föstudagur, ágúst 18, 2006

taco hell

My Einarsenesque coworker Árni today asked me how I felt about Taco Bell coming to Iceland. I hadn't heard this news, but apparently the KFC in Hafnarfjörður is gonna be split into one of the standard-issue joint-KFC-Taco-Bell joints so commonplace in America.

To a person, every Icelander around the lunch table expressed broad agreement and even some small excitement about this lucky break. This launched me into a Kingesque ("it's not Mexican!") tirade against the invasion of crappy American fast food places and their eager acceptance by Icelanders. Here are some sample places Icelanders think are spennandi and glæsibær (exciting and stylish):
  • Subway: the "sophisticated" choice for late-night weekend grub downtown
  • T.G.I. Friday's: fancy eating in the Smáralind mall
  • McDonald's: drive-in always backed up at Skeifan
  • KFC: frequent lunch trips by my coworkers
  • Ruby Tuesday: Slick TV ads dubbed into Icelandic
  • Domino's: store near my house jammed day and night
  • Burger King: flame broiled!
Granted, the quality of food at the Icelandic establishments is much superior to their Stateside counterparts, probably because the service jobs pay (a lot) better, are more desirable, and a Whopper meal costs $14 at today's rates. But still. There are plenty of local joints serving up pizza, sandwiches, and hamburgers. From my perspective, there's no reason to "run for the Border" or "sit on the Colonel's lap" here in the Land.

A few Icelanders have even complained to me that, when they went to America and tried food at one of these fine eateries, they were surprised by the rude service and fecal quality of the offerings. Well, go figure. But even with those who have experienced the greasy horror of mainland bandarískur fast food, I somehow just can't seem to convey the low esteem in which I and my American friends hold these places.


Blogger Sunnhildur said...

Ok, I signed up on blogspot to protest this, being an Icelander...

Subway -> Was ok, but since the new "chicken breast" AWFUL!

T.G.I. Friday's -> Ok once in a while

McDonald's -> I Never go there, it´s disgusting.

KFC -> Slimy and disgusting

Ruby Tuesday: Ok for the big margaritas

Domino's -> Horrible, wouldn´t even go there on a Megavika

Burger King: Same as McDonald´s

To get a decent fast food burger, Búllan is the place and for a pizza; Eldsmiðjan, Devitos or just anything other than the Dominos. If I feel like a fast food, pylsa með öllu is usually the choice.

Blogger JB said...


Thanks for reading. I agree: Eldsmiðjan and Búllan are the 101 greats. I'd throw Vitabar into the mix, too. Gráðaostaborgarinn er yndislegur.

Regarding the American fast-food places, in the seminal words of Vince Vaughn (Swingers), "I would never eat here."

Blogger m said...

I only eat at places like these in the US because they are CHEAP and fast. Mostly cheap. In Iceland I could never bring myself to pay $10 for a McDonald's hamburger.

It amazes me, though, how the love for McDonald's among children is universal. If there is a McDonald's, children will always beg their parents to go there. Maybe it's that damn Ronald character? :-)

Blogger Sue said...

What about Quiznos? It's one of the few fast food places in the States I don't mind eating at. The other would be Panera Bread if that counts. I noticed there's at least one Quiznos in Iceland, any local thoughts on that?

Blogger cK said...


Do Icelandic cities put development limits on the architecture of these joints? In the US, of course, they rarely are prevented from creating branded architecture (the Golden Arches, KFC's old stripedy design, etc.). But in many European countries, historic city codes have been used to allow the food but not the excessive branding along a street.

Any difference in design in Iceland even if the food is largely the same?

Just curious.

Blogger JB said...

Mindy: $10 here (700 ISK) would indeed be cheap for a meal. This would, for example, not cover the cost of a sub at the invincible Hlölla-bátar. It would almost cover the cost of the tilboð at Búllan. It might get you a McDonald's hamburger, but just. I'll have to check next time I'm in there, which is never! ;-)

Sue: True, Quizno's ain't bad. The one downtown here is pretty nondescript. But I haven't eaten there. Local thoughts?

CK: When McDonald's was downtown (now Hressó again) it had a tiny sign. But there is a Subway right down the street (next to the faded-glory Rex nightclub) with a big bright junky Subway sign (that somehow serves as a siren call to all Icelanders who aren't Sunnhildur).

Blogger Unknown said...

Your mission is now clear:

Save Iceland from the fast food invasion.

Blogger JB said...

Kristen: As you can see, it's already too late. There is nothing to save; the Icelanders love it. I can only imagine the frenzied, feverish national excitement here when the first Starbucks comes to town. Maybe they can even put Kaffibrennslan, Café Paris, and Mokka out of business! Wouldn't that be swell?

Then maybe I'll throw in the towel and move to one of those sheet-plastic-windowed trailers in New Hampshire.

Blogger Sue said...

And of course you know that there will be 5 Dunkin' Donuts within a 5 mile radius of said NH-trailer.

Blogger Unknown said...

Don't go New Hampshire on us, man. You just need to start an underground anti-gross-franchise-food rebellion over there. You can get secret symbols and codewords!

Blogger JB said...

Sue: I was waiting for this comment. You know, I miss the Dunks. I know, I know, it's crappy. But I love those guilty-pleasure styrofoam cups of coffee. I guess we all have our fast-food weaknesses. But at least the Dunks is a Boston institution. I can maybe slide by on those grounds.

Kristen: I have had a few Icelanders tell me they actually hate fast food. So I am heartened. And this post is being syndicated on a European travel blog I write for (shortcut.squarespace.com) this week. So look for the underground cult to spread. Maybe.

Blogger Syngibjörg said...

The only fast food I accept is the hot dog at Bæjarins Besta. Everything else is awful, and for my oppinion just something no one should eat at all!!

Blogger Einar said...

What is "Einarsenesque"? Something like Kafkaesque or where did you pick that one up? Your "fastfood-report" makes me think of that movie "Supersize-me", Yuck... Hm, isn't it sad that there are so many fastfood chains in Iceland and so few good and affordable restaurants?

Blogger dtw said...

Yeah. What a couple of my friends who've been there said, it really is a shame. It'd be a wonder if the American fast food chains didn't keep popping up at Iceland, though. The circumstances just are what they are.

Are there any estimates or maybe even research on how big a part of their customers are tourists? Not necessarily from just USA, but anywhere? I generally never understood the idea of traveling somewhere and wanting to eat exactly the same things I do back home.

I sure hope I don't need to take my words completely back though when I'll stay there... Not like my student budget ever allowed me to go anywhere except some the most affordable places. :)

Blogger JB said...

Einar: I agree, too much fast bad food, and not enough cheaper, good food. As for "Einarsenesque", well, rest assured that it doesn't refer to you. :-)

DTW: Maybe a lot of tourists go to the few fast food joints downtown. But I don't see tourists flocking to the Kópavogur KFC or the Hafnarfjörður Hardees. Those places are built around local business.

As an addendum, another good friend of mine said to me on Monday night, "Hey did you hear the news???" All excited-like. His eyes were popping out of his head. I thought he was going to say he got engaged or got me a date with Björk. Or that Sigur Rós was playing an acoustic set in his living room. Instead, he followed with, "Taco Bell is coming to Hafnarfjörður!"

Jesús Kristur.

Blogger AS said...

Starbucks is coming here!!?!?!??!?!! This is gonna be great!!!!!


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