The one must-try dish in Iceland is not only fermented shark as many travelers assume. Iceland's most iconic dish hákarl, or fermented shark, which the celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain famously called "the single worst, most disgusting and terrible tasting thing" he's ever eaten is known more for its historical significance rather than taste. Though it still features prominently on restaurant menus, the truth is that most locals don't eat much of the pungent delicacy anymore. They also no longer eat many sheep heads (except on traditional holidays) or much whale meat. What they do eat today are dishes like lamb stew, grilled lobster, fresh fish, and hot dogs.
The great Icelandic hot dog
Hot dogs are so ubiquitous and beloved in Iceland, they're practically the unofficial national dish. They're sold on nearly every street corner and in practically every convenience store. However, the most popular place to get one is in Reykjavik at Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur, which translates to the "best hot dogs in town." It is believed that most of the country's 300,000 residents have eaten at the harborside hot dog stand, which has been open since 1937 and fed famous visitors like Bill Clinton and Rock & Roll legends, Metallica.
What makes these great
Icelandic hot dogs have a different flavor than their American counterparts because they're made mostly from Icelandic lamb, along with a bit of pork and beef. Sheep outnumber humans in Iceland nearly two to one, so they're a plentiful food source; turning them into hot dogs was an easy way to preserve the meat before modern food storage was available. Additionally, Iceland doesn't allow the import of any live animals, so the lamb eaten today—which is free-range, grass-fed, organic and hormone-free—is just like the lamb eaten hundreds of years ago. These delicious hot dogs are made with sausages, which have a natural casing that gives them a delightful snap when bitten into, and topped with raw white onions along with crispy fried onions, ketchup, sweet brown mustard called pylsusinnep, and
The legendary Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur
Unlike in the U.S., hot dogs aren't dismissed as lowly fast food, though they are the cheapest meal in pricey Iceland. You'll see people eating hot dogs throughout the day—for lunch, dinner, a late-morning snack, and after the clubs close at 4 a.m. on weekends in hard-partying Reykjavik. Saying "ein með öllu" will get you one with everything, including appreciation for attempting to speak Icelandic. However, English will work as well, as most Icelanders know at least a little. Pointing at the condiments you want is also effective, and, at Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur, ordering "the Clinton" means you want your hot dog with only mustard—the same way the former president enjoyed his when he visited the stand in 2004.