There’s an abundance of great restaurant in Reykjavik but there are also places that aren’t anything special. As a local, I’ve found out which restaurants are worthy of repeated visits. I am a regular guest at all the restaurants I chose for this article, none of them has ever disappointed me.
I decided to include less expensive places too, the cheapest one being the infamous hot dog stand, Bæjarins Bestu. Others are a bit more upscale, but nothing too fancy.
Apótek Kitchen + Bar
Apotek Kitchen + Bar is located on the corner of Austurstræti and Pósthússtræti in the western part of down town Reykjavik, close to the Parliament building.
My favourite salmon in town and some sourdough bread. Travelade/Nina
The elegant interior of the Apotek. Travelade/Nina
Their main focus is on Icelandic and European cuisine “with a smoking hot Argentinan grill,” according to their website. They also have an ambitious cocktail menu and an amazing pastry kitchen, serving handcrafted macarons, desserts and chocolates.
I treat my self to lunch at Apotek Kitchen every once in a while. I usually order the catch of the day or the salmon (their salmon is incredible!). I’ve also had the hamburger a couple of times and it’s just delicious. For those who are craving something extremely unhealthy, I recommend the duck & waffle – a crispy leg confit served on a Belgian waffle with some caramelized apples and maple syrup.
A delightful dessert: Lemon macaron and coffee. Travelade/Nina
Pros: Incredibly good food and high quality ingredients. Stylish. Centrally located. Good playlist!
Cons: Not the cheapest restaurant in town – the price of one dish ranges from 26$ to 60$.
Should I make a reservation first? I don’t think it’s necessary during lunchtime hours but if there’s a large group of people joining you it could be safe to do so. You can make reservations here.
The Pizza Place at Hverfisgata 12
This amazing pizza place has no name and is sometimes referred as “The Pizza Place With No Name”. It opened just a few years ago and is in my opinion by far the best pizza place in Iceland.
Photo: Hverfisgata 12
Photo: Hverfisgata 12
The best thing about this place is the bakers’ creative approach when it comes to toppings. You will probably be surprised when you browse through the menu, even a bit shocked. For instance you’ll find a pizza topped with green apples, celery and dill and another one topped with coriander, soya, sesame dressing, pork and cashew nuts.
I’ve had most of the pizzas and it’s safe to say that they are all very good. I have a favorite one though, that’s the one with boiled potatoes, rucola and truffle mayo. Boiled potatoes on a pizza might sound boring but I promise you that this pie will be a pleasant surprise.
Green apple/celery topping. Travelade/Nina
Upstairs there is a hip little bar named after the danish beer brand Mikkeler & Friends. They serve dozens of different craft beers on tap and I would say there’s a lot of experimentalism going on there too.
Pros: Great, unusual pizzas. Very cozy setting in an old former residential house. Good bar upstairs.
Cons: Expensive (one pie is around 30$)
Should I make a reservation first? Nope, it’s actually not possible to make reservations for lunch. You just have to show up and see if they have tables.
Lemon is a great option for those who just want to grab a quick, inexpensive bite. Lemon is a recent addition to the street food scene in Reykjavík offering sandwiches and freshly squeezed juices. The first place opened in 2013 but now it has spread around the city.
I don’t know if you are familiar with a scandinavian sandwich chain called Joe and the Juice , but Lemon’s concept is pretty much the same. There’s also a Joe and the Juice in Reykjavík (and in Keflavik Airport) but I prefer Lemon.
For those who don’t know the concept, it’s basically about grabbing gourmet flat bread sandwiches and freshly squeezed juices/smoothies. That’s the only thing you can get there except for coffee and water.
I I think it’s a really good option if you’re craving a quick bite or a light lunch. You can either take your sandwitch to go or eat at the restaurant.
My favourite sandwich at Lemon is called Parmarella, with pesto, mozzarella and parma ham. The spicy tuna is also very good. I usually order a freshly squeezed juice with my sandwich. Dazed is my favourite juice, it’s made from apples, fresh mint and lime.
Pros: Cheap and pretty good. Quick.
Cons: Not very cozy.
Should I make a reservation first? There is no need to.
Bæjarins beztu pylsur
This hot dog stand is not just a local favourite, it has actually gained a reputation among tourists. In my opinion, it really lives up to the hype although it’s serving the exact same hot dogs as every other hot dog stand in Reykjavík.
There are various theories on what exactly makes the hot dogs from Bæjarins beztu as good as they are. Some say they put some spices in the boiling water but others say their key is heating up the buns with steam. Nobody knows really, but they are definitely doing something right.
Photo: Bæjarins beztu
Bæjarins beztu pylsur are actually so renowned that they have gotten some world famous visitors to taste their glorious ‘pylsur’. Bill Clinton paid a visit to the hot dog stand in 2004 and famously ordered a hot dog with nothing but mustard.
Kim Kardashian visited Bæjarins bestu last year with her sisters. It was actually on Kourtney’s birthday so there was a large group of Icelandic teenagers that sang for her while they were busy gorging on "pylsur". If you are a fan of Keeping up with the Kardashians you might actually have seen this scene.
There are six Bæjarins beztu pylsur hot dog stands in the Reykjavik area but the most popular one is in Tryggvagata in down town Reykjavik. That hot dog stand is characterized by a long line of hungry guests, waiting to buy their hot dog. The service is fast though, so you won’t have to wait very long.
My favourite combination of toppings is ketchup, remoulade, mustard and fried onions. And an ice cold coke.
Pros: Quick. Cheap. Good.
Cons: Nowhere to sit (at least not indoors). Long queue. Unhealthy. Not vegetarian friendly.
Should I make a reservation first? No, there's nowhere to sit!
Another good restaurant worth mentioning is Kopar – a charming place down by the Old Harbour. Kopar is ambitious about using fresh quality ingredients and combining old traditional recipes with contemporary ones.
Kopar is located in the third blue house from the left. Travelade/iStockphoto
A glimpse of Kopar's hip interior. Travelade/Nina
The pulled beef burger. Travelade/Nina
I recommend going for the catch of the day or the pulled beef burger. If you go there in the evening, I suggest that you try a tasting menu (called “Adventure”), especially if you like surprises.
Pros: Very nice location. Stylish and hip. Good food with an Icelandic touch.
Cons: Not too many options on the menu for lunch.
Should I make a reservation first? Yes it could be a good idea, especially if a large group of people is joining you.
The Coocoo’s Nest
The Coocoo’s Nest is a very charming family owned restaurant in the Old Harbour area. I have had lunch there several times and never been disappointed so far.
They usually serve sourdough sandwiches for lunch along with some delicious soups and salads. I’ve had a very good chicken sandwich and a delicious salad with spinach, strawberries and goat cheese.
Instagram/The Coocoo's Nest
Instagram/The Coocoo's Nest
Instagram/The Coocoo's Nest
The only thing that bothers me about The Coocoo’s Nest is the fact that it’s tiny. It’s often hard to get a table and you will probably not sit for long because the guests that have just arrived are monitoring your table, waiting anxiously for it to become available.
The brunch at The Coocoo’s Nest is also amazing. Try the eggs Florentine or the breakfast burrito. Simply delicious.
Pros: Good food. Not too expensive. Close to the city centre. Cozy.
Cons: Small. Difficult to get a table.
Should I make a reservation first? Unfortunatly that's not possible.