Reykjavík Restaurants Offer Free Kids’ Meals During Gathering Ban

Gleiðipinnar, a capital-area restaurant corporation, is offering free children’s meals for customers ordering take-away from several of its restaurants, mbl.is reports.

Customers will receive one free kid’s meal for each regular main ordered at Hamburger Factory, Pita, Blackbox, American Style, or Shake & Pizza. The offer is valid every day, any time during opening hours while the gathering ban remains in place.

Gleiðipinnar has teamed up with taxi company Hreyfill to facilitate home delivery, which is free for orders of ISK 9,900 [$72; €61] or more. Orders that don’t meet the minimum will be delivered for a fee of ISK 1,500 [$11; €9]. Customers can also place their orders online at aha.is.

“It’s important now that we, as a nation, cultivate positivity and look on the bright side,” remarked Gleiðipinnar spokesperson Jóhannes Ásbjörnsson. “This is going to end, and although this blasted virus is tiresome, we’re not going to let it get us down. Icelanders never give up.”

Opening hours at restaurants offering the free kid’s meal deal are as follows:

American Style: 11:30am – 9:00pm, m-f; 5:00pm – 9:00pm, sat-sun
americanstyle.is / 517 1818

Black Box: 11:30am – 2:00pm and 5:00pm – 8:30pm, m-f; 5:00pm – 8:30pm, sat-sun
Blackboxpizza.is / 546 0321

Hamborgarafabrikkan / The Hamburger Factory (Höfðatorg): 11:30am – 8:30pm, m-f; 5:00pm – 8:30pm, sat-sun
Fabrikkan.is / 575 7575

Hamborgarafabrikkan / The Hamburger Factory (Kringlan Mall): 11:30am – 8:00pm, m-f; 5:00pm – 8:00pm, sat-sun
Fabrikkan.is / 575 7575

Pítan: 11:30am – 9:00pm, m-f; 5:00pm – 9:00pm, sat-sun
pitan.is / 562 9090

Shake & Pizza (Keiluhöllinn Bowling Alley at Egillshöll): 5:00pm – 9:00pm, daily
shakeandpizza.is / 517 1819

Robot Bar Opens in Reykjavík Amid Pandemic

Advertising itself as “the world’s most advanced food and drinks robotic bar,” a new restaurant has opened in downtown Reykjavík, mbl.is reports. Serving up “bionic fast casual dining” – that is, 3D-printed French fries with toppings ranging from foraged flowers and seven-day cured egg yolk to chocolate lava cake and dulce de leche sauce, ICE+FRIES is presided over by two robot bartenders that can shake up 135 cocktails an hour and a bionic dog named Aibo that responds to customer commands.

“The idea is that it’s a fast, casual self-service restaurant,” co-owner Priyesh Patel explained in an interview. “You come in here and you fully control your entire experience.” This goes for the food and drink, which customers order via a touchscreen at their table, as well as the music, as each table is equipped with its own sound system from which guests can select a playlist to suit their mood, be that Ice (Tranquil/Dreamy), Fire (Upbeat/Lounge), or Volcano (Expressive/Groove).

Although Priyesh stresses that “we still need human beings in every aspect of the business,” robotics are the key feature here, cutting out labour costs and allowing for high volume production – over 3,000 meals a day. Robots, he notes, “can work 24 hours a day.”

Priyesh, who was born in Uganda, educated in the UK, and currently lives in Portugal, is a “creative person,” with a variety of e-commerce businesses and real estate businesses in addition to ICE+FRIES. He’s also a developer and built all the restaurant’s code and tech himself.

Speaking about the choice to open a restaurant in the midst of a pandemic, Priyesh admitted that “the virus is a real threat for every business, there’s no doubt about it. However, we’re here for the long-term…these are short-term problems that will come and go. We have the capital to weather the storm – we’ll sit here and wait until the good days are back.”

Former Refugees Open Iceland’s First Afghan Restaurant

The first restaurant in Iceland to serve Afghan or Persian food opened in the neighbourhood of Grafarvogur on the outskirts of Reykjavík this week, Vísir reports. The fast food restaurant, Afghan Style, is owned and operated by Hassan Raza Akbari and Zahra Mesbah Sayed Ali, who met in Iceland after arriving separately as refugees. The couple also runs an interpreting service.

Afghan Style took over its business space from a previous restaurant, so it only took Hassan and Zahra about a month to renovate it to fit their needs. In addition to traditional Afghan and Persian dishes, the restaurant also offers some familiar alternatives, such as jalapeño poppers, mozzarella sticks, and a kid’s meal with a hamburger and fries. So far, Zahra says that the reception from Icelandic customers has been positive, with many people leaving good reviews on the restaurant’s Facebook page.

Different paths to Iceland

Both Hassan and Zahra arrived in Iceland as refugees, although five years apart. Hassan arrived in Iceland in 2007. Before that, he had eloped with his girlfriend, who was pregnant at the time. The marriage was against her family’s wishes. When he and his then-wife returned home four months later, she was murdered by her father and he was sent to live with relatives in Greece. He then suffered a knife attack in Greece at the hands of another Afghan man. After that, Hassan decided to flee to Canada. He was stopped when changing planes in Iceland, however, and had no choice then but to apply for asylum amidst the country’s looming economic collapse.

In the 12 years he’s been in Iceland, Hassan has worked in kitchens and as a driver. He received no salary for three months of working the first job he had in the country, as the company went bankrupt in the crash. Despite some initial setbacks, however, he’s made a life and home for himself in Iceland – he has, for instance, since trained as a chef – and during an interview given on the occasion of his receiving Icelandic citizenship in 2015, Hassan remarked that he planned to stay in Iceland for the rest of his life.

Zahra arrived in Iceland in 2012 as one of the country’s first so-called “quota-refugees.” She came to Iceland with her mother and younger sister. Zahra was born in Iran to Afghan parents and in an interview last year, recalled the discrimination that Afghan women in Iran faced. “I can’t imagine now what I was feeling at the time,” she said. “Because we couldn’t go to college, or else we’d have to pay a lot of money. And we couldn’t drive a motorcycle or car. It was difficult for a child.”

Zahra received Icelandic citizenship last year. She and Hassan have an 18-month-old daughter. She said that both of them love to cook, which motivated them to open their restaurant. In addition, they also run an interpreting service, Kabul, ehf. which works in fifteen different languages, including Polish, Hindi, Farsi, and Spanish.

Iceland’s First Hamburger Was Sold in 1941

Hamburger and fries in Iceland

The first hamburger may have been sold in Iceland as early as 1941, Vísir reports. Visitors to the island may be more likely to think of lamb soup or cod cheeks when thinking of classic Icelandic fare, but while these are certainly more homegrown dishes, the country has long maintained a love affair with the hamburger. As such, Iceland’s preeminent food historian, Nanna Rögnvaldardóttir, has set out to determine when and where this delicacy was first sold to hungry Icelanders.

Nanna has been outlining her research for Vísir and also in televised interviews, which has yielded a great deal of information from the public about early sightings of the fast food favorite. In October 1956, Kjörbar in downtown Reykjavík started advertising “hamburgers all day” and a rest stop grill near the Hvítá bridge in West Iceland also had them on the menu. A restaurant called Ísborg in downtown Reykjavík began selling burgers and French fries in 1957. The much-beloved rest stop grill and gas station Staðarskáli began serving up hamburgers during the summer of 1960. And in January of the same year, a restaurant called Smárabar in the Westman Islands started advertising them on their menu.

Fittingly, it now seems that the earliest documented hamburger in Iceland was likely sold at a restaurant on Aðalstræti, Reykjavík’s oldest street.

“The American army arrived in July 1941,” notes Nanna, “and that same month, they start offering hamburgers there.”

There are also stories of American soldiers teaching Jakobína Ámundadóttir, the owner of a cafe near Öskjuhlíð (the hill on which Perlan is located), how to make hamburgers during the war years. According to her sister Íris, Jakobína opened her café when the British built their base on the site of the Reykjavík Domestic airport and intended it to serve Icelanders who worked on the base. When the American soldiers arrived, however, they craved burgers and French fries from home and in addition to teaching Jakobína how to make a hamburger are said to have also baked hamburger buns for her to try as well.

These early hamburger-adopters would have been among several places that advertised burgers in newspapers that were published specially for servicemen, such as The Daily Post and The White Falcon.

Even as the meal gained popularity at cafes serving soldiers stationed in Iceland, however, it does not seem to have made a big impression on Icelanders as a whole for close to ten years. In a travel article written by Vísir journalist Thorolf Smith after a trip to America in 1952, for example, he describes hamburgers as a strange, unknown phenomenon: “some kind of ground beefsteak between two pieces of bread.” Another news article describes an Icelandic man’s shock at being served a hamburger for dinner by the chef of a canteen at the American base in Keflavík.

Nanna says that the American base in Keflavík became the de facto home of the hamburger in Iceland, but that by 1956, it had made its way to Reykjavík and had given rise to a number of hamburger joints, such as those mentioned above. All of these early restaurants are closed now, except for the Staðarskáli rest stop and grill. Nanna believes that it’s likely that Staðarskáli holds the honor of being the place that has sold hamburgers longest in Iceland.