Over the past decade, Iceland has become a top global destination for travelers. From opportunities to see the northern lights and soak in geothermal spas to a unique culture and cuisine that you can only find on this isolated island in the Atlantic, Iceland has a lot to offer – so it’s no surprise that there are some fantastic spots and interesting dishes on the list of places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Iceland.
Anthony Bourdain visited Iceland as part of season 1, episode 2 of No Reservations – in fact this episode is sometimes marked as episode 1 of season 1, the very first episode of his primetime television career! It was also the only time Tony visited Iceland during that television career. Perhaps this was because he had the self-described “worst meal ever” while visiting or due to the blizzard he endured… but that’s can be what you get when you visit Iceland in the winter!
If you’re planning a trip to Iceland – winter or summer – you might wonder if any of the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Iceland are still open today, almost two decades later. In fact, they are – all of the places in Reykjavík, and elsewhere in the country too.
Read on to learn about each of the places that Anthony Bourdain ate in Iceland, what he ate, and how to visit too.
The Restaurant at World Class
I’ll be honest: the gym is the last place I want to eat, but apparently that’s not the case in Iceland! The first spot visited by Anthony Bourdain in Reykjavík is a gym that specializes in two things: body builders and Kjötsúpa. This traditional Icelandic soup of lamb, rutabaga, onion, carrot, celery, cabbage, leek, and rice is a favorite pre- and post-workout dish for the body builders, but it doesn’t help bulk up Tony much.
VOX Brasserie & Bar
Next up, Bourdain heads to VOX Brasserie & Bar, located in the Nordica Hotel. He’s there to pick up a picnic basket, with the idea of heading out onto the frozen tundra for a sunny winter meal. Instead, he gets blizzard conditions and ends up sharing his meal with the crew and a few locals in a little cabin.
It’s quite a bummer, as the meal was fabulous and deserved an incredible setting; the picnic included smoked puffin (which is only legal to hunt in Iceland), organic lamb chops with barley and fresh dill, blinis and caviar, fresh bread, and rum-spiked hot chocolate. Oh, and there was an entire bottle of Icelandic spirit Brennivín that Tony enjoyed when “stuck” out in the blizzard.
There aren’t many places that Anthony Bourdain describes negatively, so it’s almost more intriguing that he claims he had his “worst meal ever” at Múlakaffi in Reykjavík. It’s here that he celebrates Thorrablot, the Icelandic midwinter festival.
On the menu for the event: hakarl, aka fermented shark – “the single worst thing I’ve ever put in my mouth,” according to Tony – as well as sheep’s testicles, head cheese, and blood sausage (all of which he’s much more enthusiastic about).
Next, Bourdain heads to a more traditional meal; he meets up with a Reykjavík local to visit 3Frakkar – The Three Frenchmen or The Three Coats, depending on how you translate it. There, he starts with an appetizer of, you guessed it, fermented shark – again! – with a side of Brennavín (to wash it down).
His meal is much more appetizing; he tries cod fish stew, Plokkfiskur, with onions, potatoes, and a bechamel sauce. Fish soup is one of Tony’s favorites, and he tried regional variants of it in other places like Arcachon, France, and Budapest.
Tony then heads out on a drinking marathon; apparently this is quite common on weekend nights in Reykjavík! He meets up an socializes with some locals at spots like Hressingarskálinn. This is a local watering hole where Bourdain has a few rounds; it’s also a short walk from the walk the Icelandic Phallological Museum – which is exactly what it sounds like, and is somewhere I’m surprised Tony didn’t visit.
Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur
After a night of imbibing, we all know Tony’s favorite finale: hot dogs from a food stall. In Reykjavík, there’s one great place to do that, at Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur. This is a beloved Icelandic institution dating back to 1937; there are now 7 locations in Reykjavík and another two in Keflavik.
Bourdain orders the hot dog “with everything” – a list of ingredients that is not detailed and thus well worth seeking out on your own if you’re visiting Iceland.
I was on the fence about including Iceland’s famous Blue Lagoon on this list, but thought I might as well because A) it’s one of the top attractions visited by Anthony Bourdain in Iceland, and B) he does enjoy a beer while soaking in the geothermal spa.
(Admittedly, it’s Japanese beer, but it’s still a place you can enjoy a bite and drink today if you visit; the Blue Lagoon dining options today are considerably more upscale than they were during Tony’s visit.)
Food Tours to Try in Reykjavík
If you’re keen to try some of the dishes and unique flavors already mentioned, as well as sample a bit more, a food tour is a great way to do so. Here are some tasty looking food tours in Reykjavík that will help you try that fermented shark – and find something to wash it down.
Have any other questions about the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Iceland and Reykjavík? Let me know in the comments below!