Hotdogs are arguably the west’s favourite street food, and in Iceland there is only one contender for the island’s best sausage. Bæjarins Betzu Pylsur draws tourists and famous faces in numbers only rivalled by that of the local regulars who swear by the almost-100-year-old recipe.

The birth of the hotdog is credited to a German immigrant called Feuchtwanger, who brought the frankfurter to the American mid-west in the 1880s, where it was promptly slotted into a bun and crowned the king of fast food.

50 years later, Iceland found its own Feuchtwanger: Jón Sveinsson. In 1937, the fisherman brought a Danish sausage recipe across the North Sea and began selling hotdogs on the streets of Reykjavik. Bæjarins Betzu Pylsur (for ‘The Best Sausages in Town’) quickly became a local icon. Four generations later, the hotdog is still part of Iceland’s national cuisine and Jón’s great-grandson, Baldur Halldórsson, has taken up the mantle.

Serious about sausages

“We take hotdogs way too seriously,” laughs Baldur. Bæjarins Beztu sausages are made with lamb – more flavoursome and readily available on the windswept isle than pork. “The buns are all-natural, steamed so they become super soft, and our sausages are heated to 80 degrees to have that perfect snappy bite. The combination of textures is perfect,” he explains.

The hotdogs are topped with traditional favourites: raw and cooked onion, Icelandic specialty Vals (a sweet apple ketchup), brown Danish mustard – strong and bitter – and Remoulade, a mayonnaise-based sauce with relish.

A real Icelandic welcome

Bæjarins Beztu has such a cult following that ex-US president Bill Clinton even snagged a sausage on his trip to Iceland, as did vocalist James Hetfield of Metallica. Baldur now has seven locations on the small island, including a newly-opened stand in the airport.

“The first thing you can do when you enter the country now is have a hotdog – which is actually a very popular tradition. When Icelanders go abroad, the things they miss most are the Icelandic pools and Bæjarins hotdogs!” says Baldur.

I’ll take eina með öllu!

Despite international acclaim, Bæjarins Beztu’s philosophy remains true to its roots: “Our only mission here is to give our clients great hotdogs,” says Baldur. “That’s something we’re very proud of.”

Do it like a local and order one with ‘the works’ – or ‘eina með öllu’. The storied sausage-stand is a must for travellers looking to get under the skin of Iceland’s national cuisine.

Bæjarins Betzu Pylsur: Iceland’s humble hotdog celebrity


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