Iceland: The Unexpected Hot Dog Hot Spot

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The Backstory

During a visit to Iceland, Anthony Bourdain once said that fermented shark (hákarl) was “the single worst, most disgusting and terrible-tasting thing” he’d ever eaten. And with other pungent dishes like boiled sheep’s head, cured ram’s testicles and whale blubber pickled in sour milk, it’s fair to say traditional Icelandic food has a reputation for challenging flavours. The truth is most Icelanders don’t eat these grisly delicacies more than once a year. What they do eat is skyr (a yogurt-like cultured milk product), grilled lamb, fresh seafood and hot dogs – lots of hot dogs. Sure, they look just like other Frankfurter-style dogs, but their distinct combination of pork, beef, and mostly lamb – plus toppings found only in Iceland – means they have a flavour all their own.

How to Order

Icelanders will typically order “ein með öllu,” which translates roughly to “one with everything.”

October 14, 2020
An illustration of a shaking Pylsusinnep bottle

The Dog Deconstructed

  • Wiener — Icelandic hot dogs contain a mix of lamb, pork and beef– the meat is strictly local, free-range and organic.

  • Bun — Dogs are served in a soft, steamed and ever-so-slightly toasted bun with a subtly sweet aftertaste. A mix of dried and raw onion is usually sprinkled on top.

  • Remoulade — In addition to ketchup sweetened with apples, expect a generous dollop of remulaði, a mayonnaise-based sauce with minced pickles, carrots and capers.

  • Mustard — Pylsusinnep is the sweet, brown hot dog mustard that’s unique to Iceland. It comes in a quirky retro bottle emblazoned with a jovial-looking anthropomorphic hot dog character.

Where to Try It

An Icelandic hot dog from Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur being held in a woman's hand
Photo: Rio Ruskin
  • Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur, Reykjavik —

    The name of Iceland’s oldest hot dog stand means Best Hot Dogs in Town. It’s been around since 1937 in downtown Reykjavik. (Bill Clinton, Ella Fitzgerald and Kim Kardashian have all ordered here.)

An Icelandic hot dog from Pylsuvagninn á Akureyri with a cocktail sauce
Photo: Joyce Wan
  • Pylsuvagninn á Akureyri, Akureyri —

    Akureyri, the self-styled “Capital of the North,” likes to do things differently. You’ll find red cabbage and cocktail sauce in their hot dogs, along with all the traditional fillings.

An Icelandic hot dog from Pylsuvagninn Selfossi being held from an outstretched arm
Photo: Eyþór Þórlindsson
  • Pylsuvagninn Selfossi, Selfoss —

    Stop by this drive-through on your way back from Iceland’s black sand beaches. Feeling adventurous? Try their deep-fried hot dog garnished with Doritos and bell pepper.

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