The man’s name was Thomas F. Hall, and he was the former Commander of Fleet Air Keflavik and the Iceland Defence Force, he explained: the one who had spent the first five-dollar bill at the original Wendy’s – the same five-dollar bill that had been pinned to the kitchen wall in remembrance of the act. When the naval station closed in 2006, Thomas Hall had returned as part of a special closing committee. After all of the military’s equipment had been packed up and readied, he had sat on the aeroplane and awaited its take-off – when he remembered that five-dollar bill. He sent a soldier back to the base to retrieve it. It was the last thing they took.
Ingólfur began working at the naval base mess hall at the age of 15 and stayed there for 12 years (he worked five years for the navy and seven for the air force). When the army left, he got laid off, but by that time, he had been operating Langbest in downtown Keflavík for almost a decade. Not long after losing his job at the base, he was called into a meeting with Kadeco and invited to open a second Langbest in this building. Ingólfur agreed. He spent almost ISK 60 million [$436,000] on renovations, and when Langbest opened its doors in Ásbrú in 2008, the banking collapse was in the offing. He operated two Langbest restaurants between 2008 and 2014 but closed the one in town during that latter year.
Langbest in Icelandic is a compound word made up of lang, meaning, roughly, “way” (as in “way better”) and best, meaning, well… Asked about the origins of the name, Ingólfur recalls that it derives from an argument between the original owner of the place, Axel Jónsson, and his brother, a waiter. His brother wanted to give the restaurant an Italian name, but Axel, the chef, disagreed. During their argument, they continually said, “No, it’s way better to…” And so the third brother, overhearing the argument, interrupted: “Why don’t you just name it Langbest?”
“If you paste the name into Google Translate you get Second to None – which is a great name for the restaurant,” Ingólfur observes.
“If you have to eat at other places in town,” I ask, “where do you go?”
“I like Issi’s Fish and Chips. His fish is good. Fresh. Consistent.”