I report facts.
When you think of the island nation of Iceland’s signature culinary dishes, you might be inclined to think of food that could be described as, let’s say, challenging. Their national dish is the not-for-everyone hákarl (fermented shark known for its pungent, rotten smell). Or, on the turf side of the menu, you might have heard of svið, a traditional dish that has the primary ingredient of a cut-in-half sheep’s head.
And yet, Iceland can boast to having mastered the greatest crowd-pleaser of all, beloved by young and old. It’s enjoyed by pickiest of eaters. It can bring comfort to even the snobbiest consumers of haute cuisine.
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I speak, of course, of the humble, the honest, the unpretentious: the hot dog.
Or, as it’s known in Iceland, the pylsur.
Not far from Reykjavik’s harbor is the flagship location for the small chain Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur. And, as it turned out, not far from where I was staying (the Konsulat Hotel). Indeed, the infamous hot dog stand reliably occupied the same list of nearby attractions as the iconic Sun Voyager sculpture and the architectural achievement that is the Harpa concert hall.
So, I figured I’d be remiss if I left without seeing what all the fuss was about. I imagined other, more seasoned travelers looking at me and saying, “Wait, you were staying right next to Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur and you didn’t even go?” So, as someone who’s susceptible to even imagined peer pressure, I stopped by.
What I hadn’t gleaned from the excitement surrounding the place was that what makes the hot dogs at Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur so good is that they represent the platonic ideal of the hot dog. Not a hefty, artisanal sausage, but an honest to goodness not-out-of-place-at-a-baseball-game hot dog. From the first, satisfying pop of the casing when I bit into it—I experienced something I didn’t know I’d been missing.
Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur offers your standard hot dog condiments (ketchup, sweet mustard, raw onion) as well as crispy onions and remolaði (a mayonnaise-based sauce with sweet relish). Or, you can order your dog with “eina með öllu” aka “the works” and pile it up with all of the above.
INSIDER TIPEnglish is widely spoken in Reykjavik, so while you can give your Icelandic the old college try, you’ll be able to get by with English in most scenarios.
But perhaps the main thing that that sets the Icelandic hot dog apart is from the rest of the pack is the meat. Usually when you buy a hot dog, you do so with the tacit understanding that you may be consuming what can generously be described as mystery meat. When you order a pylsur, what you’re eating is a combination of beef, pork, and—most essentially—lamb., Because the climate acts as a natural protection for the land, the sheep in Iceland are able to freely graze on grass and wild berries that aren’t sprayed with pesticides or herbicides. All of which results in meat that is considered to be some of the best lamb in the world.
Although I had completed my mission of sampling the much-talked-about hot dog, I did still end up leaving with one regret. That I hadn’t had the foresight to order two before the line had piled up with locals and tourists alike.