Visiting Your Friend In Reykjavik
Before the world was turned upside down, due to covid, a very interesting world traveler joined our Reykjavik Food Tour. The popular television host, guidebook author, and organizer of tours bringing people from the US to Europe, Rick Steves of Rick Steves’ Europe joined me, Valur, Your Friend in Reykjavik, for a 3 hours food walk where I gave him an introduction into Icelandic history one delicious bite at a time.
I realized quickly I was walking with a true celebrity as we got frequently stopped during our walk by American visitors who wanted to say hi and have a photo with Rick. Well, he’s quite nice so I do understand why people want to catch him on the street, but it was a bit surprising how many knew who he was here in the center of Reykjavik, Iceland.
It’s also a bit funny and strange afterwards that I simply forgot to get a photo of us together as we were so immersed in talking about Iceland, travel & life and of course enjoying our food. Rick, if you ever see this! Next time when you are in Iceland we need to take a photo of us.
Our walking food tour started at the usual meeting spot of Your Friend In Reykjavik at Ingólfur Square (Ingólfstorg). It’s a great starting point as the two stone pillars artwork on the square signify how Reykjavik was settled and then the whole of Iceland soon after.
The always excellent Sweet pig
Our first foodie stop was at the excellent gastropub Sæta Svínið, and there we started off with a small appetizer of a smoked Atlantic puffin, just to get to know each other a little. He was tasting puffin for the first time and was pleasantly surprised how good it tasted. Some of our guests say it’s like smoked salty duck or goose.
National dish of Iceland!
The second stop was at one of the oldest restaurants in town, Hressingarskálinn, where they serve one of the traditional dishes of Iceland, a big heartwarming bowl of Icelandic lamb soup. Like almost everyone who ever tries this soup, Rick loved it! Chicken soup for the soul? No, not here. Lamb soup made with broth and root vegetables, that’s what keeps us warm and happy through the darkness of winter and even the constant daylight in summer.
If something is the national dish of Iceland, it’s Íslensk kjötsúpa or Icelandic lamb soup.
The best fast-food in Iceland
All our food tours in Reykjavik include a stop at the famous downtown hot dog stand of Bæjarins Bestu pylsur. We would really be letting you down if we didn’t stop here as this is the place where anyone with a claim to fame visits the stand for an Icelandic style hot dog, The fast-food institution of Icelander for over 80 years.
Afterward, you can proudly claim that you had the same hot dog as Bill Clinton, Kim Kardashian, and the rockband Metallica had when they visited Iceland ;). Rick Steves had a hot dog with everything on it and it went down quickly so we assume he loved it as much as we do.
The wonderful Seabaron
Down we headed towards the old harbor of Reykjavik, passing by the Reykjavik Flea Market, admiring the scenery towards the Esja mountain range.
In just a few minute’s walk, we find ourselves by the blue old fisherman huts by the seafront. These houses used to house the gear and nets of the small boat fishermen but have now been turned into restaurants, coffee shops, and more. We sit down in the brilliant and old fashioned Sægreifinn, where the “owner” Kjartan still sits in his corner.
There we have the traditional triple combo of a lobster soup (in reality the delicious Icelandic Langoustine), a Minke Whale steak, and finally, for those who dare, fermented shark.
The soup has been called “The world’s greatest lobster soup.”, and I have to agree it’s right up there, where the Langoustine melts in your mouth with its rich flavor. Next up, it was the Minke whale steak, which tastes like a cross between beef and tuna. Finally, we tried out the notorious fermented shark, which tastes like old cheese with a hint of ammonia. Have you tried it?
Rick enjoyed it all, even the rotten shark. I guess being a world traveler like he is, very open to experimenting the food of other cultures.
Some of the Icelandic dishes are purely based on survival, and the fermented shark is a perfect example of that.
Fresh fish, a Skyr dessert and Icelandic beer
We continued our food journey and next on the menu was a fresh-caught fish at Geysir Bistro, the wonderful Cod in a light batter with fresh potatoes.
Lastly, we ended where we started and had a delicious dessert made out of Skyr, the unique Icelandic dairy product.
It was a great foodie walk around the center of Reykjavik with my new friend Rick Steves, and after great fun and good conversation it fitted to end with an Icelandic drink in hand, a craft beer called Einstök White Ale.
We can recommend the Rick Steves guidebook about Iceland. It’s full of good advice on how to travel around our beautiful country, and of course, tips about tours and activities like our Reykjavik Walking Tours or even better the Reykjavik Food Tours.