In this first instalment of our guide to Reykjavík eating we explain how being a vegetarian in Iceland is not so much a lifestyle as a constant struggle.
Abandon hope all ye vegetarians who enter here isn’t actually a sign in the arrivals hall, but until a few years ago it would have been a pretty accurate description of the state of veggie eating in Reykjavík.
Asking for a vegetarian dish in a regular restaurant is still more than likely to result in a well, we have a salad, and if you tell people you’re a vegan they’ll probably tell you that they don’t really watch Star Trek.
(This might seem terribly unsophisticated, but once you’ve spent a few days here, you’ll admit that given the weather conditions it’s maybe not surprising that local farmers who wished remain employed focused on meat and weird dairy products rather than spinach and radicchio.)
But things are looking up (not least thanks to the rapidly increasing number of indigenous tree-huggers) and here is our list of the
only best vegetarian restaurants in town.
- Á næstu grösum is the oldest veggie place in Reykjavík. (The name means literally “On the next grasses,” which has nothing to do with anything illegal.) There is a friendly kind of Scandinavian feeling here on the first floor at the corner of Laugavegur and Trendy Wendy Klapparstígur (close to Gallery Gel, Rósenberg bar and where Sirkus Bar used to be). They have different themes throughout the week, with Tuesdays dedicated to the oh–so–fashionable raw food movement, and Indian Fridays with freshly baked naan to die for. And the staff obviously cares: not only do they know what vegan means, but there’s a wider selection of desserts at this place than at the other ones — and what’s better than a guilt–free chocolate cake? Laugavegur 20b, 101 Reykjavík | Link
- Garðurinn is another hidden gem on Klapparstígur, just a bit farther up the street (right between Á næstu grösum and that church you all like so much). The name means The Garden, although their official English name is “Ecstasy’s Heart-Garden”. Right–ho. While it’s maybe not as busy or as designed as the other three, it has a younger and what seems like a more earnest crowd. Maybe it’s the ecstasy part that attracts them. Klapparstígur 37, 101 Reykjavík
- Grænn kostur is the place you go to be seen when you’ve told people you’re on a diet. Celebrities also like to go there when they’ve been giving interviews about their healthy new lifestyles. Basically a fast food place, this somewhat hard–to–find outfit offers various lovely pies and pizzas, as well as soup of the day. (Bonus feature due to some of the owner’s allergy issues: no sugar, yeast, or white wheat.) With few dishes to choose from, the service is quick and efficient. They have a two–for–one special on Sundays and the portions are biiiiiiig. Skólavörðustígur 8b (on the parking lot park side) | Link
- Maður lifandi, man alive. Yup, that’s what the name means. Not only a restaurant, this is a serious life–improvement establishment where you find people who don’t just come for the excellent food, but for a hard–core lifestyle change. Dishes here are free of lactose, gluten, yeast and humour (just kidding). And in addition to the most extravagant salad bar in town they offer lectures and courses on how to improve your life, listen to your body, laugh while doing yoga, and be generally healthier and happier. Remember to say hi from us. Borgartún 24, 105 Reykjavík | Link
Know more than we do about vegetarian places in Reykjavík? Add your insight to the comments.
Stop the press! Our new best friend, renowned Pringles-eating vegetarian Laura Valentino wrote this on our Facebook page: “Those places are great for vegetarians…but you might also mention restaurants that aren’t strictly vegetarian but have decent vegetarian options, for travelers who are with their non-vegetarian friends. Some examples are Eldhrimnir, Saffran, Santa Maria, Shalimar, , Kebab Húsið and even the “sjoppa” Drekinn [1,638 Facebook fans, and counting. -Ed] has a veggie burger that I have not sampled myself but have heard good things about.”