Bao bun

The Best Street Food in Reykjavik: A Local’s Guide

Finding a quick and yummy bite isn't hard while you're in Reykjavik. Here's a selection of my favourite street-food places in the capital of Iceland.

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Nína Þorkelsdóttir

22. April 2018

There are surprisingly many places to choose from in Reykjavík when it comes to street food. Reykjavík isn’t exactly known for warm weather but people here really don’t let the cold stop them from grabbing their favourite bite and eating it on the go. 

I have a busy schedule and I usually don’t like spending too much time on cooking or grocery shopping. Grabbing something quick (and unhealthy) is something I do regularly so I thought it was a good idea to share some of my favourites.

Do like the Clintons and the Kardashians and grab some 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 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.

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.

Two Icelandic-style hot dogs. Photo: iStock

Kim Kardashian visited Bæjarins bestu last year with her sisters. It was actually Kourtney’s birthday   so there was a large group of Icelandic teenagers that sang for her. If you are a fan of Keeping up with the Kardashians you might actually have seen this scene.

There are three Bæjarins beztu pylsur hot dog stands in Reykjavik. One in down town Reykjavik, one in Skeifan and one in Holtagarðar. Most tourists go to the one in down town Reykjavik so the line there is usually quite big. 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, preferably washing it down with an ice cold coke.

Read also: 4 Reykjavik Restaurants Locals Love

Lemon: A scandi-style sandwich

Lemon is a recent addition to the street food scene in Reykjavík. The first place opened in 2013 and now there are several other locations in Reykjavík.

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. We also have 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 am not quite sure that the sandwiches from Lemon fall into the street food category but I guess that’s a matter of definition. I think it’s a really good option if you’re craving a quick bite or a light lunch.

My favourite sandwich at Lemon is called Parmarella, it has 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.

The Bao Bun Truck in Fógetagarður square

This food truck sells just one thing – chinese bao buns. For those who don’t know, bao bun is a steamed bun filled with either meat, vegetables or fish. This Chinese delicacy is becoming a popular grab-and-go meal in Europe and the US.

The Bao Bun truck in Reykjavik offers an Icelandic take on the traditional bao bun by experimenting with local fillings, such as cod and lamb. Pulled pork and vegetarian options are also available.

Korean street food in Reykjavik, Iceland. Wonderguide/Nina.

The Bao Bun truck is in cooperation with Skúli Craftbar, a cozy little place located just ten steps away from the truck. They allow you to bring your buns into their bar or sit on the tables outside. It’s really sunny and nice there in the summer.

I was surprised how delicious these buns were when I tried them for the first time last summer. They are fresh, packed with flavour and reasonably priced. I later found out that one of Iceland’s most famous chefs and restaurant moguls, Hrefna Rósa Sætran, actually owns the truck. I guess that she makes sure that the quality is always at its highest.

In the mood for kebab? Try Mandi

There aren’t a lot of kebab joints in Reykjavik, but Mandi is probably the most popular one. Mandi is conveniently located at Ingólfstorg square, only a few steps away from Austurvöllur.

When I first heard about Mandi it was because of their french fries, which supposedly were extremely good. I decided to give them a try and ordered a falafel as well. The falafel was pretty good and the hummus that came with it was decent, at least compared to the hummus you buy at the store here in Iceland. The fries were yummy too.

I haven’t tried any meat-filled kebab, but I’ve heard it’s good too.

The pricing is probably the best thing about Mandi. You can get a kebab for around 10$, which is a pretty good deal.

Hlemmur Mathöll: A gourmet heaven at Reykjavik’s largest bus station

Gratinated goat's cheese and crackers. Gratinated goat's cheese, jam and crackers. Wonderguide/Nína. 

Hlemmur is Reykjavik’s largest bus station. It used to be a hangout for drunks and delinquent youths, but it was dramatically renovated last summer and is now an upscale food court with different restaurants, bars a bakery and a café. You can either go for something fancy or grab something faster and cheaper, such as a taco or a Vietnamese Bánh mì.

I would personally recommend grabbing the avocado sourdough sandwich at Borðið, which is one of the restaurants at Hlemmur. I’m also crazy about the small plates served at Skál!, especially the buffalo-fried goat cheese cauliflower. Skál! also offers a wide selection of cocktails and beers – and the traditional Icelandic hot dog if that’s what you’re craving.

If you have a hard time deciding what to have for dinner while you’re in Iceland, Hlemmur is your go-to-place. Take a moment to stroll around and I can promise you that you’ll find something you fancy pretty quickly.