In recent years, Reykjavik has undergone a significant culinary transformation. This change is undoubtedly a reaction to the tourism boom. Innovative chefs and restauranteurs are changing the city’s gastronomic landscape every day. So, this raises the question: if you’re a foodie and you find yourself in Reykjavik looking for a genuinely salivating culinary experience, where should you go to grab a bite? Well, we’ve got your answer: the Hlemmur Food Hall.
Hlemmur Food Hall, Then and Now
First, a little history. It wasn’t so long ago that Icelanders would hunker down and seek refuge from the biting wind and freezing rain of autumn and winter storms in the barren and bleak concrete box that was the Hlemmur Mathöl Bus Station. It wasn’t a place in Reykjavik you would get excited to go to. You were always there out of necessity, primarily to stay dry. The space has been entirely renovated, and now is a bastion of good times and even better food. The transformed bus station is now the Hlemmur Food Hall.
Walking into the former transportation hub you can find droves of hungry customers, eagerly moving from one food station to another. Ten food vendors operate out of the open-aired building, and the food hall is open from morning till night (meaning all you early birds can enjoy breakfast). The cuisine ranges from the traditional Icelandic food with a twist to exotic dishes that we rarely see in Iceland such as Vietnamese or Mexican. Their motto is “All Kinds of Food For All Kinds of People” and you should try to visit as many food stalls as possible. However, if you feel pressed for time, I will recommend my three favorites.
Hlemmur Food Hall Recommendation #1 – Taquería La Poblana
When autumn and winter eventually chill me to the bone nothing warms me up quicker than a steaming plate of freshly prepared tacos slathered in spicy salsa. Every time I go to Hlemmur, I head straight to La Poblana. La Poblana uses traditional Mexican recipes in all of their dishes. This can leave you feeling like you are no longer in the dreary weather of Iceland, but walking the sunny streets of Mexico City.
The success of La Poblana traces directly back to its founder and head chef Juan Carlos Peregrina Guarneros. The young chef is driven and creative with his dishes. On a busy night in Hlemmur, you can see him and his staff preparing tacos at blazing speeds. The soft homemade corn tortillas, authentic chili salsas, and the tender and juicy meats and veggies that come on every plate will enthrall you. The thrifty foodie will also be delighted to know that La Poblana has some of the more reasonable prices for a city that is notoriously expensive. Pop in for a tasty taco, wash it down with a spicy michelada and leave with a smile and a full belly.
Hlemmur Food Hall Recommendation #2 – Brauð & co Artisan Bakery
Brauð & co (Bread & co) is well known for their two artisan bakeries in Reykjavik. The mastery and skill in which they make bread (especially sourdough) and savory pastries are rarely surpassed. When they opened a stall in the Hlemmur Food Hall, it was a surprise to no none. They are one of, if not, the top bakeries in the city. When you walk about to their counter, aromas of freshly baked bread and pastries roll over you like a wave. Sometimes when I walk up to the counter, I feel like I am floating. The entire bakery is visible from where you order, and you can watch them create the delicious artisan baked goods they are so well known for. If you are looking to pinch a couple of pennies, buying baked goods from here and returning home to make a sandwich is both cost-effective and yummy. Swing by the booth and pick up a pastry or two.
Hlemmur Food Hall Recommendation #3 – Ísleifur Heppni Ice Cream
Icelanders love their ice cream. This has always made me wonder how the population of a certain country situated between Europe and Asia feels about turkey. But I digress. Yes, ice cream is one of our nation’s most revered treats. I will say it is a bit strange that we love ice cream so much, but we do live in the subarctic. Reykjavik has plenty of ice cream parlors that produce tasty, creamy, freshly made Icelandic ice cream. My favorite place to get a scoop of that frosty frozen treat that we all adore so much is from Ísleifur Heppni.
First things first, Ísleifur Heppni isn’t cheap, and for a good reason. Conventional methods of ice cream creation result in a delicious mixture that is roughly 30 to 50% comprised of air. I always use this statistic when arguing why it’s socially acceptable to eat so much ice cream. However, our society has advanced to the apex of ice cream creation. By harnessing the sub-zero temperature of liquid nitrogen, Ísleifur Heppni is making ice cream that contains around 5 to 10% air. This results in it becoming both incredibly dense and extra yummy. It also produces a super smooth, impossibly creamy, fresh and locally made ice cream. For me, the quality justifies the cost. And, you can always justify the price by going to La Poblana first, which is inexpensive. Then head straight to Ísleifur Heppni. Mathematically it balances out. Believe me, I’ve done the research many times.
Must Eats for Foodies in Reykjavik: Hlemmur Food Hall
This wraps up my favorite three food stalls at the Hlemmur Food Hall. Just because these are my favorites, doesn’t mean that the others are bad. My tastes change often, and for me, right now, these guys are the cream of the crop. Make sure you check out all the vendors in the food hall though, even if we have the same tastes. If I had to recommend the perfect place for the adventurous, time-crunched, foodie, then Hlemmur Food Hall would hands down take the cake. Comment below what your favorite food stall is in the Hlemmur Food Hall or tell us another unmissable foodie destination in Reykjavik.