A Guide to Eating in Iceland

Iceland is built for road trips. One main roadway circles the entire island guiding you through breathtaking scenery. Tundra, mountains, glaciers, and sleepy nordic towns rim the road but the only thing missing is the restaurants.

What’s a road trip without some good food stops?

Gas stations are pretty much your only bet. And the burgers and hotdogs they’re serving up aren’t half bad. In fact, I would even say they are pretty damn, tasty.  (I know it goes against every foodies instinct to get gas station hamburger’s, but trust me.)

Beef is very limited on the island (horse is much more common livestock) so don’t expect to find a whole lot of it anyways. Eating out is expensive in Iceland ( a lot of things are, check out my post on budgeting Iceland) and the small town locals opt for grocery shopping and cooking over lavish dining. So to really get to know the local cuisines you have to stock up on all the snacks gas stations and grocery stores have to offer.

So let’s talk food in Iceland.

Some of the very best and very worst I have ever had.


The Best

The Baejarins Beztu Pylsur Hotdogs.

Lamb hotdog smothered in fried crispy onions, sweet mustard, ketchup, remoulade, and raw onions. Dirt cheap and scarfed down by locals and tourists alike it’s an iconic spot that was frequented by celebrities and former US Presidents alike (back when those were different people).

Homemade Rye Bread

Iceland Food

Bars are traded for bakeries, coffee shops, and bookstores in Iceland and there is no shortage of delicious baked goods. My favorite baked goods were the homemade loaves of bread several of our Airbnb homes baked for us.  Check out Braud and Co. for some amazing pastries in Reykjavik. 

Reykjavik Fish and Chips

It doesn’t get more classic Iceland than deep fried white fish served with perfectly crisp fries. This spot was my personal favorite. The key was the fish was still moist and flavorful but the outside was a thin layer of crispy and crumbly seasoned deliciousness. Throw some vinegar on top and dip in one of their flavored tartar sauces.

Lobster Pizza

Iceland Food

Seafood in Iceland is phenomenal. As I may have mentioned before. We got lobster on pretty much everything possible and this pizza with a white sauce and HUGE chunks of lobster was insanely tasty.

Seafood Pasta

Food in Iceland can be very expensive. But on a few occasions, we ventured out to find some fine dining and were not disappointed. Honestly just get lobster anything and you won’t be disappointed.

Lamb Stew

Iceland Food

This was the most common meal we ate in Iceland. Every restaurant had some form of the stew/soup on the menu. After a long day wandering around in the snow and freezing temperatures there’s nothing more satisfying than a big bowl of soup. Most had tender meat, potatoes, carrots, celery, kinda like a fancier version of beef and barley soup.

 

Indian Curry House

If you make it to the Northernmost town in Iceland Ayukeri, you have to stop in at the #1 restaurant in town. Indian curry house was packed full with a line of locals out the door and with good reason. Authentic Indian food in Iceland of all places?? It makes sense if you consider that it’s freezing outside and all anyone wants to eat is a generous helping of warm comfort food.

White Russians at the Big Lebowski Bar

Not exactly a food item but well worth the stop! A menu boasting over 20 different kinds of White Russians (some topped with your favorite breakfast cereal) and decor straight out of the 1998 Cohen brothers movie set.


The Worst

Fermented Shark

For the past 700 years or so Icelandic people have hunted the Greenland shark. In the past, the only way to preserve the meat was to salt and bury it so that it can ferment and dry out underground. This kept the meat “safe” to eat. Icelandic people still do this today. 10/10 do not recommend.

Sheep Head Jelly/Boiled Sheep Head

Sheep Jam not pictured—but it is commonly served for breakfast.[/caption]

Unfortunately, this is pretty self-explanatory. If you prefer your food to not stare back at you from your plate, I would avoid this one. The jelly is made from the leftover sheep head and can be eaten in this preserved form all year round.

Lava Toast with Trout

Iceland Food

To this day this is the worst thing I have ever eaten. A loaf of bread baked underground with the heat of molten lava. Baked until it is a black piece of charcoal. People seem to like it there but if you don’t like smokey flavors, forget about it. Topped with a pile of cold trout…this was not my cup of tea.

 

Black Licorice Flavored Everything

Everything from Brennevin (Icelandic Liquor) to every candy imaginable…it’s all black licorice. Even the chocolate bars had a black licorice flavor added.

Dried Fish

You know the little baggies filled with dried fruit at the gas station? Like that, but with fish.

Icelandic food is weird. I ate bugs in Thailand and crocodile in Vietnam but I encountered things here I couldn’t bring myself to eat. You learn a lot about a country based on its culinary specialties and I came to realize that Icelandic people eat for survival.

They come from a history of whaling and surviving off Viking horse meat in the cold harsh winters. They can’t cultivate crops so they preserve everything as best they can. Other countries create with food. It’s a tribute to their culture. It’s their family time. In Iceland food is simply not perceived that way.

I loved many things about Iceland including some of it’s tastier treats but the real draw to the country is in the beauty of nature in its most raw form.

 

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