Being one of only a handful of strictly organic restaurants in town, Maður Lifandi (which translates to “Man Alive!”) has a practical philosophy: show sceptics that organic food is not intimidating. The store/cafeteria offers books on vegetarian eating, cooking classes, vitamins, organic ingredients (including hummus, curries and sauces made in-store) and online recipes. Proprietor Helga Mogensen knows that people can be hesitant when it comes to organic cuisine, and that is why she has made Maður Lifandi an open learning environment for all budding health-food nuts.
Maður Lifandi has a cafeteria feel, with a hipper dining area downstairs. A fresh salad bar teases you at the beginning of the line just before the posted menus appear. Unfortunately, the English menu obviously lacks the descriptions that the Icelandic menus have, and the smoothie menu is entirely absent for English speakers. The atmosphere in Maður is clean, with hardwood floors and a nice distance between tables, which is comforting given the eventual crowd of lunching down-towners. To the side of the main ordering area is a refrigerated selection of healthy juices, store made sauces and popular to-go orders (Helga told me that the all of the to-go orders are customer favourites).
For lunch, I ordered the Chicken Burrito with a Salad (900 kr), which came wrapped in a whole-wheat tortilla with just the right level of flakiness. Inside was a unique combination of curried chicken, cooked spinach, tomato, and mustard seeds. The accompanying salsa, which was tangy, contended a little bit with the sweetness of the spinach, and I found that leaving this combination out of the equation was the better decision. The burrito’s size was relatively modest, which was actually a refreshing break from the gutbusters I am used to as a Southern Californian. My friend decided on the special, which is a Caribbean plate (1,200 kr) with black beans, couscous, guacamole, and the less recognizable yucca and squash. The combination was great, the ingredients fresh, and the simple side salad nicely complemented the plate. Simplicity was the key here.
Before we left, Helga urged me to dump my scepticism for gluten-free knock-offs and finally convinced me to try the Hrákaka (or ‘raw cake’), a spicy nut and berry cake made without wheat or spelt (Maður lifandi accommodates most dietary restrictions). The cake came with cream and fresh fruit and offered something unique and unexpectedly good to the typical dessert menu.