Did you know Iceland was under prohibition until 1989? Maybe all that time sober is what allowed the chefs in Iceland to master their craft. At first we thought we got lucky when our first meal was insanely good, but every place we went, from cafe’s to grills, put a smile on our bellies.
Our first dinner was a 9-course tasting meal at Grill Market (Grillmarketdurrin). Maybe it was the modern ambiance, or seeing the sun shine past 11PM, or the wonderful aromas we caught from sitting next to the kitchen, but whatever it was, it was one of the best meals we’ve ever had. (Checkout what we ate in the video below).
We were warned that Iceland was “cheap to get to, but expensive to stay”. So we weren’t surprised that the meal above set us back $116USD per person. That being said, the price included all tax and tip, and the quality, freshness, and size of our dishes were top notch. Factoring in the $1USD to $101ISK conversion, and the “all in” price tag, the menu price for that meal in San Francisco would have been $89. Not cheap, but an amazing deal for what we got.
Not every meal could be rationalized as “worth it”. While touring the Golden Circle we grabbed some food at a gas station quicky-mart. Our two small sandwiches and two small coffees came out to about $24USD, and a gallon of gas was about $7.50USD. So yes, you will feel the pinch of the higher price tags on the everyday stuff. Nevertheless, when it comes to dinning-out, we still think you come out ahead from the overall experience. Which is likely why Iceland still sees tourists come in droves.
Take our next meal at Messin for example. The “Pan Fish” was fresh, delicious, prepared quickly, and was plentiful in portion. A combination that would be hard to come by in the U.S. where the “menu price” would be about $30. Again, you pay a premium on crap food and gas, but you win big when you consider the quality of food you get when dinning out.
After a couple days in Iceland it was time to clean some clothes. Conveniently, we read about a cafe down the street from our apartment that offered a laundromat in the basement called The Laundromat Cafe. Since we had laundry, and we were hungry, we took advantage of the combo. We were glad we did! I had the smoked trout with cream cheese on rye. Yum! Even the Chai tea I ordered was one of the better ones I’ve had.
With our clothes freshly cleaned and our whistles in need of wetting, we hopped on over to The Lebowski Bar. Yes, a bar in Iceland is dedicated to the movie The Big Lebowski and offers up 21 different varieties of White Russians. Those that know me know that (A) I’m a fan of the movie and (B) my drink of choice these last few months have been White Russians.
I wouldn’t go as far as to say these were the best drinks in the world, but they were good and it was fun to try a few versions of the after-dinner cocktail (about $20-$30 a pop). The scene was fun and carried a big crowd, all enjoying the 80s music that you could hear from across the street.
The next morning we hopped over to the Bonus grocery store and got a pint of Skyr, Iceland’s traditional breakfast food. It’s basically a very thick yogurt, and goes great with berries. Although tasty, I wouldn’t say it is as unique as it is made out to be. Imagine a thick greek yogurt with a slightly more sour taste.
For our final restaurant we wanted to taste some Icelandic home cooked, traditional, comfort food. For that we found Salka & Valka (Fish and More). There we ordered the fish soup and traditional fish stew made with mashed potatoes, white fish and green onions. The dish was soft, creamy, and very comforting; just what we were looking for!
We were on such a roll with food, that when the sign on the table said “You must try our rhubarb pie” we couldn’t resist. Sadly, the dry, underwhelming dessert was the only fail of the week. Don’t worry Iceland, we still love you!