Icelandic Hot Dogs

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. 

Reykjavik, Iceland

After landing in Keflavik after a six hour flight, being shuttled to a rental car office in the middle of nowhere and driving an hour to Reykjavik, Michael and I were wiped out. The mountainous views from Route 41 were absolutely beautiful, but I could barely keep my eyes open. We parked on the street and ran inside our hotel to see if we could check into our room early. It was 7am, so our hopes weren't high. Fortunately, the hotel obliged (for an extra fifty krona, but it was well worth it). Before taking a nap, we wandered downstairs to the breakfast room and were amazed at the spread before us. Instead of sausage, eggs and pancakes, we were greeted with rye toast, cold cuts, cucumbers, tomatoes, creamy skyr and fresh croissants. The delicious smell of coffee and tea filled our noses while plates and silverware clattered on the buffet table. After eating a light meal, we went to sleep.

Four hours later, groggy and jet-lagged but excited to explore, we decided to visit Hallgrimskirkja, the largest church in Iceland. Our hotel was easily within walking distance, so we bundled up and made our way down the street. Colorful homes lined the empty sidewalks on Reykjavik. Blues, reds, and soft yellows brightened up the dreary sky. We actually had our best weather on the first day. The sun occasionally peeked through the clouds, giving us a delicious taste of Icelandic sunshine. I was charmed by the vibrant, pastel buildings, which is something you don't see often in America. Since Iceland stays so chilly and gray throughout the year, it only makes sense to incorporate vivid splashes of color in everyday life. That was one of my favorite things about the country.

We saw Hallgrimskirkja looming overhead several minutes before we reached the square. Known as one of Reykjavik's most popular landmarks, the Lutheran church was stunning. The tower's construction was designed by Guðjón Samuel in 1937. His work was inspired by the captivating shapes of cooled lava; according to many, he wanted Hallgrimskirkja's exterior to resemble the basalt lava flows of Iceland's landscape. We captured a few photos before heading inside and purchasing a ticket for the 8th floor observation deck.

The view from the top was breathtaking. Snow-capped mountains stood regally in the distance. The kaleidoscopic houses created a rainbow of color that lined the window frames. We could see for miles past Reykjavik, into the great expanse of the rugged countryside. We spent time at each window, admiring the different city skylines and the beautiful mountains.

Hallgrimskirkja is an essential pit-stop if you're visiting Reykjavik. Since Michael and I rented a car and drove around the Southern Coast of Iceland for most of our trip, we only had one full day in the country's capital. Our main priority that day was to see Hallgrimskirkja Visiting the church before experiencing the city from a closer standpoint was a perfect way to see the capital from a unique (and strikingly beautiful) perspective.