Reykjavik can be very expensive to eat and drink ($4 coffee, $9 beer, $15 shot), but there is one thing that's affordable --- hot dogs. I've eaten hot dogs in NYC, Chicago, San Francisco, you name it. These Iceland dogs are the best I've tasted --- and it's not even close. They're made with lamb and come with ketchup, mayo, fried onions and a special sweet sauce that's to die for. There's a little stand at the base of downtown, across from the Harpa Music Center, and there's almost always a line. And for good reason.
I am a coffee fiend. I will drink coffee at Noon on 100 degree days, just because I like the taste. So I had read that Reykjavik has this incredible coffee culture, and I made it my quest to try as many different coffee houses as I could. As with anything else, be prepared to spend $4 to $5 --- sometimes more --- on a cup that may or may not come with free refills. Want a croissant, or scone? Those add another $3.50 or more to the bill. I never spent less than $8 USD for a coffee and roll of some kind.
Babalu was my favorite. it's a colorful., funky place that won't break the bank. The coffee is reasonable (menu in the slide show) and the food excellent. I had a grilled cheese that oozed gooey deliciousness and a thick vegetarian chili with a marvelous meat consistency. They also have music on some nights, but check their Facebook page. They get extra points for the Star Wars themed bathroom.
. I also really enjoyed Cafe Stofan, which I wrote about before, and Kaffismidjan, where the cappuccinos bordered on creamy. Cafe Haiti had a strong brew, and I enjoyed the dark atmosphere of Kofinn, located in a basement on the main shopping street.
Really, there's no place to get bad coffee. Just find a place you find comfortable and relax.
Happy Hour is really the only time to get an affordable drink in Reykjavik, so I made liberal use of that time. Happy hour times and prices vary by establishment, but generally, it starts between 5 and 6 p.m. and ends between 8 and 10 p.m. You can generally pick up a beer or a glass of wine for $5 to $8. Look for a Happy Hour sign in front of the establishment, or ask if they have one. If you're a wine drinker, you'll be universally disappointed in the Happy Hour selections, but for me, it was more about getting out and people watching.
My favorite Happy Hours: Dillon's Whiskey Bar had a young, lively hostel crowd with rock music in the background. Stay away from the wretched bottom shelf whiskey and go for a beer or wine. Boston is on the second floor of an older building that looks over the main shopping street. Classic blues plays in the background, and the $5 wine isn't bad. Cafe Loftid is a more relaxed. mature setting catering to those 25 and older. Leather chairs scream "mature chic," and they bring a very nice jar of snacks as well. I did Happy Hour at Cafe Stofan the night I spilled my wine, and you know how I liked that place. B5, at the foot of the main shopping area, has a youthful hipster vibe.
These are just a sampling of the places I tried. Bottom line: there's Happy Hours everywhere. Not hard to find.
There's no way around it. Some will find eating out in Reykjavik expensive. Guys, remember how much you dropped on that first date with a woman you were really trying to impress? Double it. Really. Yeah, you can get a Subway sandwich ($6), or a burger and fries ($9-$11), or maybe a pizza special at lunch. But even soup is $11-$15! For soup! Now, what takes the edge off a little --- the price is the price. There's no sales tax or tipping on top of that (servers earn a living wage, which is fantastic). But, figure $20 -$25 for brunch or nice lunch at a restaurant.
Dinner is actually the best bargain. You can find places in the $30 to $40 per person range without alcohol, which isn't bad considering the no tax-tip rule. (Alcohol will add $10 to $20 per drink, depending on what you get). Since the university fed me in their campus cafeterias I didn't eat out much, but I did try these places:
Rub 23 downtown was amazing. I had a lunch of perfectly cooked Atlantic Char over potatoes with salad for about $18 USD. Great food and bargain.
I had the spectacular ricotta and spinach for dinner at Piccolo Italia. The price was better than the food --- bread, main course and a glass of the house red (the best wine I had in Reykjavik) for $23 USD. So Amazing I'm probably going back a second time. Loved. It.
Belinda Theriault was kind enough to take me to lunch at Kol, a new place that served the most wonderful risotto I've had in a very long time; the salmon was great, too. Two course lunch for about $36 USD, with dessert about $35.