That Reykjavík loves its burgers in all forms—from vegan, vegetarian, lamb, and standard beef, to exotic flights of fancy—is well established. So much so that even restaurants that aren’t burger joints almost always have a burger or two on their menus. With so many burgers to explore, and only so many meals in one day where it’s socially acceptable to consume them (sorry, but nobody wants a breakfast burger), we’re back on the case with The Great Burger Showdown Two: Burger Boogaloo.
Okay first things first, the name. Iceland is full of places that are a tad too comfortable with ‘inspired’ restaurant names. But as Robert Aron, more popularly known as Robbi Kronik, one of the owners behind the venture, sheepishly admits, ‘’It was supposed to be just a working title, and now it’s remained so.’’ First started as a pandemic pop-up, they now have a steady home by Hlemmur. It’s a sparse, low-key affair with dartboards on one side and casual seating on the other, but the burgers are far from boring.
SB: I’ll admit I totally judged this book by its cover before eating here. But it was definitely love at first sight with the 2Guys burger—the bun and patty align perfectly as if it were run through a cookie cutter, the cheese is perfectly melty, and the size fits perfectly in your palms. These are some of the tastiest burgers in town. They use a generously fatty patty, smashed to perfection—no dry edges here— with just the right ratio of bronzed exteriors to juicy insides. The buns are toasted just so and the whole thing is assembled with such precision that the burger never slides or falls apart. What is particularly striking is that the chef lets the burger truly shine, without the weight of unnecessary frou-frou. The simplicity of the 2Guys aside, I do have a soft spot for the crushed Dorito-candied jalapeno-studded 2Pac. It’s one of those damned things you come up with at 2am, yet elevated. Robbi takes great pride in making, ‘’an honest, no-frills burger’’ and it shows.
VG: 2Guys make an interesting promise just with its premises. They are striving for 90s Hip-Hop culture with burgers named 2Pac and posters of Snoop Dog on the wall. There are no two ways about it, this is supposed to be a smooth combination of nostalgia and the holy grail in fast-food—hamburgers.
2Guys manage to succeed in every aspect here. The 2Pac is their crown jewel and luckily it lives up to its name The burgers are simple, very well executed and offer a laid back, nostalgic burger experience with a load of charm and a touch of humour. They are up there with the best. All hail the new crown-prince of burgers!
Hagavagninn received a lot of attention when national pop icon and hip hop star, Emmsjé Gauti, announced that he, along with a consortium of restraunteers, was taking on the old hot dog stand by Vesturbæjarlaug and turning it into a smash burger sensation. Today the restaurant is in the ownership of just two of these founders; Rakel Þórhallsdóttir and Jóhann Guðlaugsson.
SB: Hagavagninn were the first to introduce smash style burgers to Iceland. When they first opened, they were sensational burgers indeed. But our recent visit let me down hard. The buns were crumbly, the meat dry. Even the caramelised onions on the #2 couldn’t make up for the lacklustre affair. That being said, the vegan burger picked up the slack. The soy patty is a nice alternative to bean-based ones and the savoury notes play off well with the pickled onions and gherkins. I really hope this was a one-off and that they can bring back their heyday glory.
VG: Hagavagninn had an incredible start in 2018 as a casual burger joint located perfectly between Kaffi Vest and the pool of Vesturbær. In the beginning, they offered playful burgers and made sure to offer something simple, yet satisfying for meat-eaters, as well as the growing population that chooses vegan burgers.
We tried out Börger #2 as well as Vegan Börger #1, and added the vegan fries.
To start with the meat burger, the bread was slightly dry but within the margin in my opinion. The beef was soft under the tooth but a bit dry as well. What I always love about the burgers at Hagavagninn is the balance of the sauce and the toppings. Today the burger was slightly off overall, and dare I say, a little bit forgettable. It obviously needed some attention to detail.
The same went for the vegan burger, although it was a little better executed and the vegan patty was tastier than the meat.
This might sound like a trivial matter but it has to be said: the burgers did not have the consistency we hoped for. When it came to the spicy fries, they were a clumsy letdown, desperately calling out for some seasoning.
Búllan, or The Burger Joint, is one of the most established burger places in Iceland. We could say with good conscience that the place is like the McDonalds of Iceland; just much better. But there is a twist. A political twist.
SB: We were honestly on the fence about Búllan since news broke out about the original founder’s misogynistic, sexist texts fetishizing Asian women were leaked. We are also not sure if he is still involved with the burger chain. If he isn’t, we recommend the steak burger for a good ol’ fashioned American classic. The Geirsgata location is charming and dive-bar like and the service is always warm and attentive. No matter how full the place is, they always take their time with your orders, an often overlooked aspect of service in local restaurants. If Tommi is still involved, then vote with your wallet and maybe rethink that burger.
VG: Now, the first rule here is that you have to pay for your meal yourself. Do not, under any circumstances allow Tommi, (Tómas A. Tómasson, MP for the member of parliament for the People’s Pparty) to pay for the dinner, or he might be under the odd misunderstanding that you are a prostitute who wants to have sex with him. Paying for sex and paying for dinner is essentially the same in his mind, according to an interview with him at Vísir.is
Tommi is the founder of Búllan, although he seems busy at the parliament these days, mostly defending this nasty scandal of dehumanizing Thai women who may have been prostitutes. With this in mind, we decided to keep Búllan in for now, simply because Búllan is one of the most solid burger joints in Iceland. But it’s only fair that you know where we are coming from, and that you, dear reader, are aware of this.
In short, nothing has changed when it comes to Búllan. The burgers are solid and surprisingly consistent and the staff are wonderful. If you’re looking for a burger that will keep you satisfied, but won’t rock your boat, this will be it. You won’t be disappointed—not by the burgers at least. The only question is if you still have any appetite, knowing about the scandal with Tommi. Well, that’s up to you. For us, it left a bitter aftertaste.
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