Historically, fast food in Iceland could be dried fish with butter or skyr with fresh blueberries. Both are still popular today, not least by sports people as great sources of protein. Skyr is one of the most versatile fast foods as people grab a can for breakfast, in between bigger meals, after training or as dessert (often then with berries or other fruits, sugar and even cream).
But fast food trends evolved and in the late 90s and early 2000s, Domino’s Pizza dominated the fast food market in Iceland, followed by Subway and KFC. McDonalds opened in 1993 and the prime minister got the first burger, it was considered that big of an occasion. In 2009, McDonald’s stopped operating in Iceland after the collapse of the Icelandic currency; it was not considered a profitable market anymore for the chain. Burger King was even more short-lived here, as it opened its first branch in 2004 and closed at the end of 2008. There was no shortage of burgers in Iceland though, as there were other chains to supply the demand. These are not the only American restaurant chains staying away from Iceland, Starbucks has never even opened a branch here.
Fast Food in Iceland Today
American influence is visible in different segments of the society and fast food is one of the clearer examples. Domino’s has decreased in relative popularity since the early 2000s but is still one of the most popular chains and so are Subway and KFC.
Pizza Places in Reykjavík
Domino’s is still the most popular pizza place in the country (with 22 branches when this is written) but competition has increased a lot for them in recent years. Pizzan is an Icelandic chain that started in the town of Garðabær in the capital area and now has eight branches. Blackbox has sourdough pizzas and one branch in Reykjavík and another one in Akureyri in the north. Devito’s Pizza opened in 1994 by Hlemmur and has never opened another branch despite its popularity, especially among nightlife enthusiasts. These four all serve proper fast food pizzas, while the rest of the list are more like restaurants where you sit in to eat.
Flatey Pizza is an Icelandic restaurant serving Neapolitan style pizzas made of slow-rising sourdough and entered the market by storm when it opened its doors in Grandi harbour area in 2017, quickly becoming one of the most popular pizza places in Reykjavík. It now has five other branches, four in the capital area and one in Selfoss in South Iceland. Hornið opened in 1979 and was the first pizza place in Iceland with Italian style pizzas. Located in a yellow corner house behind Bæjarins Beztu, the famous hot dog stand downtown. Ráðagerði is the newest place on the list and some say it has the best pizzas in town, it opened last summer (2022). Located in an old resident house in natural surroundings, it has a view of Grótta lighthouse and the ocean.
American Style started in 1985 and has been among the most popular burger places for years, it has four branches in the capital area. Among their most popular burgers is called Clint Eastwood, with truffle mayonnaise, onion jam, pickled onion and artichokes. Lebowski Bar is most famous for a burger called The Walter, with bacon and mustard mayonnaise among other things. Hamborgarafabrikkan has two spots in Reykjavík and one in Akureyri. Among their most popular burgers are Fabrikkuborgari in potato bread with cheddar and the chicken burger El Fabríkanó. Haborgarabúllan or Tommi’s Burger Joint is an Icelandic burger chain that has opened in England, Germany and Denmark as well. The first joint opened in 1981 when Tommi got home from the US and wanted to introduce hamburgers to Icelanders. Vitabar is an old bar and considered a classic in the “burger scene” in Iceland, Vitabar Special is one of the most famous on their list. These five could all be considered classic burger places, while the rest below are a bit more fancy.
YUZU is inspired by Asian cuisine, more flavourful than traditional burgers. The most popular burger on their menu is a YUZU Chilli burger with coriander. Le KocK has the best burgers I’ve tried in Reykjavík and has been voted the best burger in Reykjavík several times by e.g. Reykjavík Grapevine magazine. Le Kock cheeseburger and Dirty Harry are the two best burgers on the menu and Greek Potatoes are great as a side dish (their version of fries), with Parmesan Potatoes another recommended option.
Wraps and Sandwiches
Mandi offers Syrian fast food and has a small branch downtown and a larger one in Skeifan. They are most famous for their lamb shawarma wraps. Their main branch in Skeifan is usually packed at lunchtime while the branch downtown tends to be packed on late nights on weekends (one of the most popular late night bites in the city). Hlöllabátar offers long sandwiches and is most popular on late nights for party people, located by Ingólfstorg, just like Mandi. It opened in 1986, making it among the oldest Icelandic fast food restaurants. Joe & The Juice has a branch at Hafnartorg downtown, opposite the Bæjarins Beztu hut. They have seven other branches in the capital area and one in Selfoss. Lemon is a similar concept to Joe & The Juice, a hipster juice and sandwich place, it turned 10 years old this year. It has no branch downtown anymore but branches on e.g. Suðurlandsbraut and in Kringlan. Serrano offers Mexican style burritos, tacos, quesadillas and salads and has a branch inside the N1 gas station between Tjörnin (Reykjavík Pond) and BSÍ bus terminal and in 10 more locations.
Lamb Street Food is located in the Grandi harbour area and serves Icelandic lamb wraps and salads, with a Middle East influence in the ingredients and spices.
Sómi, Júmbó and Dagný & Co. are long sandwiches that you can get from grocery stores, which some travellers have found tasty and convenient to grab on the go. They also have standard sandwiches available. Bonus tip: The long pepperoni taco sandwich from Sómi has been widely popular in certain crowds in Iceland, heated in the microwave for around two minutes, in that state it is known as “peppó”. Very sleazy but tasty at the same time.
Local and Fresco are salad places where you can order fresh salads to eat in or take away. Both also have sandwiches and Local has soups as well. Salatbarinn (e. The Salad Bar) is much older and besides salad bar with freshly baked bread included has a buffet varying daily and soups. It is only open on weekdays and located in Skeifan. The vegan restaurant Gló recently opened again downtown after having closed their branch during the pandemic. Best known for its salad bowls (Mexican Vegan Bowl can be recommended), they also have wraps, soup, lasagna and chicken dishes.
Chickpea added something new to the fast food scene in Reykjavík, a vegan restaurant with a simple but flavourful menu of falafel wraps, salads and soups. Bæjarins Beztu is the famous hot dog stand downtown Sushi has gained popularity rapidly in the past 10-15 years. Tokyo Sushi is the most popular sushi restaurant and their sushi is also for sale in Krónan grocery stores. Ísey Skyr Bar took the concept of skyr further by mixing it into boozt bowls with muesli and fruits.