So you’ve found yourself in Reykjavík, checked into a tiny hostel on Hverfisgata or some other downtown-ish area. It’s Friday night, all the flawless young people are dressed like they were invited to a secret basement house party with a fancy password. Maybe you are with a friend. You both look slightly disheveled from the travel and probably feel out of place because you were told Iceland is freezing cold and only packed your North Face and Under Armour. Feeling insecure about how you look you walk a little bit closer than you normally would behind a group of twenty-somethings hoping that you might look like an accepted tourist, one that the locals feel good about taking out.
You get into the bar, it’s past 11 p.m. because that’s a normal time to go to a bar, but it’s still sparsely populated and you wonder what the hell is going on.
You order a beer, chat with your friend, people watch, another beer, a cigarette, then another, you can feel your insecurity slowly slipping away. Now it’s 12 a.m., more people are starting to squeeze into the bar, it’s feeling full, the DJ has switched from playing funk music to playing party jams, your feet start stepping to the rhythm, your blood is pumping, you order a stronger drink, your North Face comes off.
Now everyone is dancing and dancing and your friend convinces you to “get up in there” and you find a pretty man or lady and you subconsciously glide closer to them until you’re right there, giving them a look and they are giving you a look and you ask them if they want a drink, and they say “yes,” and then you’re sitting with their friends, and you’re asking yourself “How the hell do they all speak perfect English?” as you’re getting into a debate about the best Neutral Milk Hotel song and forgetting that you’re a tourist.
It’s 4 a.m. now, you stumble out of the bar with your new friends.“God, I have the drunchies,” you say and the Icelanders look at you and laugh because that’s some silly slang to use. You start walking down Laugavegur together and think “Fuck where the hell do I get some diner food?” But alas, Iceland still has yet to discover the beauty of the diner, so you ask your friends “What’s up with the food sitch?” Before they answer you see a sandwich place called ”Nonnabiti” and you think to yourself “I could really go for a reuben right now” right?
That place is basically seasoned mayonnaise inserted into crappier-than-Subway bread for 13 dollars. Well then how about Hlöllabiti, Nonni’s late night sandwich rival you ask? Still a resounding “No.” A “Hlölli” sandwich is basically fried onion seasoned with MSG and mayo sandwiched between two soggy slices of nameless white bread. Unlike America where bread is called things like rye, hoagie, sourdough etc., in Icelandic midnight cuisine it’s all just “bread.”
This is an important moment in every tourist’s life as your hangover and ultimate happiness can massively depend on making the right choice.
It really is always the best idea just to go to the supermarket called 10/11. It’s right downtown, open 24/7 and offers up the essentials: straight-forward sandwiches – the pepperoni taco one sounds rank, but is actually adventurously delicious especially if microwaved for 40 seconds before consumption – normal snacks, microwaveable hamburgers (stay away from those) and hot dogs. An Icelandic hot dog is another staple for both sober and drunk moments.
However, do beware that the Icelandic hot dog, despite its staggering deliciousness when served with all the classic toppings, is sure to give you “hot dog breath.” A deadly combination of raw onions, fried onions, sweet brown mustard, ketchup and Icelandic remúlaði. This is a sure sign of that fact that the person in question has decided to punch it in for the night, have a hot dog and then go home. One might call it “quitters breath.”
Now you’re probably asking yourself, “Jesus, sounds like I should stay away from anything edible in this land,” which in reality, is a thought that may cross your mind from time to time if you dwell in Iceland for an extended period, but that’s another issue entirely. When it comes to late night snackage, trust me on this one, stick to the good old supermarket pitstop and don’t let those drunk little eyeballs wander toward the overcrowded nonna/hlölla buffoonery because you will be sorely disappointed and your guts will hurt.