* = favorites
– * Veganæs (basically pronounced like “Veganize” but more like “VAY-guhnissse”)
This is my top recommendation! A 100% vegan “diner” with foods like burgers and fries, steak, fried fish, cheese balls. Vegan American food with a Scandinavian flare. And the place is set inside of an awesome bar (Gaukurinn) which is home to Iceland's drag scene, hard rock scene, standup comedy scene, you name it! So come for the most incredible vegan food Iceland has to offer — stay for an awesome show!
– * Jömm
An innovative vegan food startup that recently opened and has been making vegan food much more widely available around the shops of Reykjavík. They started as a sort of pop-up (imagine a food truck with no wheels) but now they're expanding widely!
– Kaffi Vinyl
Right up there with Veganæs. The food isn't quite on par with Veganæs (seriously, nobody can top what Veganæs is doing — yet!) but they've got a good variety of options, a full coffee menu, a bar, and they are THE place to go to if you want vegan desserts!
– Gló (more of a sit-down restaurant, but unless you're an organic health nut, you might find the food a little less adventurous)
– Aktu Taktu
If you want to enjoy the convenience of eating at a drive-thru like a normal human being, Aktu Taktu is a popular (often late-night) drive thru (and sit-down) fast food restaurant with a vegan burger served with vegan cheese, vegan mayo/sauce, and a vegan patty! And it actually tastes pretty darn good!
– Óli (24 hours)
Icelanders will be like “Why are you recommending that place???” It's a gas station, but with some groceries and a small kitchen and grill. The only reason I mention this place is because it's open 24-hours. If you absolutely NEED a place to eat or congregate when all else is closed, this place is there as an option. You can order many non-vegan sandwiches, but this place added a vegan burger to their menu. It's not the tastiest vegan burger you'll find — if you've ever had that sort of Dr. Praegers veggie burger – the blah kind they serve in most NYC diners – it's sort of like that: a mashed up patty of veggies, potatoes, peas, carrots, etc… If you're just looking for something to eat on a bun with some fries… it'll do.
– FRENCH FRIES!
When I tell Icelanders that you can't eat McDonald's french fries, they find that so odd. “But they're just potatoes fried in oil with salt!” I'm not sure where else in the world we have to avoid their fries, but in Iceland, you can safely assume fries are always vegan. Here's some interesting trivia! Iceland used to have McDonald's. But after the economic crash of 2008, badasses that Icelanders are, they basically gave McDonald's the boot, said they could no longer afford them, but they kept all the buildings and recipes and the general concept. So somehow, McDonald's agreed to let them continue to operate, now called “Metro”. If you walk into a Metro, you'll find it eerily similar to a McDonald's, but with noticeable differences as the menu has been innovated and bends a bit more towards Scandinavian fare. But when I first visited Iceland as a vegan, I loved going to Metro and gorging on fries! JUST REMEMBER THIS ABOUT ORDERING FRIES!!! At most places (especially drive thrus) if you order a “large order of fries”, you will get basically half a grocery bag filled with fries! Here, it is assumed when you ask for a “large order” of something you are asking for enough to feed a family. So just start with whatever portion they recommend.
REMINDERS ABOUT FOOD
- Food is like PROHIBITIVELY expensive in Iceland! When you go to a restaurant, you might be shocked to realize the cost of a veggie burger is nearly equal to $20 USD! But before you panic and complain that things are overpriced here, keep this in mind: The price you are paying INCLUDES the tax, and includes not only the TIP, but basically includes a living WAGE for your server or cashier, and everyone else who had any part in preparing that meal for you. AND they've got health care! So remember that when you are paying $20 for a meal, you are basically paying EVERYONE what they deserve. That said, Icelanders generally prepare their own meals at home BECAUSE food is so expensive, and rarely eat out. So you'd honestly be much better off just stopping at a grocery store and making what you want. Bónus is one of the cheaper grocery stores. Hagkaup (pronounced “HAHG(h)-koyp”) is more middle-of-the-road and is sort of like — if you combined a Target with a grocery store. They always have a nice selection of all the vegan essentials: meats, cheeses, milks, ice creams, microwavable/frozen meals, etc… It's rare that I need something that Hagkaup doesn't have, plus several locations are 24 hours.
ABOUT BEVERAGES (get used to this…)
- ICE – Icelanders (ironically) just DO not use ice. It's not something people keep on hand in their homes. It's not something people generally expect, want, or ask for. You're more likely to find ice cubes at like a bar, but even then, they'll be pretty sparing with the ice cubes. And forget iced coffee. You just aren't going to find it. Nobody drinks iced coffee. MAYBE at Joe & The Juice but again, ice is just not something Icelanders are used to using. Get used to drinking coffee hot. Or if you're like me and you almost EXCLUSIVELY drink iced coffee, just get used to asking for and accepting hot coffee poured over ice.
- LARGE? NO. LET IT GO! – You just aren't going to find “large” drinks in Iceland. And if there are drinks labeled as “large”, they'll be what you would normally consider a “small”. Be prepared to pay a good sum for a coffee, and then be handed a laughably small cup in return. When I argue with Icelanders about the fact that I can't just get a LARGE (meaning 32 OUNCE!!!) cold beverage to walk around with. They basically consider a 16 ounce a “large”. And if you try to explain to Icelanders that life would just be BETTER if you had a LARGE drink, and ask what you're supposed to do when you finish your 16 ounces, they say “Well just go get another one then.” …….NO, BITCH!
WHAT TO DO FOR RECREATION
Sure, there is lots to do in Iceland, but I can really only recommend doing the things that I go there to do.
- Laugardalslaginn (pronounced “LOY-ghahr-dahlss-LAH-yin”)
- – This is the giant public (HEATED) swimming pool downtown, with five different hot tubs with increasing temperatures, and a “sjópottin”, meaning a “sea hot tub” which has sea water piped in directly and heated, so you're basically floating in sea water and I can't tell you how rejuvenating it feels! Also this pool is joined with WorldClass, an enormous professional gym. So if you like to work out, I recommend joining world class and then you'll have FREE access to the heated pools and hot tubs (and steam baths and saunas) after each and every workout!
- Dragsúgur – Iceland hasn't really had a drag “scene” for the last 20 years. But a rag-tag group of drag performers have banded together to form a large drag scene in Iceland. Some of these performers (Gloria Hole, Gógó Starr) have gone solo and are doing solo gigs around town. Google Dragsúgur or Gloria or Gógó, or find them on Facebook, and GO SEE THEM!