It’s sunny and breezy in Reykjavik when I realize I’m famished, and I don’t have a lot of time to eat. I wander the streets, looking for a quick bite at a cafe or street food vendor when I see a huge line (queue here in Europe) standing outside a tiny little house. The is painted bright red, and very small, perhaps 80 square feet. It seems haphazardly placed in the corner of a parking lot, below a construction crain and flanked by a few picnic tables.
One secret of travel, eat where there are crowds—especially locals. I survey a few of the people in the line. It’s a mix of locals and foreigners. Some have been here many times, some like me, just saw the line and their curiosity led them here.
This hot dog stand has been here since 1937. A sign just by the ordering window tells the history of the stand–it’s entirely in Icelandic. But a few names jump out: Elvis Presley, Bill Clinton, who I learn both dined here. Thers even a reference to “Gone With The Wind”—though I can’t translate.
Two people are crammed inside the house. Customers have limited choices. Choose a hot dog and a fountain drink, and a variety of sauces. The sauces are lined up in plastic squeeze bottles behind glass. The “chef” pulls out a hot dog from a grill, squishes it into a bun, and squirts on the sauce.
“You want the special?” he asks me, telling me it comes with the full assortment of sauces slathered onto the dog. “Sure. I’ll take two.” And a coke—the first I’ve had in many months.
I squeeze between two groups at a picnic table, one is an elderly couple from England, the other are German. I place the hot dogs in a specially made cradle that is permanently attached to the picnic table. Each table has two of these cradles. There are no paper plates, just a paper and napkin.
The roll is fresh, and hotdog steaming. The sauce? Good enough, but not entirely inspiring. But they dogs fill me up and give me energy to move on.
Hot dogs in Iceland? Yeah, I know. But later I learn that in a country that is exceeding expensive, it seems hot dogs are a true value. That’s why there’s a line at nearly every gas station—not for fuel, but for Icelandic Hot Dogs.