Can you eat cheaply in Reykjavik? of course! Discover these street food options, yummy and good for both your tummy and your pocket.
Like all countries, Iceland has developed its own traditions surrounding food. Since it is a small island, fishing naturally plays a huge part in the food culture. Over the centuries, Icelanders have utilized their most abundant food sources, sheep and fish, and have created some dishes unique to their country. One man, Unna Helgi, created the first fast food concept in Iceland for Icelandic traditional food. With this, he combined the demand for an authentic Icelandic experience with the desire for affordable, accessible street food. And so, Icelandic Street Food was born.
A family-owned business utilizing recipes from the owner’s grandmother, Icelandic Street Food comprises some great Icelandic delicacies. The ‘Fisherman’s Favourite’ is a fish stew made with Icelandic cod, potatoes, and onions. They also offer two types of soup: lamb soup, made with Icelandic lamb, and shellfish soup, made with Icelandic scallops and shrimp. See how they like to keep things Icelandic? These soups are the perfect meal for a cold day. The soup broth is made from langoustine, which is a type of lobster. Then there are the famous deserts, the Happy Marriage cake, and pancakes; cuisine not to be missed. Icelandic Street Food is conveniently located on Laekjargata, right in the center of town.
Another family-owned restaurant, Lamb Street Food is located on Grandagardur, in the old harbor. They only source their lamb from Iceland and have a close relationship with their farmer suppliers. Their sauces are made from skyr, an Icelandic dairy product that dates back centuries. It’s similar to yogurt but has a slightly sour flavor.
For those vegan customers, Lamb Street Food provides falafel made with their own recipe, including a range of vegan sauces. Whether you choose lamb or falafel, Lamb Street Food has freshly baked wholegrain flatbread to wrap it up in. Choose an option from the menu or select your own toppings and sauces to fill your flatbread with.
With the arrival of over 2 million tourists every year, the Icelanders have responded to the increased demand for affordable, tasty street food. Spread around the downtown area are several food trucks, which allow you to grab a bite of great food on the go.
One that is worth particular mention is Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur, which translates to ‘The best hot dog in town’. Bæjarins Beztu is the most famous hot dog stand in Iceland. In fact, in 2006 the British newspaper The Guardian chose it as the best hot dog stand in Europe. There will generally be a queue for these famous hot dogs; a testament to how in demand they are. It has been open since 1939, and many famous people have dined there.
There is also Voffluvagninn (the waffle wagon), a waffle truck that is difficult to miss, as it is bright yellow. It has a prime location; right next to Hallgrimskirkja (the huge church downtown). They sell waffles with sugar, chocolate, and whipped cream for a reasonable price. A nice snack to take with you as you stroll through Reykjavik.
For something savory, look out for Fish and Chips Vagninn, a red food truck that generally resides at the harbor, but occasionally relocates. Their motto is ‘Icelandic quality, British tradition’, so for my British readers, head there for a taste of home. They serve quality Icelandic cod, generally only caught a few hours before.
Increasingly, individuals in the western world are switching to vegan and vegetarian diets, and Iceland is no exception. In fact, one study based on Google Trends data found that Iceland tops the rankings for veganism popularity in the world in 2018. The article can be read here.
So, for those who have chosen to cut or reduce their animal product intake, don’t be put off by all the talk of fish and lamb. Reykjavik restaurants cater fantastically to dietary requirements like these, and there are even several restaurants that serve only vegan food, such as Veganæs, on Tryggvagata. It has a lively, quirky vibe inside and is a fun place to hang out, watch some live music, and indulge in some quality vegan food. But most restaurants will offer at least one vegan option. As I mentioned before, Lamb Street Food has an enticing vegan falafel flatbread wrap.
Prikið, the oldest café in Reykjavik, offers my favorite vegan burger. And it’s on Bankastræti, a street off Laugavegur, the main shopping street in Reykjavik. Salka Valka, located on Skólavörðustígur, near to Hallgrimskirkja, serves a great vegan curry soup.
During your time in Iceland, take this opportunity to explore the local cuisine. Like every city in the world, Reykjavik possesses an abundance of food options to choose from. The street food I have discussed is very reasonably priced, for Iceland. Although it may seem expensive to you, keep in mind that Iceland’s wages are much higher than other parts of the world and so for the locals, these prices are fairly normal.
Take comfort that, in the case of the fish and lamb meals, you are supporting local farmers and fishermen, which are important to Iceland’s economic wellbeing. Most restaurants, food trucks, and in fact most businesses of any kind in Iceland, are family owned and operated. This is why you won’t see many of the chain restaurants you may be familiar with on your journey around Iceland.
Samuel Hogarth, Reykjavik Cars.