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Dining In Iceland

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Dining In Iceland
Iceland didn't used to be known for its cuisine, but the world's growing interest in microbrews, farm-to-table cuisines, and good coffee has arrived in the North Atlantic, too. Come taste the fresh fish, tart yogurt, rich lamb, and international dishes that have become the norm here.
By Paul Sullivan, AFAR Local Expert
Photo by Mikael Axelsson
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    Introduction to Dining in Iceland
    As recently as a couple of decades ago, dining out in Iceland was almost a contradiction in terms due to a glaring lack of decent restaurants. These days, almost every small town has at least one decent eating spot, frequented by locals as well as visitors, alongside more casual fast-food options. Bigger cities such as Reykjavík and Akureyri host an increasing number of above-average spots. The capital, especially, is fast becoming something of a foodie destination thanks to a number of excellent, often globally minded enterprises—it even boasts a Michelin star (see Dill). In most places outside Reykjavík, choices will likely be limited to traditional meals with concessions to burgers, pizzas, and, increasingly, vegetarian fare. Icelandic cuisine to consider trying includes harðfiskur (dried haddock or cod, usually smeared with butter), pickled herring (sild), and smoked lamb (hangikjöt), while more esoteric options include minke whale, puffin, reindeer, and horse. Truly brave souls can also seek out sheep heads or fermented shark meat (hákarl).
    Photo by Mikael Axelsson
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    Romantic Dining in Reykjavík
    Though the city is home to plenty of budget eats in the form of take-out and counter-service joints, there are upscale, more atmospheric restaurants—though be aware that they are usually quite costly. Sjávargrillið (Seafood Grill) serves excellent seafood as well as great meat dishes in a stylish and modern space; fans of old-world elegance will enjoy the classic interior and traditional menu of Torfan; and the welcoming Restó, run by a friendly couple, offers delicious set-course menus and pleasantly personalized service.
    Photo Courtesy of Sjávargrillið
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    Trendy Dining in Reykjavík
    New Nordic cuisine is a big deal in Reykjavík right now, and the city has some excellent places to try it. The most obvious spot for culinary fireworks is Dill, which won a Michelin star in 2017 and shows a commitment to local, seasonal ingredients throughout its weekly-changing dishes and multicourse menus. At Grill Market (Grillmarkaðurinn), seriously tasty and interesting cuisine (horse and minke whale are often on the menu) is served in a rustic-chic space with rocky walls and thick wooden tables, while the similarly named Fish Market (Fiskmarkaðurinn), whose head chef trained at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Luxembourg, matches a smart, bamboo-heavy interior with Icelandic-Asian fusion food.
    Photo by Björn Árnason
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    Cheap Eats in Reykjavík
    Many people traveling to Iceland are on a budget—and are often horrified by the high prices. Thank goodness then for the city’s array of relatively cheap eats, the most famous of which is Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur, a famous shack near the harbor that serves what it claims is the best hot dog in town; Bill Clinton and Metallica singer James Hetfield are just two luminaries to give it a thumbs-up. Tommi’s, running since 1981, has a charming diner-style interior and some of the best burgers in the city, while the small but friendly Noodle Station has a delicious range of Asian-style noodle soups.
    Photo Courtesy of Noodle Station
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    Casual Dining in Reykjavík
    In addition to budget eats and upscale dining, Reykjavík offers great, moderately priced casual restaurants. A firm favorite with locals and tourists alike is the diner-style Laundromat Café, which has brunches, Sunday roasts, burgers, and an array of local and international craft beers. The small but personable Bergsson Mathús serves up a diverse selection of food, from curries to Vietnamese pancakes, that's usually hearty as well as healthy. Vegetarians will love Gló, a simple spot with daily-changing dishes (one of which is always raw) made with mostly organic ingredients. The cozy and convivial Snaps is a perfect spot for a reasonably priced Caesar salad or club sandwich.
    Photo Courtesy of Laundromat Cafe
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    Dining Outside of Reykjavík
    While Reykjavík has the lion’s share of good restaurants, there are some great and idiosyncratic spots dotted around the country. One of the finest places to dine in Akureyri, for example, is Strikið, which serves traditional Icelandic dishes such as lamb shoulder and seafood soup plus more exotic options like sushi and reindeer burgers. If you’re exploring the Lake Mývatn area, a visit to Vogafjos is a must: Located inside the cowshed of a working farm, it offers delicious local food like smoked trout and homemade breads. On the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, try Hotel Búðir, whose restaurant has locally caught fresh fish and lamb from nearby farms.
    Photo Courtesy of Strikið