Dining out in Iceland
Dining out in Iceland can be an expensive proposition. The island environment means that a lot of food items are imported at great expense. Icelanders also have an affinity for American foods like hotdogs, hamburgers and sandwiches. I don’t know about you, but I was trying to avoid those things for the most part. I’ll cover our overall plan for meals, as well as a few favorite places along the way.
Breakfast – If you can get breakfast included in your room rate, go for it. It is a much bigger value in Iceland than it would be most other places you visit. We brought along protein bars as a quick breakfast on the go most days. Hubby appreciates even 15 more minutes to sleep in the mornings. Over our 6 days in Iceland, we only had breakfast in a restaurant twice. We paid for breakfast at the Hilton Nordica on our first morning in country just to pass time while we were waiting for our room to be ready. We did get to try Icelandic yogurt and some interesting fermented fish. However, the $60 we spent for the two of us wasn’t really worth it. Later in our trip, our included breakfast at the Hotel Katla was nice and introduced us to some more Icelandic breads and foods. I am not a bread person. Why eat cardboard calories? However, the Rugbraud with a little butter tasted almost like gingerbread. Yummmm. Favorite breakfast items: Skyr yogurt and Rugbraud.
Lunch – We were usually a captive audience for lunch most days. We hit a grocery store before we left Reykjavik on our two day road trip. We bought crucial snacks for the road. Those small things to help tide us over until we got to the next big town or natural wonder. There was only one cafe in Jokulsarlon (the iceberg lagoon), and we were hungry, so we took what they offered. Although I was surprised by how tasty and fresh my simple turkey sandwich was. It seems most places had Icelandic yogurt as a side item. Although during our Inside the Volcano tour, we shared some fantastic traditional Icelandic lamb stew. We tried a lamb stew again at the cafeteria at Gulfoss waterfall. It was great too.
No matter where you are in Iceland, a hot dog is probably not far away. It’s definitely a time and money saver if you are interested. We stopped by the hot dog stand made famous by a visit from Bill Clinton. It was directly across the street from our hotel, we didn’t seek it out. Icelandic “everything” hot dogs come with ketchup, mayo, mustard, grilled onions, relish and crispy fried onions. I tried one with mustard and crispy onions. I thought it tasted good, but nothing to write home about. The hot dog stands are open all hours, it seems, so the convenience and price couldn’t be beat. Favorite lunch items: Lamb stew, for sure.
Dinner – Different but interesting food options really stuck out during dinner. Being an island, we saw all sorts of seafood. Lobster, char, clam chowder, cod and shark were plentiful. We tried cod tongues on the harbor one night. It was just a fried appetizer that tasted like very soft and buttery fish. If you’ve had snapper throats in the states, it’s about the same. Icelanders also eat horse. It seems strange for Icelanders to be okay with eating horse since they are so proud of it’s unique 5th gait and protect it’s pure breed by prohibiting any horse imports. Although, no horse was available during our visit due to a strike of some sort. So instead, Hubby tried reindeer, and I must say it was rich and flavorful. Another controversial food item is puffin. I think it was traditionally a common food item and is still served in parts of Iceland. However, with the puffin dwindling in numbers it has become part of large countrywide debate. We never saw puffin on any restaurant menus, but locals say that it’s still available occassionally. Favorite dinner items: lobster soup, licorice salted butter with bread, fresh seafood everywhere.
Snacks and Desserts – Icelanders love their ice cream but it tastes a little bit different than what I’m used to. Your best bet is to go with a flavor. Vanilla has a weird almost hazelnut taste to it. You know it has to be bad if I threw it away! Although the flavors like wafer cookie, chocolate, and strawberry tasted great. Our road trip snack items were things we could find at home like chips, crackers and cookies. Every country has pringles, am I right? We didn’t bring a soft sided cooler, so we were limited to protein bars for anything other than that.
Overall, I thought the food in Iceland was good. Just don’t expect some amazing cultural experience that is vastly different from the United States. If you don’t eat seafood, you’ll still find plenty of other options. I always enjoy drinking local beers, and Iceland had them in spades. Later this week I’ll share a few restaurants that i’d say are worth a visit.