Iceland is a foodie heaven. Dining experiences are a must, with loads of locally-grown lamb, as well as waters rich with fish and shellfish such as haddock, carpelin, herring, cod, lobsters, clams and shrimp. Hearty root vegetables like potatoes, carrots, beets and rutabagas are the stars of many traditional dishes, as are cold-weather vegetables like cabbage and rhubarb. The dishes are breathtakingly fresh and vibrant-looking.
Below we’ve listed our top 5 dining experiences in Iceland.
Dining experiences in Iceland: Best home-style food
Kaffe Loki, Reykjavik – This unassuming jewel of home cooking is close to the soaring Hallgrímskirkja cathedral at the top of one of the shopping streets in downtown Reykjavik. The meat (lamb) soup, a hearty meat and vegetable soup with plenty of root vegetables (carrot, potato, turnip and leek) looked more like a stew than soup. A comforting aroma wafts off the bowls of soup, warming the soul before entering the body. Here’s a recipe to try your hand at Icelandic meat soup.
Kaffe Loki also has homemade rye bread with various toppings (think open-faced sandwiches) — mashed fish with potato, smoked lamb, herring and boiled egg, and more! And try the unique (trust me) ryebread ice cream – pleasantly chewy, with a coconut and chocolate flavor. Part of this unusual taste is due to the remarkably light and tasty rye bread they use in-house. If you’ve tried it, let us know what you think!
Here’s Loki’s current menu: https://loki.is/menu
Dining experiences in Iceland: Best street food
Bæjarins beztu pylsur (literally translates to “best hotdog in town”) – This kiosk in Reykjavik was crowned best hotdog stand in Europe by The Guardian, and the claims are valid. These hotdogs are organic, lamb-based, not the typical beef/pork only mix common in the US. And when served fully dressed come with ketchup, mustard, remoulade (a bit like British salad cream), and both fried and raw onions. When President Bill Clinton made this four-stand hotdog business world-famous in 2004 when he enjoyed a hotdog at the Reykjavik-based stand, he had his with mustard only.
You can see we also tried our hotdog with mustard only, but the “ein með öllu” hotdog (that’s “one with everything”), looked fantastic, and is on our list for the next epic adventure!
Dining experiences in Iceland: Best Tasting Menu
Max’s Restaurant, Christmas Menu, Northern Lights Inn – We stayed at this lovely inn for two nights, one of the closest accommodations to Blue Lagoon, and took advantage of the lush tasting menu one evening. A truly astonishing amount of food, the main courses and sides were served family-style, on platters and bowls, while the soups, starters and dessert were individually placed. We had to quickly google “ptarmigan” (which is a small grouse living in tundra and cold areas) as the featured soup was ptarmigan and wild mushroom soup, delightful indeed.
The starter consisted of potted cured goose and head with horseradish and dates – a little too gamey for the Americans in the group. The main course was duck, beef, pork, accompanied by a varied group of vegetables, pickles, sauces, and glazes – rich, warming, and filling in equal portions. To finish, we were offered an absolutely divine dessert duo: Orange and anise creme brulee accompanied by riz a l’amand- a perfect punctuation point on a dinner novella!
Dining experiences in Iceland: Best Local Bar
Lebowski Bar, Reykjavik – Lebowski’s defies simple categorization – part film setting, with its Disneyesque attention to detail; part film shrine with homages to Jeff Bridges, and ultimately a sports bar with a bowling theme, creatively crafted cocktails, as well as American-style bar food – think burgers, chicken wings, and more (we tried the onion rings and tortilla chips). The bar has an extensive menu of White Russian derivatives (The Dude’s favorite drink, after all) – the most popular being the “Cocaucasian”, a regular white russian with cocoa puffs on top- as well as many of the Icelandic craft brews you should try.
Dining experiences in Iceland: Best All-Around Dining Experience
Lava Restaurant, Blue Lagoon – The entire Blue Lagoon experience is in a class of its own – quality, ambiance, presentation, location, and price. Not only is the food top-notch local meat, fish, and produce prepared in neo-Icelandic ways, but dining in a restaurant carved out of lava with a beautiful, panoramic vista of the spot where you have just spent time relaxing and rejuvenating, is pure bliss.
Though you can book at Lava without purchasing entry to the geothermal pools, nothing beats soaking in the warmth of the pools, then madly dashing through the frosty breeze to dressing gowns and slippers, and finally getting seating in the beautiful Lava dining room with a glass of fizz. We ordered starters, mains, and sweets a la carte, but Lava has vegetarian, pescatarian, and omnivore prix fixe menus to choose from as well.
Start planning your trip