Europe, Iceland

The Iceland Restaurant Adventures & Reviews

During our 19 day road trip around every corner of Iceland we chose to primarily eat meals prepared in our Kuku Campers van, which drastically reduced cost (I’ll eventually write a post about Icelandic grocery store shenanigans…).  Eating out in Iceland is EXPENSIVE.  However, there were a few places I put on the itinerary to visit, and random places we stumbled upon when too lazy to eat (or craving something else that wasn’t a one pot meal or unidentifiable meat that we thought was beef but was really horse…).

So here’s my quick and dirty reviews of the places I ate at.  I’m no “foodie.”  In fact, I’m a simple Wyoming girl that was raised on wild game meat and potatoes, and love just “homey” type of comfort foods.  Therefore, overall, I liked the food in Iceland because I wasn’t expecting the exotic or fancy.  It reminded me of the simple, practical meals I’ve been use to all of my life.

So without further ado… here are my little reviews!  I included prices for the places I have receipts for, and also what my credit card was charged in US dollars (this can fluctuate based on exchange rate.  I was there September 1-19, 2018).

Kjöt og Kúnst
Hveragerði

I found out about this restaurant fairly close to our departure date, and excitingly added it to the itinerary since this was also our first overnight spot of our trip.  Kjöt og Kúnst uses geothermal steam to cook their food, called it “earth cooking.”  I don’t know about you, but I just find this incredibly neat!  I already made note to try/buy bread baked using geothermal heat, so to check it off on my first day in Iceland was a treat.  The restaurant serves up traditional Icelandic food.

We arrived in the late afternoon and chose to eat from the buffet.  I chose the simpler soup buffet option, which had a yellow pea soup and vegetable/onion soup offering, freshly baked bread, and deli meat/cheese/vegetable spread.  Kubo chose the buffet that offers a full course that had traditional meat and side offerings, along with the items in my buffet.  We both found our meals to be delicious, hearty, and filling, and just what we needed after being up over 24 hours, flying 7 hours, dealing with the airport hassle, getting our camper van, exploring the grocery store, and exploring the Reykjanes peninsula (and great fuel for the uphill hike to Reykjadalur).  The restaurant also is a coffee house, and they do sell bakery items to go as well.

Our two buffet choices and an espresso came to 5610 ISK ($52.37 USD).  Welcome to Iceland!

 

Efstidalur II
Golden Circle

This lovely working dairy farm was a quick stop for some post-Brúarfoss hike ice cream!  I got two scoops of banana ice cream in a waffle cone, and Kubo got one scoop of banana and one scoop of strawberry in a waffle cone.  Both were delicious and so creamy… the creamiest ice cream I have ever had!  We sat on some comfy sofas with a window that looks out into the cowshed and enjoyed our treat.  There is also a full restaurant on site.

Total was 1600 ISK ($14.94 USD).  Definitely worth it!

 

Tjöruhúsið
Ísafjörður

Come on, you cannot go to the Westfjords and not eat at Tjöruhúsið!!  Now, for a story.  I hate seafood.  Fish, shellfish, critters of all kinds… no, just no, if you ask me.  However, when in Rome Iceland… Tjöruhúsið was quickly added to the itinerary once I added the Westfjords. Tjöruhúsið is a very unique, but great experience.  They offer two “seatings,” or meal times, if you will, at 7pm and 9pm.  Reservations are HIGHLY encouraged.  We actually didn’t have reservations, but peeked our heads in the door around 5pm and the great staff added us to the 7pm seating list.  Whew!  We only got that lucky because it was mid-September, so if you’re coming in the busier seasons, book it in advance!  When you arrive, you are shown to your spots on long tables with bench seatings.  Yep, that’s right, everyone eats together like one happy family!  I know some diners might be turned off by not having a private table, but Kubo and I both loved the experience.  We were seated next to a couple from Quebec, and a couple from Reykjavík (you know a place is good when locals drive 6 hours to eat there).  Tjöruhúsið does not have a menu – they simply serve whatever fish they caught that day buffet style!

First up was a seafood soup and freshly baked bread.  I really enjoyed the soup, it didn’t have the typical fishy/seafood taste to me.  And the bread… oh man, loved it!  Once the soup course was over, the wait staff instructed us to form and orderly line for the main course buffet.  There were numerous sides to choose from, and I do believe 6 or 7 fish dishes.  Because I only live once, I excitingly agreed to all the fish dishes to try out.  I’ll say I gave myself a solid A+ for effort for not being a seafood/fish eater.  I ate all my sides, and sampled the fish.  And then got more sides.  Hey, I tried!  Kubo LOVED his meal and thought it was all delicious, for a fish eater perspective.  But I’d say my opinion goes further… I don’t eat fish, and I ate the fish!

Tjöruhúsið will set you back a pretty penny.  Kubo never did tell me how much this meal (with a bottle of wine) cost.

 

Gamla Bakaríið
Ísafjörður

I couldn’t get enough of fresh baked bread and pastries in Iceland, so for breakfast in Ísafjörður we ate at Gamla Bakaríið.  I had an apple loaf, and Kubo had a blueberry loaf and a croissant (if I recall correctly), and coffees for both of us.  Simple, yummy, low key!

$18.87 USD was the total.  Once again, not that shabby if you think of Starbucks prices, and oh so much better.

 

Litlibær Café
Westfjords

Hands down my favorite place I ate in all of Iceland was Litlibær!  This cafe is located inside a historical turf farmhouse with incredibly low ceilings and doorways (bruised my head good, can you tell?).  Historical photos and artifacts line the walls and rooms, and it almost feels like you’re eating in a museum, or your grandma’s living room.  Upon sitting you are offered fresh coffee or tea, and soon enough a plate with a fresh, homemade waffle appears in front of you along with homemade blueberry and rhubarb jams and homemade whipped cream!  This coffee was the best coffee I have ever drank, and the waffle was pure heaven.

The homemade jams are available for sale, along with handmade wool items.  Yes, I bought both a jar of blueberry jam and a sweater here!

The total was 2400 ISK, which is an absolute steal for simple home cooked food that delicious!

 

Bakaríið við brúna
Akureyri 

Bakeries in Iceland do not get the attention they deserve.  After a decently long morning drive, we were semi-grouchy and needing a pick-me-up when we rolled into Akureyri around lunchtime.  I did a quick Google search and found Bakaríið við brúna right off the highway, and stumbled upon something great!  We definitely were the only tourists in there, and after realizing Icelanders will just push you aside to get their order in, we finally ordered and were relieved the woman behind the counter spoke English and could help us navigate the ordering.  We each chose a flat bread pizza and coffee, along with a bowl of goulash to split.  The pizza was delicious, prepared on a freshly made crust with the right amount of toppings.  The goulash was TO DIE FOR.  I would’ve taken gallons of it back home if it were possible!  Luckily the goulash came with free refills!

Once again, one of our better meals in Iceland, and one of the more affordable ones!  No receipt, but I do recall it was about in the $30 USD range, which I thought was reasonable for the quality of food and the fact the goulash came with free refills.  Sometimes looking off the beaten path is the better bet.

 

Vogafjós Cowshed Restaurant
Mývatn

This was a restaurant added early on in my itinerary thanks to reviews and the novelty of eating in a restaurant where I can look a cow in the eye while biting in a burger thanks to a large pane of glass separating the humans from the cowshed.  Sadly, it was our worst restaurant experience in Iceland.

After a wait and enjoying a beautiful sunset, we were seated.  I ordered the hamburger and Kubo chose the lamb fillet special which came with an appetizer and dessert.  We also ordered two beers.  And we waited.  And waited.  And waited some more.  And more.  I watched several tables who were seated way after us receive their food.  I got impatient.  Finally we flagged down a server and inquired about our meals, which were produced rather quickly.  So I’m not sure what was up with that, but I was disappointed in the service and the long wait, and the rather rude response from the server when I brought it up (my biggest lesson in how this was not an American restaurant experience where servers rely on tips and won’t respond rudely).  The next disappointment was when I bit into my burger and discovered it was still rather red inside.  I eat my ground beef very well done thanks to my microbiology and nursing background, and this made my stomach turn.  All cows have bacteria, Icelandic or not.  Kubo brushed it off as “it’s a European thing.”  He enjoyed his lamb dinner (Icelandic lamb is truly a treat!), while I ate my undercooked burger while pushing thoughts of  E. coli enterotoxins out of my head.  Luckily the manager tried to make things right, and offered me a free dessert, which I accepted.  The way to my heart is cake, and they somehow knew that secret about me!

Service issues aside (and ignoring the undercooked burger), the food was alright, but definitely not worth the money they charge for it, and perhaps the hype in the tourist circle.  We left Vogafjós disappointed, and chalked it up as a lesson learned.

 

Kaffi Lára – El Grilló Bar
Seydisfjorður

After parking our camper van in the Seydisfjorður campsite, we walked down to the El Grilló Bar for some grub after a “we’re sick of camper van meals” moment (and Kubo wanted a beer in an actual glass I think!).  Here you order at the bar, and then they’ll bring the meals to you.  I decided to be brave and try a hamburger again, stressing to the person I gave my order to that I wanted it well done, meaning cooked very well, if not burnt.  Kubo opted for a lamb dish again.  We grabbed our locally brewed beers and headed to a table in the loft.

Both of our meals with accompanied by a huge baked potato that was unlike any baked potato I’ve ever had!  It was golden yellow, large in size, buttery in taste (without butter on it), and just melted in my mouth with every bite.  Being a true potato loving gal, this was heaven and definitely the best potato I have ever had in my life!  The hamburger… well… it was red again.  Apparently in Iceland they just don’t cook ground beef well.  Or very much at all.  Kubo gave me a good ol’ “told you so” face, and commented that I was brave to ever consider ordering a burger again.  Whatever.  I ate it.  It was delicious, and luckily in the candlelight I couldn’t really tell it was undercooked if I didn’t look too hard.  Kubo’s lamb dish was once again a hit.  We both agree that this restaurant was far better (and cheaper) than our previous burger & lamb experience in Mývatn.  We finished off the night with some more beer and cake for dessert.

 

Viking Cafe
Stokksnes

Because there is a fee to enter Stokksnes, we had to go into the Viking Cafe anyways to pay.  Upon seeing the breakfast spread, we decided to eat there instead of rummaging around in the van.  We grabbed coffee and then dived into the buffet, which included the traditional meat and cheese platter, skyr (yogurts), cereals, juice, milk, and vegetables.  The views out of the cafe window aren’t too shabby, either!

Price was 1500 ISK each if I recall correctly (credit card has a $41.96 USD charge, but that would’ve included the 800 ISK/person entry fee into Stokksnes).  Impulse purchase, what can I say?  But it really wasn’t that bad, and sometimes it just tastes better to eat someone else’s skyr than the skyr in the camper van.

 

Kattakaffihúsið
Reykjavík

I am a crazy cat lady.  I love Iceland.  So when you tell me there’s a cat cafe in Iceland, I just can’t ignore that!  This was #1 on my list for our one day in Reykjavík.  It was the first stop even.  Nothing would stop me from cuddling the cats!

This is an adorable coffee shop and small cafe that indeed has cats.  All the cats (to my knowledge) are available for adoption.  They do have some ground rules, such as no picking up the cats and do not wake up the cats if they’re sleeping.  Of course, all but one were sleeping when I arrived.

I ordered a latte and some raspberry cake, and Kubo had an espresso and the daily sandwich special.  Everything was good, but come on, in all reality I was there for the cats.  And they were AWESOME.

Total was 3120 ISK ($28.61 USD).

 

Noodle Station
Reykjavík

It’s funny… we get to Reykjavík for our final night, and our meal choices are a cat cafe and noodle restaurant among all the other popular choices!  We hopped into the Noodle Station on Laugavegur across from the Phallological Museum for some good belly filling pho.  We both opted for the beef soup, which is broth, beef, noodles, green onions, sprouts, and peanuts.  It was warm.  It was yummy.  And it was cheap.

Waiting for our departure in the airport we did eat in the food court, but I do not believe that warrants a review.  I had chicken nuggets and fries, and they were very much your typical chicken nuggets and fries 🙂

As a special note, I have an anaphylactic allergy to tree nuts, and carry an EpiPen.  I did have concerns about running into nuts while in Iceland, especially due to language barriers and not being familiar with their use of nuts in Icelandic foods.  I had an Icelander translate all the names for nuts for me ahead of the trip and noted them in my journal I brought along.  I found most food packages from the store had English translations.  I did ask at Gamla Bakaríið about nuts, and the staff seemed unsure of what would’ve had contact with items.  Luckily my allergy isn’t severe enough that I can’t have food made in the same room as nuts, but something to consider if this is a concern for you.  I’m happy Icelandic chocolate doesn’t have hazelnut in it like most other European chocolates.  That made me happy!  Overall, I just had to take the same precautions as I do home in the U.S., and just made sure I brought Benadryl and my EpiPen along with me on the trip (which I never even had to think of using either).

And finally, the #1 tip I can give is TRY THE BAKERIES!  So so so delicious and nicer on the wallet!

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