I have a confession to make. Ever since back in '02 when I was but a lowly kennitölulaus
tourist, I have celebrated
the submarine sandwiches at Hlölla-Bátar without a second thought. I was like a card-carrying member of the Christian Coalition and Hlölli was my Republican Party. I simply latched on, no questions asked. Hlölli, with his special Hlölli sauce, made the finest sandwiches in the world, bar none. I was a man who had found Sandwich Jesus, and my credit card statement bears witness to many many an (early) Sunday-morning offering.
I really didn't even realize that there was any competition for Hlölli and his sacred Pinnabátur (Pin Boat) sandwich, until my friend Gabriel asked one night, "Are you a Hlölli or a Nonni guy?"
"Hlölli!" I answered, without a thought. (I Believed, after all.) But that got me to wondering: Who was this Nonni? I had noticed the store a few times, in passing only, but dismissed it out of hand as just another downtown sjoppa
. Nonni's place is a little bit out of the way, after all, tucked away there on Hafnarstræti away from the bright-lights-big-city neon of Ingólfstorg. I had never even considered the possibility that Hlölli could have a real competitor, so never gave the Nonnabiti shop a second glance.
So, after the Deco gig
last night, I was really curious to try Nonnabiti but also eager to reaffirm my belief in Hlölli's unquestioned superiority. We walked up the steps and into the warm, bright space and that was the first thing that struck me. Unlike the paper-strewn chaos of Hlölli's waiting area, Nonni had a nice place to hang out and eat, with some tables and newspapers. It could maybe even be called cozy. "Ah, but the food can't match the Hlölli magic," I thought.
Nonni seemed to have a slightly narrower range of sandwich options, and he's also a little less tourist-focused (English translations of the desktop-published menu were posted off by the door, as an afterthought). In a downtown that seems to be increasingly set up for the convenience of British and American tourists, this was a tad refreshing. Up at the counter, I could see through the glass to the fixin's and they did seem to be fresher and with more variety. I was intrigued.
So I decided the best way to resolve the issue would be to deliberately benchmark my Pinnabátur fave at Hlölli against the nearest Nonni equivalent. So I ordered the Lambabátur (lamb-boat), thus setting one epic Reykjavík lambwich against the other. The order-taker was friendly and unharried and didn't display any of the trademark Hlölli gruffness. I sat down and read Morgunblaðið headlines and waited. The sandwich seemed to take a little longer to prepare, but maybe that was just the anticipation.
When I took delivery, the Lambabátur was wrapped in already-greasy paper and in the Nonni paper bag. It came with fresh lettuce and crunchy pickles and toasty bread. But it wasn't until I bit into that crispy-fried pile of thin-sliced lamb that I was converted. There was more lamb than Hlölli and it was cooked to perfection, with crispy bacon-like edges. The whole sandwich together was a masterwork. Nonni, you are the new frelsari
. I have seen the Light, and tomorrow stands bright before me.