Visiting Iceland: What to Eat

[This is part of a series of posts on a trip to Iceland by our family of 5.]

Descriptions of travel to Iceland are usually replete with a review of local foods – like svid (sheep’s head) – but I’ll skip that.  We’re a family of 5 and, unless we eat in a restaurant, stick with food that’s relatively easy to prepare on our own.  Iceland, like Hawai’i, imports a lot of its food.  A trip to the grocery stores – they were all pretty much the same, although I liked the larger Bonus stores – will reveal a heavy contingent of products familiar to North Americans.

Hot dog condiment for Icelandic weiners.  I've seen it described as a mixture of ketchup, mustard, and remoulade.  It lacks the vinegary bite of ketchup or mustard and is a brownish color.

Hot dog condiment for Icelandic weiners. I’ve seen it described as a mixture of ketchup, mustard, and remoulade. It lacks the vinegary bite of ketchup or mustard and is a brownish color.

It was a good example of the mixture that is common in aspects of Iceland.  The shelves had food labeled in Icelandic, German, Swedish, Danish, and English.  You could get Heinz ketchup, McCain’s french fries, a variety of Asian noodles and dishes, waffle mix, and so on.  The familiar Icelandic hot dog is just like a frankfurter anywhere else.  The distinction is the sauce, which I found a bit sweet and not something I’d swap in for a normal yellow mustard.

There’s plenty of fish to try and the kids took a liking to the pickled herring, which you can get in containers.  The dried (jerked) haddock was a bit fishy but we ate it like beef jerky and it might be better prepared in a sandwich or some other way.

Skyr was the out and out favorite for all of us and is like an incredibly creamy yogurt.  It’s both product and brand name.  You can get standard flavors – blueberry, pear, etc. – or buy a tub and add your own flavor.

We were surprised at the number of Italian restaurants in downtown Reykjavik.  You can find Icelandic fare but you have to hunt around a bit.  Our food costs averaged out to about $20 a meal for all 5 of us when we ate grocery food.  This included bread, cheese, skyr, jams, a variety of proteins (fish, hot dogs, smoked lamb sandwich meat), and fruit.  We rarely ventured into restaurants.

Our visit to the Geysir Bistro in Reykjavik was one of the rare occasions and a real highlight.  We enjoyed the blue mussels, seafood crepes, and particularly the very filling brunch.  The cafeteria at the Perlan building (home of a very cool Saga Museum) was also good:  inexpensive, with free refills on the salad bar.

The brunch meal at the Geysir Bistro and Bar in downtown Reykjavik.

The brunch meal at the Geysir Bistro and Bar in downtown Reykjavik.  In addition to a crepe with syrup, eggs and sausage, you can get your Icelandic hot dog with this meal as well as homemade skyr.

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