Before traveling to Reykjavik, my mom excitedly asked if I had ever heard of "the famous hot dog stand" in Iceland. I was a little confused at first. Where exactly was this place, how could hot dogs be that good, and how on earth did my mom know about it? "Your grandmother's sister-in-law lives in Reykjavik and said you have to eat a hot dog while you're there. Look it up online!" I asked for a specific name, but she didn't have a clue. She urged me to google it. With a very vague description and zero understanding of the (complex) Icelandic language, I began searching the web. Within seconds, my answer appeared.
Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur is a tiny hot dog stand in downtown Reykjavik near Old Harbour. It was featured on the first season of Anthony Bourdain's TV show No Reservations and has been visited by the likes of Bill Clinton and Madonna. Hungry locals and tourists can be seen gathering outside the stand at all hours of the day to order a hot dog (pylsur) with "the works". At only 350 krona (about $3 USD) in an incredibly expensive city, this quick little treat is the perfect lunch, dinner, or midday snack.
So what exactly makes Icelandic hot dogs a magnificent delicacy? For starters, they're not your regular Oscar Meyer wieners. In fact, they taste nothing like the standard American hot dog. Icelandic pylsurs are made predominately of quality lamb meat. The snap! of the sausage casing as you bite into the bun is an interesting surprise, and the flavor is utterly delicious. In fact, the sausages are rumored to be braised in beer, which may contribute to the rich flavor. Secondly, Icelandic hot dogs are garnished with a colorful array of condiments. Toppings include honey mustard, ketchup, and remolaude (a mayonnaise-based sauce with sweet relish). In addition, both fried and raw onions coat the inside of the bun.
Michael and I waited in line for about five minutes before ordering a hot dog "eina með öllu" ("one with everything"). The small parking lot's single picnic table was occupied, so we stood beside the stand while devouring our first Icelandic pylsur in the freezing cold. It completely exceeded my expectations. The exquisite combination of ingredients was unexpected; the hot dog appeared deceivingly simple but was packed with flavor. Sweet mustard, crunchy onions, savory sausage and a fluffy bun coated my tastebuds in pure ecstasy.
Commonly referred to as "the Icelandic national food", pylsurs are a staple of the country's diet. Visiting Reykjavik without eating a coveted hot dog is like visiting Italy without eating a bowl of pasta. You have to do it - and you'll want to do it, trust me! Bæjarins Beztu is the most popular hotdog stand in the country (perhaps even in Europe), but pylsurs are served at gas stations and convenience stores all over Iceland. We ate a handful of lamb dogs at various gas stations while driving around the Southern Coast in our rental car, and each one was just as satisfying as the last.
If you're visiting Iceland anytime soon, have a delicious lamb pylsur for me (or two, or three, or four!). I'll be dreaming about Bæjarins Beztu until the next time I visit Iceland. Until then, I'll be drooling over the photos I took on our trip.