From Iceland — The Best of Reykjavík 2012: Dining and Grub

The Best of Reykjavík 2012: Dining and Grub

Published July 19, 2012

The Best of Reykjavík 2012: Dining and Grub

Best burger: Grillmarket
Hamborgarabúlla Tómasar has won this category ever since we started compiling our BEST OF list back in aught nine, and for good reason: they make delicious burgers. While Búllan is still a popular choice among Reykjavík’s burger lovers, there’s a new burger in town that simply can’t be ignored—its sheer tasty, meaty, juicy, burgery, bacony deliciousness ensures its status as Reykjavík’s best burger bar none. We are of course talking about Grillmarket’s hamburger, what with all its glorious 220 grams of high quality, fire-grilled ground beef topped with crispy bacon sandwiched between freshly baked, mustard-smeared buns (served with a side of curly fries, pickles and a cherry tomato!). Anyone who has tried it will attest that the Grillmarket-burger is leagues beyond any other burger in town, and at 1,890 ISK it comes at a fair price. The only downside is that it’s only available as part of the restaurant’s lunch menu, served ‘til 14:00 daily.
Runners-up: Hamborgarabúlla Tómasar (“They reintroduced proper burger culture to Iceland, and they still kick ass”), Vitabar (“A no-fuss, quality burger served in a neighbourhood bar”), American Style (“The classic Icelandic burger, whether you like it or not”)
(2011: Hamborgarabúlla Tómasar
2010: Hamborgarabúlla Tómasar
2009: Hamborgarabúlla Tómasar)

Best veggie burger: Hamborgarabúlla Tómasar
As our food critic says: “Veggie burgers are a science and the journey to the perfect veggie burger will teach you every major food principle worth knowing…along with some chemistry and basic nuclear physics.” It was certainly not an easy choice, but we think Hamborgarabúllan is doing something right these days. Sindri Már Sigfússon of Sin Fang tells us that it’s especially good when you top the patty with Búllan’s fries, pickles and Béarnaise sauce.
Previous winners, Hamborgarafabrikkan (which gives you the option of replacing the meat from any of their burgers with Portobello mushrooms) and Saffran (which goes the extra mile to make their veggie burger vegan) are still pretty good, though.
(2011: Hamborgarafabrikkan
2010: Saffran
2009: Drekinn)

Best ‘specialty burger’: Vitabar’s ‘Forget-me-not’
Slathered in delicious blue cheese and garlic, Vitabar’s ‘Forget-me-not’ burger is the gold standard that other non-standard burgers will eternally be judged by, and it takes the cake yet again. With its divey, authentic charm, Vitabar remains a reassuring place to feast on a burger and a beer—if that feast happens to contain massive amounts of rich blue cheese, then that’s all the better. Their regular burgers are pretty great too.  
Runners-up: Roadhouse (“The donut burger and the Empire State are luscious, tempting and kind of evil”) Fabrikkan (“The Rudolf burger, made out of reindeer, is only available around Christmas, and it is SO YUMMY”), Búllan (“Búllan is overrated, but their steak burger is a wondrous concoction.”)
(2011: Vitabar
2010: Hamborgarafabrikkan
2009: Vitabar)

Best slice: Devitos
Deli’s sporadic opening hours seem to be working against them in the ‘best slice’ category this year (along with our eradication of the category ‘best drunken slice’), keeping them from winning for the fourth consecutive year. After much debate, our panel of experts declared Devitos Pizza by Hlemmur as the king of the Reykjavík slice, noting that “their slices are always consistent in quality,” and “they were the pioneers of pizza by the slice in this country, and they are still the best at it.” As always, Devitos get bonus points for the delicious oils and spices on offer.
Runners-up: Deli (“Varied toppings, never stale, always delicious.”).
(2011: Deli
2010: Deli
2009: Deli)

Best pizza: La Luna trattoria-pizzeria
Family-run La Luna trattoria opened up for business on Rauðarárstígur last year and has been steadily winning fans since with its delicious wood fired pizzas that have folks gushing on the streets and on the net. “The pizzas at La Luna are the best on offer in Reykjavík these days, whether you’re eating in or taking out. It’s a shame they don’t deliver,” remarked one reader, while another noted: “Their toppings are always fresh and plentiful, they never skimp, and if you like cheese… OMG!” We gave it several tries and are happy to confirm the verdict: La Luna is the best thing going in Reykjavík pizza today, even though their pasta might be hit or miss (see: our restaurant review in the listings pages).
Runners-up: Gamla smiðjan (“Wood fired pizza is superior, and they seem to be doing the best job of it these days”), Eldsmiðjan (“They’ve been making a comeback lately!”)
(2011: Gamla Smiðjan
2010: Gamla Smiðjan
2009: Devitos Pizza)

Best ice cream: YoYo
First things first, we decided that we weren’t going to exclude frozen yogurt from the ice cream running, so anything ice cream-like counts. The last two years in a row, Ísbúðin Ísland has taken this award (keep in mind that Ísbúð vesturbæjar is an INSTITUTION, which means that it’s not in the running). This year, however, there was a hot debate between Ísgerðin and YoYo. While one of our correspondents pointed out that Ísgerðin has “really crazy flavours like Kahlúa and shit,” others pointed out that YoYo has more. Thus we award YoYo best ice cream for its great selection of flavours and toppings. Not only that, but it’s also FUN to make your own, mixing in whatever fresh fruit and candy your heart desires, paying by weight.
(2011: Ísbúðin Ísland
2010: Ísbúðin Ísland
2009: Ísbúð Vesturbæjar)

Best bakery: Mosfellsbakarí in Reykjavík
We were pretty divided on this one. It came down to Sandholt, Bernhöftsbakarí and Mosfellsbakarí. Sandholt won it the two years in a row now, and the year before that it was Mosfellsbakarí. After some deliberation we decided that this bakery should once again take the cake. In fact, one of their cakes was voted best cake in a national competition this year. In operation since 1982, this bakery sure knows what it’s doing when it comes to fresh bread, and they are delectable pastries on par with what you’d find in Paris.
(2011: Sandholt
2010: Sandholt
2009: Mosfellsbakarí)

Best Thai food: Ban Thai
Ban Thai keeps serving up Reykjavík’s best Thai food by far. It is so beloved that every single course off the restaurant’s huge and varied menu seems to have a fan or two lurking around; indeed, Ban Thai’s many advocates have grown a love for every single aspect of the place (even its weaknesses, with one reader proclaiming: “The bad service is entertaining—the food is fantastic”). Years of dining there allow us to damn near guarantee that everything you order at Ban Thai will be fresh made, authentic and delicious—even though it might sometimes take a few minutes to make it to your table.
(2011: Ban Thai
2010: Ban Thai
2009: Ban Thai)

Best kebab: Kebab Grill
This was a new category last year and it went to Habibi, which we still think is pretty good in terms of Reykjavík’s kebab places. This year, however, we’ve been graced by a new place called Kebab Grill, and while the service could be quicker, this is without doubt the best kebab place in Reykjavík. We’re especially pleased that you can actually get your kebab in pita bread here. The falafels aren’t bad either.  
(2011: Habibi)
Best coffeehouse: 
Kaffismiðjan wins best coffeehouse for the fourth year in a row now. If Mokka Kaffi weren’t already a coffeehouse institution, it might be entering this sacred territory. Much like last year, however, Kaffismiðjan had some competition, in particular from Café Haiti and C Is For Cookie, so it is certainly not invincible. Why is it winning again? As one of our trusted coffee drinkers explained in simple terms: “Brilliant coffee and atmosphere.” Their lovely pink roaster, which they put to work weekly, certainly doesn’t hurt either of these things and if they keep it up they might just be edging onto institution territory.
Runners-up: Café Haiti, C Is For Cookie
(2011: Kaffismiðjan,
2010: Kaffismiðjan
2009: Kaffismiðjan)

Best coffee-to-go: Kaffifélagið
We would probably enjoy lingering at Kaffifélagið if their facilities allowed for it, as the atmosphere surrounding this café on Skólavörðustígur is always cheerful and attractive. Likewise their lattés, americanos and cappucinos are made with love and pride, guaranteeing a consistently great cup every time. A dependable and high standard of quality place Kaffifélagið at the top of Reykjavík’s coffee-to-go hierarchy for yet another year.  
(2011: Kaffifélagið
2010: Café Haiti
2009: Kaffifélagið)

Best new coffeehouse: Stofan
Stofan has been around for a little over a year now, and even though the small café’s appeal and reputation have been steadily growing within some circles it remains unknown to most of Reykjavík’s coffee drinkers. Stofan’s biggest draw is its “relaxed and comfy atmosphere,” and its superb coffee and “tasty baked goods” will keep you coming back.
(2011: C is for Cookie)
Best tea: 
Litli Bóndabærinn
While Icelanders LOVE their coffee and tend to be coffee drinkers over tea drinkers, we decided to make this category last year because some people actually do drink the stuff. Te og Kaffi won it last year, but we think Litli Bóndabærinn is making the best tea these days. “At Litli Bóndabærinn, the service is brilliant and they know the difference between their teas,” our resident tea drinker argued.
Runner-up: Tíu Dropar (“Tíu Dropar have friendly staff and they have loose tea”).
(2011: Te og kaffi)
Best Sushi: SuZushii
Last year suZushii in Kringlan won because they were “consistent, fresh and have everything you need, even though you have to go to effing Kringlan to get it.” This year someone argued: “SuZushii is just the best, best tasting sushi. I know for a fact that it’s the only sushi place the Japanese embassy will use when they hold a function.” If it’s the only sushi that the Japanese Embassy uses, we think they must be doing something right.
Runner-up: Sushi Train. It can be fun to sit around a conveyor belt and it’s also a great option if you’re not super hungry.
(2011: SuZushii
2010: Sushibarinn
2009: Sushismiðjan)

Best vegetarian: Gló
Being a vegetarian in Iceland is kind of like being a tea drinker in Iceland. People typically eat meat and drink coffee here. That said, there are some vegetarian restaurants around, and one of those, Gló (though not strictly vegetarian), is pretty hot these days. The chef at this raw food joint Solla Eiríksdóttir received some international recognition in the raw food world this past winter, and she’s opened a second restaurant in Kópavogur. People were pretty much in agreement that Gló takes best vegetarian again. “They know what they’re doing” and the restaurant is “in a league of its own,” as a couple of people noted. Note that Á Næstu Grösum, the winner in 2010 and 2009, no longer exists.
Runners-up: Grænn Kostur and Kryddlegin Hjörtu. The latter is not strictly vegetarian, but you can get good vegetarian food there.
(2011: Gló
2010: Á Næstu Grösum
2009: Á Næstu Grösum)

Best hangover meal: Vitabar
As one mail-in noted: “Getting past the smell of stale beer at Vitabar is an essential first step in parting with any well-earned hangover. Stuffing your face with their greasy burgers and fries is the second. If you’re still hung over after that ritual, you can always get started on a new hangover and wash everything down with a cold beer.”
Runners-up: Past years’ winners, the trucks at Grái kötturinn and Prikið, still possess a great allure for those nursing hangovers in downtown Reykjavík, while Noodle Station, Vegamót and even KFC have their fans.
(2011: The Truck at Grái Kötturinn
2010: The Truck at Prikið
2009: The Truck at Grái Kötturinn)

Best soup: Höfnin
This year the most heart-felt appeal was for the seafood soup at Höfnin down by the harbour. “They serve the lobster, shrimp and the fish in a huge bowl and they pour the soup over it. It’s reasonably priced for a huge dish. You’ll leave really full. Not to mention, Höfnin has a beautiful view over the marina,” one of our correspondents said, adding (pleading) “PLEASE consider this.”
Runners-up: Noodle Station (“It’s cheap and delicious and smells so good whenever you walk by”), Kryddlegin Hjörtu (“Namm”).
(2011: Kryddlegin Hjörtu
2010: Most soups at Súpubarinn
2009: Lobster soup at Sægreifinn)

Best place for a fancy meal: Grillmarket
For a city its size, Reykjavík hosts a remarkable number of above average fine-dining establishments where one can splurge and spend ones way to glorious, decadent oblivion. Farm-to-table themed luxury steakhouse Grillmarket is one such place, and according to many of our correspondents it is the current best bet for fancy dining in a nice (if slightly overwrought environment). “Having already won the hearts of Reykjavík foodies through her work at Fish Market, master chef Hrefna Rósa Sætran has outdone herself with Grillmarket—they do an amazing job every time I go there, whether I’m dining deep-fried harðfiskur, calamari, lamb or one of the BIG STEAKS from Háls in Hvalfjörður. I’ve recommend it to all my friends, and once they visit they, in turn, recommend it to theirs”
Runners-up: Constant favourite Dill still have their die-hard fans, even though they seem to be losing their appeal a little (“it’s too pricey”), while Gallery Restaurant at Hótel Holt (“classy, tasty and relatively affordable”), Fish Company (“dependably delicious”) and newcomer Rub23 (“lavish”) were all mentioned quite often.
(2011: Dill
2010: Dill
2009: Gallery Restaurant at Hótel Holt)

Best place to go for a date: Sushi Samba
Departing from our theme of recommending cosy Italian restaurants as suitable destinations for a romantic evening, we deem recently opened South American/Japanese themed Sushi Samba the best place to go for a date in 2012. The menu is novel (for Iceland) and nicely executed, and the cosy, vibrant interiors provide the perfect setting for getting “private and intimate in the midst of a bustling crowd.” You can also impress your date by illustrating your intimate knowledge of ‘crazy’ courses such as ‘ceviche.’
(2011: Ítalía
2010: Pisa
2009: Ítalía)

Best newcomer restaurant: Forréttabarinn
It’s been a great year for restaurants in Reykjavík, with new and ambitious places popping up all over town. Picking the best newcomer restaurant for 2012 thus turned out to be quite the daunting task, with a variety of nominations for worthy contenders coming through. We reached the conclusion that out of all of them, Forréttabarinn by the harbour was the most welcome new addition. Their Icelandic take on tapas is “adventurous and affordable,” the portions suitable for accompanying a relaxed glass of wine after work as well as making up a full and delicious meal. Their open, bustling dining hall adds an air of celebration to any occasion as well. Time will tell if they keep it up, but for now Forréttabarinn offers great concept executed perfectly.
Runners-up: Rub23 (“This Akureyri transplant is most welcome here in Reykjavík—you have to try their sushi pizza”), SNAPS (“The best lunch in town”), Pho (“filling a  gap in the Icelandic food scene and doing a great job of it!”)
(2011: Sjávargrillið
2010: Noodle Station
2009: Saffran)

Best goddamn restaurant: SNAPS
According to our definition, a ‘best goddamn restaurant’ needs to be ‘on the cheaper side,’ ‘consistent,’ ‘tasty’ and ‘available’. Bistro bar SNAPS is all of these things—and it doesn’t hurt that it sits in a great location by Óðinsgata in the heart of 101 Reykjavík and that the dining area is “so bright and comfortable that you’ll gladly spend an entire day there” (indeed, some customers have been known to take dinner there after an extended ‘wet lunch’ session). Whether you opt for the entrées—often inspired by the French or Spanish traditions—or the tasty smørrebrød, you can count on the fare being tasty, affordable and done with care. As our restaurant critic remarked in our last issue, SNAPS is an excellent place to hang out, offers the best bistro experience in Reykjavík, and will hopefully stick around for good. Thank you, SNAPS!  
(2011: Ban Thai
2010: Saffran
2009: Segurmo at Boston)

Best family restaurant: Laundromat Café
If you’re thinking, I can dress them up, but I can’t take them out, you may want to head down to Laundrómat Café. It’s super casual and you can even drop your kid or husband off in the play area downstairs. “It’s not without its faults,” one of our writers said, “but nobody else is trying as hard as they are to be a family friendly restaurant.”
Runner-up: Ikea. It’s not quite a restaurant, and it’s not quite in Reykjavík, but they have good Swedish meatballs and you can leave your kids in the play area.
(2011: Laundromat
2010: Piri-Piri
2009: Hornið)

Best cheap meal: Íslenski barinn
Íslenski barinn is not THE cheapest meal in town. You can for instance get a hot dog and a Coke from Bæjarins Beztu for 500 ISK, but that let’s be honest, that won’t hold you over for long. Last year’s winner, Noodle Station, is still a pretty good option, but we are pretty into Íslenski barinn this year. It offers hearty Icelandic dishes for a pretty reasonable 12-1300 ISK during lunchtime, and it’s decidedly more upscale than Mamma Steina, which offers traditional Icelandic home cooking for a similar price.
Runner-up: Noodle Station
(2011: Noodle Station
2010: ‘Sub of the month’ at Subway)

Best Indian food: 
Judging by reader response, Austur-Indíafjelagið still has it, still retaining status as an INSTITUTION. Beyond that, Reykjavík’s fledgling Indian food scene seems lacking a major force to challenge AI’s dominance of the field. Last year’s winner Austurlandahraðlestin is still popular “basically serving food from Austur-Indíafjelagið’s kitchen at a slightly reduced price,” and Shalimar still serve “a proper curry” to many readers’ delight. Relative newcomer Ghandi with its emphasis on cuisine from India’s Kerala region takes the cake this year, with the restaurant’s fish dishes coming especially recommended. As our food critic noted in his review of the place earlier this year, Ghandi adds a “delicious and welcome variety to the Icelandic restaurant flora,” and for that we are thankful.  
(2011: Austurlandahraðlestin
2010: Shalimar
2009: Austur-Indíafjelagið)

Best brunch: VOX
VOX simply put makes the best brunch. It’s expensive, yes, but for 3,450 ISK, it’s all you can eat so you’ll probably consume more than enough for breakfast, lunch and dinner. “They do everything,” one of our brunch enthusiasts explained. “You can enjoy a wide variety of delicious food in a modern atmosphere and it’s just a stone’s throw away from Laugavegur.” Note that it’s only served on Saturdays and Sundays.
(2011: Vox,
2010: Nítjánda
2009: Vox)

Best seafood: Fiskifélagið
We think Fiskifélagið, or The Fish Company, is serving the best seafood these days. “They are consistently good,” our food critic argued. “The food is exceptionally good, the dimly lit basement is cosy and romantic, and the service is excellent.” We recommend the prix fixe menu, though be aware that you will probably have trouble walking out of the restaurant. It’s a lot of food. And really good food. Really, this could have easily made “Best fancy meal” or “Best goddamn restaurant.”
(2011: Við Tjörnina
2010: Fiskifélagið)

Best place to go with a group of friends: Tapas Bar
After all these years, Tapas Bar is still the best place to go out with a group of friends in downtown Reykjavík. Their varied menu of authentic, sometimes-experimental, tapas offers something for even the most picky eater, and their style of serving ensures that even those friends that are always late for everything will get to feast with the group (there are also plenty of moderately priced courses on offer for those on a budget). Furthermore, the ambiance is cheerful and inviting and will ensure you stay for extra rounds long after your meal is finished.
(2011: Tapas Bar
2010: Tapas Bar)

Best must-try dining experience: Icelandic home-style food at Mamma Steina
You’ve tried the rotten shark, the minke carpaccio and the pickled ram’s balls—now it’s time to get acquainted with the Icelandic grandmother kitchen that has kept Icelanders nice and lumpy through the centuries. Mamma Steina offers genuine Icelandic home-style fare that most locals know from growing up, including svið (seared sheep heads), fish balls (yummy fried balls of haddock) and salty mutton. While the food doesn’t make for as good a story as the ram’s balls, it’s certainly a lot tastier and equally authentic.  rr
(2011 The svið at Fljótt og Gott, BSÍ
2010: Moby Dick on a Stick at 
2009: Bæjarins Beztu)

Best noodle place on Skólavörðustígur: Noodle Station
THE NOODLE WARS have been raging for over two years now, with Skólavörðustígur serving as battle ground for two noodle bars that are take turns topping one another in noodly deliciousness. Both Núðluskálin and Noodle Station are wonderful in their own right, but we decided to stage an election through our social media platforms to determine which held the greater appeal to whoever was on-line at the moment. In the end, Noodle Station won the vote with 29 votes against Núðluskálin’s 21. Many heated remarks were made, but our Facebook friend Jenni Clemenson summed up Noodle Station’s appeal, saying: “Keep it good and simple, the way food should be.”  
Runners-up: Núðluskálin (“more menu options and more veg friendly if that’s your thing”)  
(new category)
Best kept secret: Café Flora
Laugardalur is home to a pretty cool botanical garden, and sort of hidden in that botanical garden is a pretty cool café called Café Flóra. It is hands down the best café in a botanical garden. Okay, it’s the only one to the best of our knowledge, but it’s just so worth going there that we thought we’d award them for being one of a kind. The food is great, they sometimes have live music, and you can take a nice walk around the garden after you’ve eaten or had coffee. Because it’s a bit off the beaten path otherwise known as Laugavegur, it remains somewhat of a secret in Reykjavík.
(New category)

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