As I look back at the trip to Iceland, I find a plentiful harvest of memorable locations, but not very many memorable meals. Perhaps it’s the American in me that craves excess and grease in a way that Europe never provides, or perhaps the food in Iceland is merely par for the course. I mean I always remember bad meals, but there were none of those in Iceland to the very least. But there was one very special place called Efstidalur that, if you ever come close enough to, you should definitely visit.
The concept is simple enough: it’s actually a farm, but they figure they can make food fresher than most restaurants on the planet because of their close proximity to all the ingredients. So in a traditional farm-to-table style place that looks more like a home than either a farm or a restaurant, and they serve meat that was alive just hours earlier. Understandably, that sounds pretty bad, but if you’re a meat lover like I am, it’s resoundingly not bad. It’s actually resoundingly incredible.
Parking lots in Icelandic farms consist of family vehicles and tractors. Go figure.
When you enter the building that looks like a 7 bedroom traditional home from the Victorian era, there’s first a big room that connects to three places: the bathroom in the back, the ice cream parlor to your left and the stairs that lead to the restaurant on the right. There’s also a huge, interesting sign that shows all the products made at this particular farm and how they’re made. This place made all sorts of cheeses, butters, meats, milk, just about anything you could extract from a cow. When you go upstairs to the restaurant, there are a bunch of tables, and there’s no menus to take with you; instead, the menu is written on a big black chalkboard behind the bar, and you have to order at the bar.
With a menu that’s likely to change based on how the chef is feeling that day, it’s better to just have a chalkboard instead of a physical menu.
When I was there, I had to try the completely homemade burger to see whether it made any difference to have fresh meat and ingredients. The meat inside the burger was tender and absolutely delicious, unlike anything you’d ever tasted before. The closest comparison I can give is seafood. If you’ve ever been to a seafood restaurant near a beach, there’s a solid chance that they went fishing that very morning and you’re eating something that was in the sea just hours prior. The meat had the same reminiscence inside of it. It’s sort of inexplicable.
Anyway, the meat was fantastic, as was the rest of the meal. They served regular sodas and fries, and everyone was incredibly friendly; it was overall a welcome respite to the long drive we were about to embark on. The other important thing to mention about Efstidalur is that it’s sort of in the middle of nowhere. As a matter of fact, if you were driving down the road that leads here, you’d probably miss it entirely unless you already knew it existed. I’m not entirely sure how we ended up here (I’m pretty sure I Googled the best places to eat and this popped up) but I’m glad we did.
My parents about to enjoy some farm fresh.
After you finish your meal you go down to the ice cream parlor for desert. The ice cream is also freshly made, which is certainly interesting. It makes for a much creamier result than normal ice cream for sure. Also, instead of walls in the ice cream parlor, there are giant windows that show the stables outside. Inside the stables are cows coolly hanging out, not doing much. Still very cool to eat ice cream next to a cow. That’s something I had never experienced before.
The cows right outside the window of the ice cream parlor all look very sweet and gentle.
It did make me a bit guilty to think that I might have just eaten this poor bloke’s cousin or something, but a human’s got to do what a human’s got to do.
Anyway, the uniqueness of the location combined with a nice home cooked meal combined with a quaint homey atmosphere makes this place stand out in my mind as my favorite restaurant of the whole trip. Definitely recommend if you’re ever wandering through Iceland!
-The Wandering Toucan