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Hot Dogs are The Food of Iceland

REYKJAVIK, Iceland- “Now we ate a hot dog in the same place that Big Bill did,” an American tourist proclaimed with tongue in cheek pride as he finished off a dog at a little stand near Reykjavik’s sea port. Apparently, Bill Clinton once came to Iceland and ate a hot dog from the same stall, [...]

REYKJAVIK, Iceland- “Now we ate a hot dog in the same place that Big Bill did,” an American tourist proclaimed with tongue in cheek pride as he finished off a dog at a little stand near Reykjavik’s sea port. Apparently, Bill Clinton once came to Iceland and ate a hot dog from the same stall, called Bæjarins beztu pylsur — The Best Hot Dog in Town. Repeating this culinary feat is now one of the prime tourist attractions of the city.

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This may seem strange — why would the president of the USA eat something so lowly as a hot dog when visiting Iceland?

Because the hot dog is Iceland’s national food.

Well, this may not be true, but it may as well be. Hot dogs, called pylsur, are all over Iceland, and like going to the swimming pool, driving laps in a car aimlessly around and around a town, and drinking hard on Friday and Saturday nights, eating them habitually seems to be some sort of national obsession.

Icelandic hot dog

On my bicycle travels through the country I would often go for days on end without an option for prepared food that extended very far beyond hot dogs. I ate them for lunch, dinner, and, on one fateful morning, I rode up to a quicky mart and asked if they sell hot dogs for breakfast:

“Of course.”

I must have eaten a hundred hot dogs throughout my five weeks in the country, and I must admit that they became an addiction of sorts. I never before dreamed of having cravings for hot dogs — a food that is viewed as being incredibly base and banal in most of the world — but as I moved through Iceland my mouth would water a couple times a day for this food. I was in culinary heaven, as hot dog stands are everywhere in Iceland where there is a congregation of over 10 people. I think this is mandated by law.

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The Icelandic weiner is different than the average weiner though, as hot dogs in Iceland are not made out of beef — I did not see a single cow in the entire country — but are made with either lamb, pork, and, very possibly, horse meat. To order hot dog “Icelandic style” you need to get it with rémoulade sauce, fried crisp onions, raw chopped onions, ketchup, and mustard — which sets a solitary hot dog upon a sea of condiments. It is excellent, an entire meal in and of itself, a virtual meat soup in a bun.

Bæjarins beztu, the famous hot dog stand in Reykjavik

When I’m asked what people eat in the places I travel to, I often don’t know what to say. There are specialty foods that are sold as the “local cuisine” in tourist restaurants, then there are the foods that the people really eat, and then there are the foods that I eat (which is super cheap and simple).  But when talking about the cuisine of Iceland there is no conflict in my story:

The Icelandic people eat hot dogs, the tourists eat hot dogs, visiting presidents eat hot dogs, everybody in Iceland eats hot dogs.

Filed under: Europe, Food, Iceland, Western Europe

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 88 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3400 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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Wade Shepard is currently in: Rochester, New York

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  • the candy trail ... | Michael Robert Powell August 18, 2011, 3:51 am

    Greeting from Xinjiang – amid the desert mountains of Korla, with cold beer and shish kebabs and a quickie – next door … Could do with one, now … but where’s the onions? Chilli? Ketchup? Or Mustard?

    the candy trail … a carnivore across the planet, since meat was “discovered”

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    • Wade Shepard August 18, 2011, 9:40 am

      That Muslim meat is making my mouth water. Kebabs and those beef noodle soups. Entire animals on spites. Oh yeah!

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  • Mack Reynolds August 24, 2011, 10:44 am

    i love this post. i think i’d very much like to try a hot dog from iceland. i had no idea they were made of pork. have you ever had a hotdog from the philippines? i don’t think they’re as good as the ones in iceland. no offense (i’m part filipino), but the hotdogs there were scary to me; bright red outside with greyish brown meat inside. tasted really different too.

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    • Wade Shepard August 24, 2011, 12:25 pm

      Haha, yes, hot dogs can be very scary things in many places of the world. The dogs in Iceland though were actually pretty good. Even the cheap-o ones seemed to be of relatively high quality, and many are made from mutton! Excellent.

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  • gar November 26, 2013, 6:04 pm

    Love hotdogs. If anything could entice me to go to Iceland, it is this article. Make mine with chili and lots of onions.

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