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What’s So Great About the Icelandic Hot Dog?

Icelandic hot dog
Brian Farrell/Getty Images

Iceland is home to a great number of wonderful things. The land of fire and ice touts an incredible music scene, gorgeous scenery, a tremendous soccer team, puffins, and the northernmost winery in the world. And that’s just the tip. As relatively remote and unpopulated as the place is, Iceland punches well above its weight — especially when it comes to hot dog brands.

Leave it to the industrious Scandinavian nation to improve upon a dish we Americans know all too well: the hot dog. The Viking version is better from top to bottom, from its protein choice to its many accoutrements.

In Reykjavik, Icelanders like to cap off the runtur, or pub crawl, with a satisfying dog. The city’s most famous vendor, Baejarins Beztu Pylsur, stays open well through the wee weekend hours to accommodate the buzzed and hungry masses. The outpost’s convenient location at the bottom of the main, bar-filled drag in the 101 District makes it a worthy finish line after an indulgent evening.

You may have heard of the place. The Guardian named Baejarins the best hot dog stand in all of Europe in 2006. The place has been around since 1937 and as the website proudly declares, has served the likes of Bill Clinton and Metallica members over its legendary run. Many in Iceland consider the hot dog to be a national dish of sorts.

Bæjarins Beztu Icelandic hot dog
Bæjarins Beztu/Facebook

What makes it different? For starters, the dog itself. Most places hock beef or pork dogs but Iceland focuses on something it has plenty of — lamb. Then there’s the mustard. It’s a vibrant kind, dark and sweet with a kick of vinegar and sometimes fermented onions for added flavor. The ketchup is sweet and typically incorporates apples while the remoulade, made of mayo, capers, and herbs, adds and earthy, briny element.

The bun is steamed and warm, great for thawing hands during a typically brisk Reykjavik night. In terms of toppings, there are usually raw and fried onions added to the mix, the former adding freshness while the latter provides warmth and an almost candied flavor. Those from the northern town of Akureyri are known to add red cabbage while diehards will still occasionally add some Icelandic yogurt. Follow your stomach, you can’t really go wrong.

Nothing else quite tops a weekend in the Icelandic capital, frequenting places like Kaffibarinn and 12 Tónar, before finishing at Baejarins Beztu for the real thing. But if you’re stuck stateside, you can replicate the recipe at home. Peruse the aisles of your local Scandinavian shop or browse Nordic goods online at places like Scandinavian Specialities

Per Icelandic tradition, pair the dog with a chilly Coke or refreshing boreal lager. For a more creative alignment, try a bright Pinot Noir or Gamay to play off of the dog’s gamier meat profile. A cider is also a great option, particularly something crisp and dry. Finally, the tropical kick of a good hazy IPA can also serve as a complementary match. The Phaser from Ecliptic is a great option and ready to enhance timeless grub like hot dogs.

Or, just have a celebratory shot or two of Reyka. Even if you’re not abroad, you can imagine you’re standing in line with a bunch of of fast friends, waiting for one of the best riffs on the hot dog on the planet. 

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