FOOD: My Thanksgiving in Reykjavik

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A view of Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital city

Since January of this year, Boston’s MBTA trains have been peppered with Icelandair advertisements for the 5 hour flight from Boston to Iceland. Last week, my cousin and I took advantage of one of the airline’s many packages that included a stay in the capital city of Reykjavik, a Northern Lights tour, and a morning at the geothermal springs of the Blue Lagoon. So, it was either that or Thanksgiving dinner with our family. Clearly, we went to Iceland.

The day of Thanksgiving we were on an all-day tour of Iceland’s Golden Circle, the majority of which looked to me like North of the Wall from Game of Thrones. By the time we got back to the hotel, we had to be out into the wet weather again for our Northern Lights tour. We headed down to Reykjavik’s Old Harbor to catch our bus and were both early and hungry. At the top of the street was a Burgerjoint (or Hamborgarabullan), about our only option for a quick and relatively cheap bite. So, it wasn’t turkey and stuffing, but our other option was half-frozen Clif bars.

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Hamborgarabullan, I later found out, was founded by an Icelandic fast food tycoon by the name of Tommi* and it was partly inspired by his experience with burger joints in New York City. The inside of the restaurant is covered in Americana, literally covered. There was Christmas decor in the form of presents (some wrapped in Disney Pixar wrapping paper) and lights hanging from the ceiling along with apples and a disco ball and strobe lights.

I saw a black and white poster of Michael Jackson with Freddie Mercury, a mug shot of Frank Sinatra, and posters of the Sopranos and E.T., among other things. Different drawings were hung above the ordering counter and a hand drawn picture of an unhappy Master Shake from Aqua Teen Hunger Force advertised their milk shake. The Icelandic menu had names for the burgers (for example — Hard Rock Burger) but no descriptions. The staff keeps a chalkboard with an English menu behind the counter.

We went basic with the cheeseburger and fries. The burger tasted like authentic McDonald’s with all the golden arch toppings, but way better. For one, I didn’t regret it immediately after eating. The fries were low in salt and crisped to deliciousness. I ate the whole thing looking at E.T.’s face hanging on the wall and listening to 311. Happy Thanksgiving?

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Geirsgata 5
Reykjavik, Iceland

*Because of Icelandic custom, surnames are the father’s name plus “son” or “dottir.” That means extended family members can have different last names and pretty much everyone goes on a first-name basis. Another fun Iceland name fact: the country has a Personal Names Register of all the names parents can choose for newborns. Anything not on the list needs special approval from a naming committee.