Cheapskates in Reykjavik

Vegan carrot cake and a soy cappuccino from Cafe Babalu in Reykjavik

Vegan carrot cake and a soy cappuccino from Cafe Babalu in Reykjavik

The last of my Iceland posts—until the next trip!

Eating in Iceland is pretty expensive. And drinks are crazy expensive. We were on a tight travel budget, so we had to economize, and we quickly discovered we couldn’t afford to go out for drinks. But we found a pretty good way to indulge ourselves anyway.

Before the trip, I did a lot of Googling and Instagram surfing looking for vegan food tips. And although I somehow missed any warnings about the high cost of eating and drinking in Iceland, I did manage to get some good restaurant tips, and I read in more than one place about a not-to-be-missed drink called the tree-hugger—a vegan white Russian at a place called Lebowski’s. So we went out after dinner one night to see what it was all about. We sat down at the busy bar and looked at the drink menu. We were still getting used to translating the currency, but after staring at the menu, doing some calculations in our heads, and finally using the currency converter phone app, we discovered that the drink, at 1,900 krona, cost about $17 U.S. dollars. Times two. We couldn’t do it. We just couldn’t bring ourselves to spend $35 on two drinks. I’m sure it’s amazing—but maybe next trip.

So we wandered down the street to a place that was recommended for live music and figured we would just grab a beer and find some good music. There was no live music that weeknight and hardly anyone in the place, and it was almost $8 for a beer. I know, we’re cheap, but it just didn’t seem worth it. So, we scratched that one off the list too.

Finally, we ended up back at Glo, the Reykjavik raw restaurant chain where we’d enjoyed a great vegan lunch the previous day. But this night we went for tea and dessert. A couple of delicious vegan desserts and two cups of tea later, we’d spent about what those couple of beers would have cost us. So even though we are a couple of very enthusiastic beer drinkers, we ended up skipping the drinks in favor of desserts for the duration of the trip—and it was a sweet trade!

Polaroid with Icelandic sheep and graffiti—best souvenir of the trip!

Polaroid with Icelandic sheep and graffiti—best souvenir of the trip!

The next day, we had vegan carrot cake and espressos at Cafe Babalu—really yummy. The cafe is a funky little thrift-shop-decorated place. Very cozy and friendly. There are lots of other options on the menu, including plenty of non-vegan desserts and veggie chili. Bonus: it is located on a busy street full of shops and cafes, including a storefront/studio for some local photographers offering $5 Polaroid portraits. On our last day in Reykjavik, we stopped in and couldn’t resist getting one. It was taken in front of a great blown-up shot of some Icelandic sheep and is definitely our favorite souvenir of the trip.

Raw vegan blueberry cheesecake from Gardurinn

Raw vegan blueberry cheesecake from Gardurinn

And the best dessert of all, also on our last day in Reykjavik, was from the tiny cafe called Gardurinn, where we also enjoyed coconut soup. We had a tiny, raw chocolate brownie bite and a delicious raw,vegan blueberry cheesecake. I love cheesecake, and it’s one of the few foods I truly miss from my dairy-eating days. This treat satisfied the cheesecake craving I’ve been denying for years.

After all those sweet treats, did we miss our beer? Admittedly, yes, we kind of did. So after arriving (starving!) in Boston, we stopped on the way home at one of our favorite dinner destinations, Garden Grille, for dinner and a beer. And that complete dinner and (good) beer cost less than two tree-huggers would have been in Reykjavik. Traveling is good, and so is coming home!

Photos by Josh Araujo


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