Iceland’s appeal isn’t just in its glaciers and geysers. Sure, driving the captivating countryside is a huge part of the draw, but the food will exceed expectations just as quickly. The term fresh seafood takes on a whole new meaning in this small country, completely surrounded by isolated, Arctic waters.
The easiest way to understand the landscape of the Icelandic countryside, and to figure out where you’ll eat along the way, is to break it down into sections. There is the North, the South, the Golden Circle and then the charming city of Reykjavik. Ring Road wraps around it’s entirety. Within each of these areas there are key places of interest to visit, making it easy to map out an itinerary.
Below focuses on the South, the famous Circle and Reykjavik.
Sveitagrill Miu is a food truck. It is bright red, it’s on the side of a dirt road, and it has one picnic table in front of it to eat at if the weather happens to miraculously allow. It is also right around the corner from the epic Skogafoss Waterfall, and where you’ll want to eat while there.
The small fishing town of Hofn is known to some as the langoustine capital of the world. After a day of driving past bright blue icebergs and glaciers pouring out of mountains, you’ll need some food to somehow match the excitement of what you’ve just seen. The place is no frills, but the food is on point. Get the grilled lobster platter, served with garlic butter, salad and potatoes. The lobster was some of the best I have ever had.
Located up on a hill in the very small but charming town of Vik, you’ll find the cozy Sudur Vik. Plates are simple, with Icelandic staples like pan fried arctic char or fillet of lamb, both coupled with grilled rosemary potatoes and fresh salads.
Found within the depths of the expansive and gorgeous Golden Circle lies a glowing greenhouse that for me, was love at first site. Fridheimer is a glowing display of tomatoes and basil, and quickly gives off the sense of a place with a palpable passion for its trade. The entire family lives and works on the property, and will walk you through the history and the development of the small menu once seated. Get the bottomless tomato soup, grab some fresh bread, and marvel at the beautiful space.
My entry into the food scene in Reykjavik was a good one at the fish centric two story restaurant Fiskmarkadurrin. Opened for ten years now, the otherwise known Fish Market has become one of the staples of the growing food scene. The lights are hung low, the space is open, and the dishes are creative.
Right off the water in the port area of Reykjavik, Coocoo’s Nest offers a cozy and creative reprieve when it’s time to lunch. Suspect as it may sound start with the beet bellini and follow it up with the blue cheese eggs florentine; you will not be sorry.
“Sea Baron” is a very small, fisherman’s hole kind of place. Completely simple and equally authentic, gallons and gallons of piping hot lobster soup are churned out here every day. Grab your seat at one of the shared tables and enjoy.
Matur og Drykkur
Matur og Drykkur is a 10 out of 10. There are three tasting menus all with either five or eight courses; Icelandic (meat), seafood and vegetarian. Go with a hungry friend and get at least two of the eight course options. They are most famous for their whole cod’s head cooked in chicken dulce, but everything was memorable.
Some of the best textured and most flavorful rye bread I’ve come across in a long time is born right here at Bergsson. Surround it with your choice of eggs, meats, cheeses and whatever fresh ingredients are on tap that day.
Efstidalur Farm is home to a boutique hotel, cows, and some very good icecream. An easy place to swing by on your way from the stops of the Golden Circle to Reykjavik, the icecream here is made from the cows in the barn you look straight at as you order (don’t think about it). Go with the cinnamon, or the vanilla bean, and get it in the homemade waffle cone. They’ll also ask you if you want the cone filled with their soft serve- say yes.
Kex Hostel is essentially an Ace Hotel in Reykjavik. It’s cozy, it’s head to toe adorned with kitschy travel paraphernalia, and it’s cooler than you. Go by one afternoon and grab a seat and a snack at the bar; you might feel like you’re suddenly in LA, or in Brooklyn, but catching a feel of that vibe anywhere let’s face it, is always somewhat welcome.