. It is the very embodiment of the all-American, indulgent, guilt-inducing breakfast— larger than life and gluttonous to the extreme. Grái Kötturinn does the dish right, with fluffy pancakes, eggs done the way you like ’em, bacon, toast and home fries stacked high, and served with complimentary coffee. With some OJ to wash it all down, you’ll be ready to see some cultural sites, take in some museums and then proceed to drink your face off for the 2nd/3rd/5th night running.
Who doesn’t appreciate a good sandwich? Bread is a classic, hearty filler and with plentiful toppings, a good ‘ole sammy is pretty much the best lunch any kid could ask for. You know who does good sandwiches? Sandholt (Laugavegur 36). Laying eyes upon the fresh baguette sandwiches and selection of wraps—the salmon, with a kick of dill and creamy dressing, is superb—in the glass display is like taking in the offerings of a quaint Parisian patisserie. Since this publication is in no way affiliated with the sandwich artisans over at Sandholt we can’t really promise what toppings you will be in store for, but we can fairly confidently promise you that they will be a f lavour sensation the likes of which your previously deprived tastebuds have never known. In addition to the fine casual fare, Sandholt also offers up a nice quite locale in which to lay low after a night of German indie disco/Spanish postpunk/ Robyn, before heading out for more AMFJ/Mexican new-wave/Robyn.
You’re here for a festival! Eat a burger! How about some fries? Beer? You’re set! Slightly off the beaten path at the corner of Vitastígur and Bergþórugata is local burger joint/watering hole Vitabar, a greasy-spoon that is out of the way enough to go for a possibly frowned-upon midday drink but not so far that you wouldn’t haul your cookies there for one of their infamous forgetme- not burgers (800 ISK). As one would expect from the Grapevine-declared best blue cheese burger in Reykjavík, the forget-menot burger is sweaty and sloppy and covered in enough blue cheese and garlic to taint your breath for a week. Not recommended if you’re looking to get lucky at that Irish house/Lithuanian big band/Robyn set you’re heading to later. If this is your late-night intention then maybe go for another menu item—they’ve got a great steak and beer combo and a bunch of other burgers that are sure to whet your pallet.
Fancy Dinner!
The Fish Company. Go there. Seriously, I wish I could just end right there and bank on you all just taking my word for it and shelling out a couple hundred more krónur for a totally worth-it dining experience that will exceed your every expectation but I’ll go on. Let’s set the scene: you’re in town for a showcase festival, dying to catch the hottest Greenlandic emo/Norwegian death something’er other/Robyn and you feel like treating yourself to something special, something other than hotdogs and beer. You know, something classy. Go to The Fish Company (Vesturgata 2a), order pretty much anything on the menu and then write a long and gushing letter of appreciation to the Grapevine for recommending the experience. The various ‘Tour’ menus on offer are by far the best choice and value—you’ll get a multi-course meal prepared with fresh and sumptuous Icelandic ingredients that will knock your socks off. If you’re keen on combining courses of your own choosing then just be sure not to miss out on the fish soup, combining coconut milk and South East Asian spices with the typical staples of an Icelandic seafood soup to damn near perfection.
Gamla Smiðjan has grown out of the old Pizzuverksmiðjan on Lækjargata. It’s delicious. And open late. And delicious. I don’t know how Gamla Smiðjan managed it, but I think I can honestly proclaim that theirs is the best pizza I’ve ever tasted. Actually, this fine publication voted it the best pizza in Reykjavík not so long ago. The crust is thin and crisp, but not dry; the sauce is subtle yet f lavourful; the toppings taste high quality and there’s just the right amount of them. Delightful! Adding to the splendour that is Gamla Smiðjan, they happen to be just across the street from a taxi stand. So when you’ve had your fill of British folktronica/Danish poptastica/Robyn you can chow down and quickly head home or to the after party. I recommend the pie with chicken, jalapeño’s and salted peanuts, if that’s your kinda thing. Pepperoni and cheese will work, too.
Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur has been serving up hot dogs with all the toppings to the hungry masses and well-informed tourists (including the likes of Metallica’s James Hetfield and phallus aficionado and former P.U.S.A. Bill Clinton—who doesn’t want to eat like those guys?) for 73 years. Four generations, in the same location on Tryggvagata almost the whole time and some of the staff have worked there for over thirty years. And it’s cheap and open for your convenience as you stumble out of that awesome/ lack-lustre/so-so showcase of that British post-rock/Canadian new weird America/Robyn you’ve been dying to see. Just 280 ISK! The pylsa is pretty standard, which is just right. Run of the mill bun, ample toppings, steaming hot sausage. The casing of the sausage pops in my mouth as I bite into it and the combination of crunchy and fresh onions and the darker pylsur mustard add some gentle bite and complexity to the texture. It’s a decent snack or meal. The one lesson I never seem to learn is that I just don’t like remúlaði. It’s too mayonnaise-y, too thick, too something I can never seem to put my finger on until I’ve downed my pylsa and think to myself “damn, I wish I hadn’t asked for remúlaði.” But at the same time I know that I would be unsatisfied without the added condiment. It’s a bit of a doubleedged sword, I suppose. I hope to find a solution some day. Did I mention it’s cheap?
The Noodle Station (Skólavörðustigur 21A) is in a league of its own. Aesthetically sparse, but the noodles boast a punch of simple and complementary flavours that overwhelm the senses. It really is simple, with only two options on the menu: chicken or beef. I always go for chicken and have never been disappointed, but I hear the beef is great, too. The meat is seasoned independently of the soup, but does not compete with the broth or accoutrements therein; it is tender and moist to the point of breaking apart easily and delicately. The soup base is an authentically spiced broth, with bean sprouts and noodles intertwined within it and topped with accents of chilli and peanuts. And it is served in a deep noodle bowl, with a metal spoon and a good pair of sturdy chopsticks. Bonus points for real f latware and utensils. The Noodle Station serves noodles the way noodles should be: f lavourful, comforting and enjoyable to slurp and savour. Another sensational bite to get you through another mayhemic night of Finnish shoegaze/Armenian string quartets/Robyn.

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