Published July 15, 2011

Ragnar Egilsson

The waitress was in a strange mood. She freely admitted that her humour was a little hit-and-miss, which it was (especially the comment that the ‘American burger’ was only included on the menu to appease the tastes of ‘clueless Americans’) but Iceland is not exactly famed for inclusiveness or for toeing the line of social decorum, so we will chalk that one up to local colour.
During our chat she admitted that originally they had not intended to focus on burgers, and it shows. The general presentation bore the usual mark of mixed intentions. The lava rocks, ambitious web-design and quasi-modern woodwork pointed to aspirations of mid-range touristy status, betrayed by the otherwise incongruous decorations and a burger-laden menu with 4Chan-friendly names for dishes like “epic overkill.” Although I have to admit I did chuckle at “svEpPIC” (sveppir = mushrooms).
But like with the service, this didn’t come off as off-putting, as much as colourful and slightly typical of Icelandic mid-rangers.
My dinner companion and I ordered a 200 gr. steak (3.690 ISK) and a “Classic Epic” burger (.1950 ISK) respectively. The epic burger clocks in at an impressive 300 gr., which still appears like a whimpering tenderoni next to the burly ‘Epic Overkill’ on their menu, which packs 600 gr. of meat between perfunctory buns.
The steak was ordered medium-rare, and although it was perfectly cooked and well seasoned we would have liked it a little tenderer. However, the limited availability of top quality beef in Iceland should be taken into consideration.
The waitress was on her own with the lunch service, so I’m inclined to forgive her for failing to ask me how I wanted my burger done. And although the burger was slightly more grilled than I would have liked it, it did hit medium-rare quite nicely. I was also pleasantly surprised to see that the burger was not too salty (almost a given in Icelandic burger culture), letting the beef do the heavy lifting. Although the inclusion of bell peppers on the burger was a nice touch, members of the anti-pepper brigade should consider themselves duly warned.
The burger was huge and came with fries and béarnaise for dipping, which was another original touch. Nice as it was, I couldn’t stomach the idea of dipping deep-fried potatoes in butter so I opted for ketchup. This turned out to be a mistake, as the ketchup we were served had a rancid off-taste. I guess I would have been better off with the butter sauce.
Restaurant 73 serves a variety of bagels, a rare and welcome sight in Iceland (and I regret that I wasn’t able to try them out). And with the music at a nicely subdued volume, comfortable surroundings and a central location, I do expect these guys to maintain their popularity with tourists and Icelanders on their lunch hour.
Overall my issues with 73 are issues that I have with the restaurant/burger culture in Iceland in general (where are the damn pickles!). Otherwise I can recommend the place for novel burger combinations, quality meat and servings large enough to sate a recently defrosted mammoth—provided it was carnivorous and not too picky about its pickles.

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