Before you can name your child in Iceland, you have to run the name by the highly conservative Icelandic Naming Committee. But that’s where the micromanaging stops. You can name your farm Saurbær (“Shitville”), name your horse Hátíð (“Festival”), and name your streets Barmahlíð (“Bosom Hill”) or Völundarhús (“Labyrinth”). Bar and restaurant names are no exception. Here’s an easy-to-digest overview of some of the best and worst of Icelandic restaurant names, inspired by a Buzzfeed listicle we read called “Top 5 Reasons For Top 5 Lists.”
Top 5 Questionable Bar/Restaurant Names
It’s closed now, and it was good while it lasted. But when you have a watering hole for white hipster kids in the whitest country this side of Spitsbergen, then maybe “Harlem” isn’t the most descriptive name. Even with the heroic effort of your American colleagues in gentrifying the neighbourhood.
4. Gelataria Bada Bing
It’s an ice cream store named after a fictional mobster strip club. Seemingly “Ima-beata-my-wifea-with-a-flail-made-of-spaghetti-and-meataballsa” was taken.
Icelandic for “The East India Company” with friendly old-timey spelling—it’s named after the company that gave the world colonialism and the salt tax, among other delights. Gandhi went on to abolish that tax through hunger strikes. Incidentally, the other main Indian restaurant in Reykjavík is called “Gandhi.”
2. Kofi Tómasar Frænda
Icelandic for ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin,’ a book whose legacy is the slapstick equivalent of tossing your friend a beer and accidentally hitting him in the face. The bar goes by the name Kofinn (“The Cabin”) these days.
1. Kung Fu Sticks & Sushi
A sushi place named after a Chinese martial art, illustrated with a font that I hope was wiped from the face of the earth when Photoshop committed seppuku by jumping off The Great Wall into a pot of Thai Curry.
Top 5 Most Confusing Restaurant Names
5. Chuck Norris Grill
Holy shit, did the Hollywood actor open a burger place in Iceland? That’s cool. Oh, is it just an Icelandic restaurant piggybacking on an internet meme from 2005 while begging for a lawsuit? Never mind, then.
4. Café Ray Liotta
Wow, they’ve really cut the budget for the witness protection program. Oh wait, it’s not owned or operated by Ray Liotta. Also, it’s a bar rather than a café—I’m not even sure they have a coffee machine back there. This, too, is a house of lies.
No, they don’t sell shady Chinese electronics or Ukrainian nutritional supplements—it’s a restaurant—although the menu here is more ethnically inclusive than Phife Dawg in “Electric Relaxation.” They serve variation of Italian, Thai, Indian, Chinese, Mexican and New York dishes, almost all of them containing chicken and red onion. The name indicates that what they sell roughly qualifies as fuel for sustaining a human body.
2. Lobster Hut
It’s a food truck. Definitely not a hut. And, despite the tagline, they serve neither lobster (it’s langoustine) nor “Icelandic cousins.”
Named after the lesser-known brother of the famous Chinese philosopher. The brother is best known for wearing gloves on his feet and always picking “leapfrog” as his favourite animal. It’s some kind of fusion restaurant, it seems.
Top 5 Blandest Restaurant Names
5. Café Aroma
You know how most things have an aroma? They serve things like that.
4. Café Paris
This is second cockiest name of a French-themed business in Reykjavík and by far the blandest. At least the one in the top place has a kind of crazed obliviousness to it. “Café Paris” is only awesome when embroidered in cursive on cheap souvenir t-shirts outside The Louvre.
Because their market research indicated that “lemons” were generally considered fresh by consumers and detergent manufacturers. They don’t sell beef, so the restaurant they borrowed the concept from helpfully brought them some from Denmark.
Not content with the trend of basing all restaurant design in Iceland on Brooklyn hipster interior design trends, they’ve decided to double down on the name. I can only assume their signature dish is a Coney Island white fish boiled in Gowanus Canal water, served in a used Chinese takeout box collected from a Brownsville crime scene.
1. Le Bistro
Half-assed French tourist traps should think twice before literally calling themselves “The Restaurant.”.
Top 5 Best Restaurant Names
Maybe they’re hoarding all the salt that Austur-Indíafjelagið is taxing. Anyway, salt tastes good and I like when restaurants use the “-húsið” (“-house”) suffix.
Fish Company. Constantly confused with “Fish Market.” Snazzy and original, but not obnoxiously so.
A fun name that invokes the Brazilian-Japanese fusion very well. Too bad they stole it from a well-established American restaurant chain (maybe they could share a lawyer with Chuck Norris Grill?).
Short and sweet. If you like Nordic cuisine then that name should tell you everything you need to know. Twice as handy if you hate that style of cooking.
It’s just such a perfectly descriptive name for a drive-thru (the name could translate as “Drive-N-Grab”), plus it rhymes! It is owned by the less charmingly named food conglomerate Foodco (a name which has the curious effect of making all professional chefs I know spit on the ground).
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