Oh. Em. Gee. I am a bit traveled out right now, you guys. I’m not sure how every bit of my trips/vaca days got booked all together but they did, and now I’m home to fill you in on the good, the gluten-free safe, and everything in between. (Rotten shark would be in between, ya’ll. Way in between.)
So, yes, Iceland! The land of elves and narwhals is just as magical as you might think. Having never seen anything like it, my entire family was shocked and awe’d (in a good way) as we traveled around this little country built out of volcanoes, a dash of Goth and a lot of pure love.
I highly recommend visiting the land that sits partly on the North American continental plate, and partly on the Eurasian continental plate. It’s a country like no other (well, maybe like Greenland, I didn’t go there) where geo-thermal power makes cities go and glaciers are just hanging out like it’s nothin’. From whale-watching to geyser viewing this independent country is absolutely fascinating. Gluten-free? Well…..
Iceland is either perfect for the gluten-free, or really freaking hard. Perfect if you’re a huge fan of seafood and lamb (which I’m notsomuch) and hard if you’re looking for the nod of understanding from your waitstaff when you start talking about gluten. The fact is, you will find a load of gluten-free options if you’re adventurous. If you’re like me and balk at whale, horse, puffin, lamb (I raised baby lambs as a kid, I just can’t eat those adorable fluffies) and rotten shark—you should hit a grocery store straight away to load up on gluten-free snacks and food you can prepare in your room. Just in case.
With that said, there are a ton of restaurants in Reykjavik and I only had to leave one due to the only gluten-free options being puffin and horse related. I ate well, and the food was rich, which meant I didn’t need a ton of it. At the same time, I brought gluten-free crackers with me (and picked some up at a health store with gluten-free options) and bought meat and delicious Icelandic gouda to make snacks with whilst on the road. Like this—
One of you lovely readers turned me on to The Coelic Plate’s review of gluten-free Reykjavik and I did find myself in a few of the recommended spots. It’s a fantastic list and I recommend you take a peek before your trip North.
A word about Skyr. Skyr is the Icelandic yogurt that people rave about. Personally, I hate yogurt unless it’s frozen and has chocolate sprinkles. I did want to try Skyr, however, I also hate fruit yogurts and when my husband said the plain was not awesome, I skipped it. He did love the fruit flavors and thought it was one of the most delicious treats ever. So if you’re a yogurt type, load up on the Skyr.
Here’s where I dined out safely, and deliciously!
One of the recs from The Coelic Plate, the sushi here was exactly what one would expect direct from the Northern Atlantic. And Sakebarrin is completely prepared for you, the celiac. Hooray! Alongside the wheat-free tamari, you enjoy any of the sashimi, nigiri or handrolls. Or at least the ones I chose. The waitress was well-versed in safety for me, and I took her recommendation of Arctic char much to my pleasure. YUM Arctic char!!!!!
Is it weird that one of my favorite meals in Iceland was Indian food? Incredibly simple, and fresh and delicious, I loved the traditional set up of Hradlestin and felt very safe. All of their main courses are naturally gluten-free and I enjoyed the heck out of the chicken madras with chickpea masala. That chicken was very spicy, but in the best way. The decor was also fascinating and I felt like I was in a hipster Indian restaurant. In Iceland. Yeah, surreal. But again, in the best way.
Another one from The Coelic Plate’s recs, the Geysir Bistro was probably the fanciest restaurant in which we dined. I know this because when my 6-year-old dropped his fork, everyone stared. If by “dropped his fork” I mean, yelled loudly after his sister kicked him. And then dropped his fork. Anyhoo. This was one of those meals where I just could not anymore with the fish. I mean, I could, but not for a main course so I ordered a steak. The problem with ordering a steak when you were raised in Oklahoma and Texas, is that no one else in the world will ever come close to making a steak so perfect as where I came from. Sorry, New Yorkers, that includes you as well. And Iceland is not known for their beef, so it was just okay. Luckily our sampler appetizer was super interesting so the steak was really a palate cleanser, of sorts. If only it had worked . . .
What you see above is an Icelandic seafood sampler. You’ve got your cod jerky (I know they call it something different, but I can’t remember and doesn’t it just LOOK like cod jerky?), which I enjoyed as a lil’ snack. You’ve got your cured salmon, again, fabulous. The herring, meh, my family liked it but I could take or leave. That little round jar on the bottom right? That’s rotten shark, my friends. An Icelandic delicacy wherein a shark is buried for months, allowed to rot, and then you eat it. I had to try it of course, and GAH. It tastes like what you think it would taste like. My husband, daughter and I gagged and I honestly couldn’t get the smell out of my nose for the rest of the meal. My 6-year-old? He loved it and finished it all off. This is a kid who won’t eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Holy Blue Lagoon, you can’t go to Iceland without stopping at this otherworldly hot springs in the middle of a lava field. Truly the highlight of my trip (along with going INSIDE a freaking glacier) my family spent hours inside the pools at the Blue Lagoon and then ate a delicious, healthy, safe meal at the restaurant. I had a lobster bisque-like soup (gluten-free, whooo!) and shared the Arctic char appetizer, because of what I said about Arctic char earlier. DELICIOUS. Next level good, you guys.
One of my favorite meals, because it was so light and exactly what I was in the mood for, came on our trip to “Into the Glacier” where you guessed it, you go INTO A FREAKING GLACIER. It looks like this—
But before we took a monster truck up to the glacier hole, we stopped for lunch in Husafell, which is adorable. I had a perfectly pureed vegetable soup (kind of butternut squash, but not quite) and a salad. After so much rich food I was incredibly happy to have a light lunch. And it was all gluten-free and safe. Score!
One night after having to ditch another gluten-filled restaurant, my husband mentioned seeing a French place nearby, and surely I could grab a gluten-free steak. Which is how we found ourselves in Le Bistro chowing down on French food, served by French staff. Again, surreal. But I was very happy to be accommodated and went full-Frenchie with a hamburger topped with ham. I know. Delicious, and not very Icelandic. French fries had a designated basket, and I went to town. French town.
I heard about Glo before we left, but given its taglines of “raw, organic…” I thought I’d be eating gluten-free shaved carrots the whole time. This was reinforced by the gluten-free and vegan meal on Icelandair that was provided by Glo. See this here—
I wish I’d known the menu was MUCH more diverse as my butt would have been in their Danish modern seats many more times before the last night we dined in Reykjavik. We were close to the Laugavegur location, and I had the most amazing BBQ chicken with vegetable sides that were all gluten-free. I loved Glo. Loved it.
And finally, back at the Keflavik airport to head home, I was thrilled to find a lovely gluten-free breakfast spot wherein I chowed on a gouda and bacon omelette. Delicious coffee as well and plenty of pastries for the gluten-eaters in my crew. That’s a wrap!
I also want to give a shout-out to our hotel/apartment we stayed in while in Reykjavik. I realize everyone travels differently, but if you’re looking for a reasonably priced place with a kitchenette (crucial for us gluten-free types) and in a stellar location, OK Hotel is more than, well, OK. The restaurant below, KBar, is definitely not gluten-free, but the hotel is adorable, the bar is fantastic and you can walk anywhere you want to go in Reykjavik from this home base. LOVED IT.