Reykjavik: Sandwich Mecca

Posted on June 28, 2006



by jared bibler 

Lucky visitors to Reykjavík and downtown-inclined natives know that, at 3 a.m. on a weekend night, the absolute best place to fill your greasy cravings is Iceland’s sandwich mecca, Hlölla Bátar. (English translation is Hlölli’s Boats, since the sub sandwiches purveyed there are referred to as "boats" in the local sub-shop parlance.)

Photo credit: Daquella Manera

My favorite, which I introduced to E and subsequently became her favorite, is the Pinnabátur. This is a foot-long sub on toasted bread, jam-packed with fried, thin-sliced lamb, pickled red cabbage, and special secret Hlölli Sauce. There may be other ingredients that I am now forgetting, but these seem to be the important ones. Oh yeah, grease. That’s the fourth one. Grease that turns the paper wrapping transparent and dribbles down your chin in increasing amounts as you work your way through the warm papered goodness of the sandwich.

Inspired by the greatness of Hlölli, and with some leftover lamb from this weekend’s Sunday dinner, we tried out our own last night. We took some fresh-made big-size hot dog rolls (the closest thing we could find to sub rolls at Nóatún) and toasted them in the top of the oven. Meanwhile, I sliced the lamb wafer-thin and let it pan fry in its own lambic juices. We added some rauðkál (pickled red cabbage: no Icelandic home complete without it) and some fine E. Finnsson Pítusosa ("pita sauce") and boom! We were suddenly kicking the sub up to notches undreamed-of by Emeril Lagasse. I think even Hlölli himself could be proud of our home-kitchen replicas of his fine boat cuisine.