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Best of Reykjavík: cheap eats

OK, it’s time for our second Best of Reykjavík post!

This time: where is your favourite place to grab a cheap, quick and nutritious bite to eat?

I’m thinking something like, for less than ISK 2,000 [USD 15 / EUR 13].

There are loads of good places, but these days when EPI and I can’t be bothered to cook and just want to grab something fast, there are three places that immediately spring to mind. They are:

3. Krua Thai. This place is located in a small, ground-hugging whitewashed house right near Reykjavík harbour. I confess that part of it’s appeal is that it’s so close to where we live — however, that’s not the only reason we like it. It also serves up great Thai food at a price that won’t break the bank, with or without MSG [NB you have to ask to have it left out]. Our regular staples from the menu are no. 8 [Massaman curry] and no. 21 [Pad Graprow, with beef]. You can eat in or take out — but be advised that if you eat in you will smell like Thai food for the rest of the evening.

2. Ali Baba. I have blogged about this place before. Great Falafels and Shawarma, really fresh. The place is spotless, too. And most things cost less than ISK 1,000 and are pretty darn filling. NB they don’t have a website so we can’t link to them, but they’re located right on Ingólfstorg square, downtown.

1. Austur Indía hraðlestin. OK, this is my absolute most favourite place for a takeaway at the moment. Hraðlestin means “the fast train” and in this case it’s referring to the quick-service outlet from Austur Indíafjelagið restaurant which is just down the street and which is one of the most superexcellent Indian restaurants in the world, IMHO. In other words, Hraðlestin serves up more or less the same fare as the restaurant proper, only a lot faster and a lot cheaper. Our favourite is the “Offer 1” for two [or more] people — appetizer, main course, rice and nan bread — just the right amount of scrumptious Indian food at ISK 1,490 per person. The only thing I could possibly fault there is the nan bread – it’s a little too chewy for my taste. Otherwise, superb.

OK — over to you. What’s your favourite place to grab something quick to eat in Reykjavík?



Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Gordon June 10, 2010, 7:08 pm

    Nonnabiti next to Radisson SAS 1919. Although I hear it is a copycat takeaway of another shop downtown, it features the most amazing subs I have ever eaten.

  • Margrét June 10, 2010, 8:16 pm

    You forgot Serrano.

  • Lissa June 10, 2010, 8:50 pm

    Someone has to mention the lobster stew at Sea Baron, right? I don’t like lobster, and I eat that soup in my dreams.

    I also really liked the hot dogs with fried onions from I forget which gas station chain. I didn’t much care for Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur.

    (I know it isn’t Reykjavik, but the lunches at the library in Akureyri are a steal and absolutely delicious. You have to look on the Icelandic website for the menu. It also has a nice view out over the fjord.)

  • Joerg June 10, 2010, 9:08 pm

    One of my favourite choices for a quick inexpensive meal is the vegetarian restaurant “Á næstu grösum” (Laugavegur 20b, entrance on Klapparstigur). Their internet site seems to be down, so I can’t link. It’s a pleasant place with friendly staff on the first floor of an older building. They offer healthy choices of varying vegetarian set menus at reasonable prices, and they have very good coffee, tea and cakes as well.

    But I’ll definitely also try the recommended Indian Restaurant in the near future. 🙂

  • Rajan Parrikar June 10, 2010, 9:12 pm

    Krua Thai is outstanding. The items we had during our stay in Reykjavík this week – yellow chicken curry and vegetable curry – were delicious, and importantly, non-greasy.

    In 2006 we ate at both the main restaurant Austur Indíafjelagið (outstanding!) and at their take-out (disappointing – greasy and listless). Perhaps the takeout place has changed now for the better. I recall sending feedback about it to the owner who is an Indian lady (Chandra?) married to an Icelander.

    There is another Indian restaurant run by a fellow (George Holmes) who happens to be from my hometown of Goa. It is called “Indian Mango.” It may well be the only place outside Goa where you can have genuine vindaloo (A word from the wise: never order vindaloo from an Indian restaurant unless you know the cook is Goan).

  • Helga June 10, 2010, 10:19 pm

    When we don’t feel like cooking but would still like a decent – yet cheap – dinner, we go to http://eldhrimnir.is/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=14&Itemid=2&lang=is

    They have a menu, but we never have that. Their buffet is always excellent (mixture of vegetarian and non-veggie), their fish-soup is wonderful and if you are lucky they have this smooth, fruity, totally amazing home-made yogurt for desert.

    Eldhrimnir is located in Borgartun (the new buildings with the big tower).

  • Christian June 10, 2010, 10:39 pm

    Definitely Nonnabiti. Unsurpassed in Reykjavík until today…

  • Maria June 10, 2010, 10:55 pm

    Saffran ( in Glæsibær) is my favorite, although I also like the Hraðlestin. I must admit though, that have not tried most of the other ones, even if I live in Reykjavík…

  • Kristjan June 10, 2010, 11:47 pm

    No question; Icelandic Fish & Chips. Juicy fish, always top quality (a seaman speaking)! The sides of (organic) veggies are really tasty, the onion rings dangerously good, and the sauces are all based on skyr. An absolute top pick!

  • kevin oconnor,waterford ireland June 10, 2010, 11:48 pm

    Thanks for the tip make a date to buy you and your husband something are you free June 10th 6pm 2020, ok thats a firm appointment then.

  • kevin oconnor,waterford ireland June 10, 2010, 11:52 pm

    Prices seem good too whats it like to have a strong currency aka the krona as opposed to our pesos the euro.

  • sylvia hikins June 11, 2010, 12:05 am

    I ate by the harbour in a place that looked like a hut, had basic bench seats where you all sat together and where the fish was fantastic and very cheap. You probably know the name Alda. I would come back to Reykjavik for the fresh fish alone.
    sylvia from viking wirral

  • alda June 11, 2010, 12:11 am

    Thanks, everyone! Like I said, there are so many good places and everyone has their favourites.

    Sylvia — you would be referring to the Sea Baron, I believe.

  • Jeff Garland June 11, 2010, 12:21 am
  • Chris, Reykjavik June 11, 2010, 1:11 am

    Hornid is as well very nice – especially the pizza is great. Not cheap but also very good is Sushi Smidjan next to the Sea Baron.
    And if you like Burgers: Go either for Pítan or Hamborgarbullan.

  • Mark June 11, 2010, 1:35 am

    Sea Baron Saegriffin (splg?) for the lobster soup

    Italia for the great carpaccio with ruculla and Parmigiano

    Asia for the Chilli Chicken soup if you are hungover with plenty of chilli and ginger in

    Gamla Smidjan for the best Pizza it’s over taken Eld Smidjan in my opinion

    Ban Thai – the best Thai food to be had in Iceland

    Austur India Felagid for an authentic Indian treat as someone else said forget the takeaway bit a few doors away, order a takeaway from the restaurant, they know my voice now there and I just have to say ‘Hi’ pretty much and the food is ready in 20 minutes.

    Baejarins beztu – hot dog with everything on, sweet but tasty

    Sushi Barin – much better than Osushi/sushi train and the one near the harbour, a nicer one is the Fishmarket but it is a bit more expensive.

    Cafe Paris for the Kjott soup – Lamb and vegetable soup

    Serrano for the chicken burrito

    The Grey cat / Grái kötturinn for the best breakfast

    I’m starving now!!

  • Luna_Sea June 11, 2010, 5:01 am

    I must have been at Krua Thai on an off night. I had the shrimp pad thai which was edible but not very good. My friend ordered fried shrimp with “sweet and sour sauce” which was actually watered down ketchup. The fact that there was a large, loud group of American kids there didn’t help.

    Ali Baba’s a great place for what they call “falafel” although it’s not traditional falafel (served in a wrap with among other things canned corn and a white mayonnaise-type sauce instead of tahini) but it’s yummy and cheap and open late and excellent, especially after a night of drinking.

    I thought the pizza at Kebab Husid (th) was really good and cheap, had it quite a few times.

    I wish I’d known about Austur Indía hraðlestin. I’ve been to Shalimar which was good but really expensive.
    (I’m from NY where perhaps the only good thing I can say about is that we have excellent cheap ethnic food (Thai, Indian, Korean…)

    Off topic but…just got back from Rvk two days ago (was there for five weeks) and want to live there. Would someone please offer me a job there (oh, and figure out a way for me to work there legally).

  • Luna_Sea June 11, 2010, 5:06 am

    Oops, forgot to add the cheapest meal of all..the bags of popcorn at 10-11 with the red and blue label(don’t know the name) are amazing. I had it for dinner on numerous occasions.

  • vincent June 11, 2010, 9:43 am

    ….nonnabiti for life!!!!!
    at least one time during my summer visits…
    bye icelanders, I still love you!

  • wally June 11, 2010, 10:35 am

    sushi has finally arrived in Reykjavik….there are a couple of places that do pretty good stuff. I really like the whale sushi at Sushibarinn.

  • Joerg June 11, 2010, 1:18 pm

    I’m not sure if this counts here, but I often just buy some flatkökur, cheese, Icelandic tomatoes and skyr in the supermarket and that will get me through the day – on a very low budget.

  • Mike Richards June 11, 2010, 2:45 pm

    I’m with Luna_Sea – I found Krua Thai disappointing because it committed the cardinal sin of not being spicy. The staff were nice though.

    As for really cheap food – a pot of skyr makes me a happy guy. I’ve only ever bought the pre-packed stuff which is wonderful, but are there any shops that will sell you ‘real’ skyr (if there is such a thing)?

  • Sam June 11, 2010, 2:52 pm

    I quite enjoyed The Mexican restaurant on Laugavegur (Santa Maria)? Reasonable prices, good food and a complimentary bowl of soup. Then of course theres hamborgarbullan.

  • alda June 11, 2010, 3:08 pm

    Thanks everyone!!

    Sad to hear some of you had a negative experience with Krua Thai. Like I said, we always get the same thing and are happy as clams — can’t really speak for their other stuff.

    I’ve reviewed both Icelandic Fish and Chips and Santa Maria in the past — alas, I was none too happy with either!

    Mike — I think “real” skyr is a thing of the past, i.e. when you could buy it by weight and it was packed in waxed paper (*sigh*). You can buy the unsweetened stuff, though, in the regular plastic containers and add your own stuff/sweetener to it.

  • Simon Brooke June 11, 2010, 3:52 pm

    Right, this is what bugged me when I was in Reykjavik. No-one eats Icelandic food. When I begged my hosts for local food, it was all ‘oh, we don’t eat that any more’, ‘oh, you won’t like it’. When I eventually found a place where I could eat smoked guillemot, it was in fact delicious.

    Take some pride, folk! You have excellent sea food, and a lot of your local specialities are wonderful (although I haven’t tried rotten skate)!

  • Natalie June 11, 2010, 8:28 pm

    Here’s one of my favs, last year my Aunt took me to Café Loki one day, ordered the Icelandic plate 1, and fell in love with the fish stew and for the first time I had sheep head jelly on top of rye, (I will admit the taste was new and diffrent and I was afraid to try it in the past) but went very well with the cream sauce they served.
    The staff was great, they all had fun teasing the American trying the jelly, but it was all in great fun 🙂 (I was reward with beer)

  • Lissa June 11, 2010, 8:36 pm

    I went to Cafe Loki (I’m a Lokean, it was nearly mandatory when I saw it there by Hallgrímskirkja) last year. While I don’t remember the prices, I do remember that it was a very friendly, cheerful place. I loved the flat rye bread I had. There was a large group of older Icelanders in there, having their monthly get together and being quite rowdy. The person running the place kept apologizing, but I enjoyed seeing folks have such a good time.

    Definitely on my list of places to go back to.

  • alda June 11, 2010, 9:07 pm

    Simon – yes, but this is an entry about cheap eats, and Icelandic food is rarely cheap! Doesn’t mean we don’t eat it.

    Actually, I’ve been to Cafe Loki too and liked it a lot. Their kjötsúpa was really quite good — almost as good as EPI’s. 🙂

  • Øystein June 12, 2010, 6:44 am

    Cheap eats? I prefer sheep and fish. I had to trips to Iceland in 2008. The last one in the end of September – in the dramatic week. Sheep or fish was always on the menu, all meals great, and as we knew the value of ISK fall dramatically, we added a lot of tips to compensate.

    As a citizen of another “expensive country” – I know that if you want some kind of quality, it will cost some money to make it. Compare handcraft vs industrial products.

  • Helga June 12, 2010, 7:48 pm

    For Skyr the old fashioned way, try Búrið (http://burid.is) they have a secret provider that sometimes sells them the old style stuff – that needs to be stirred up with milk or cream.

    Frú Lauga (http://www.frulauga.is/baendamarkadur/) might also have this.

    I think this is the provider (http://www.beintfrabyli.is/erpsstadir/)

  • Ása June 12, 2010, 11:19 pm

    I like very much “Á næstu grösum” as well a treasured find in Selfoss called “Grænt og grillað” a health food take-out instead of regular sandwiches/hot dogs in gas stations around the country. Would be great to hear of more restaurants that offer healthy/reasonably priced food around Iceland.

  • alda June 13, 2010, 12:02 am

    I’d love to hear of more places around Iceland, too. They don’t all have to be in Reykjavík!

    A couple of people have mentioned Á næstu grösum. That used to be one of my favourite places, too, but at some point I found that their food deteriorated a lot — I think the place changed hands or something. I still love the atmosphere — it’s a great place to sit and talk, for example — but I prefer the vegetarian food at Grænn kostur. However, unfortunately that’s not the best place to sit and talk. So it’s a trade-off!

  • hildigunnur June 13, 2010, 12:50 am

    the Pad Thai noodles are truly excellent at Krua Thai – spicy enough, trust me! Other place that’s a favourite is Vegamót, do try their spicy Buffalo wings, never been let down there.

  • Mark June 13, 2010, 3:07 am

    Búrið is great! The best place for cheese and other bits for a nice meal. Also Madur Lifandi for the soup you can take out, nice price and as much bread as you can stuff into your bag!

  • alda June 13, 2010, 6:56 pm

    Re Sylvia and Mark’s comment — EPI and I went to the Sægreifinn for the lobster soup this afternoon … we were walking past and hadn’t been there for ages and were a little cold and hungry. So we ordered the lobster soup and — not to put too fine a point on it — it was awful. INCREDIBLY salty, like they’d dropped a full shaker in it, although I suspect it was not that but rather that they’d overdone it on the stock cubes. We’re used to making our own lobster soup by boiling the shells, but I did not get that same taste from this. I suspect they just used to stock cubes and didn’t bother with anything else.

    And now, two hours later, we’re both feeling rather queasy. In short, they used to be good, but they’re not now.

    And also, it was NOT cheap.

  • Hulda Katrín June 15, 2010, 6:42 pm

    I like Vegamót. Nice food for a nice price. Vegamót has a review in Grapevine. http://www.grapevine.is/Food/ReadArticle/See-You-At-the-Crossroads-Vegamot-Catharine-Fulton

  • Sandra Lampard December 7, 2010, 1:36 am

    Maria and others may i recommend for Indian food: Indian Mango , frakkastig 12, its got amazing Indian Cuisine..the best i have eaten any where in europe..They are even no. 1 for Indian cuisine on tripadvisor.co.uk and on lonelyplanet.com(best in europe for indian cuisine).. http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g189970-d1064718-Reviews-Indian_Mango-Reykjavik.html do try their mouth watering healthy low fat tandoori dishes and Christmas menu includes gluten ,lactose free cuisine…also liked the fish and chip place.