Transitioning back to the real world after a vacation is rough. But late last month, there were two things making my adjustment after a trip to Iceland a little easier. I was greeted by a massive snowstorm (just the excuse I needed to curl up on the couch for two days and let the jet lag pass), and, more enjoyably, Zeppelin Station had announced its Made in Reykjavik pop-up, a three-month celebration of the capital city’s culture, food and drink, and fashion.
Battling post-vacation blues, I drove to the RiNo marketplace to re-immerse myself in all things Reykjavik. After perusing the expansive retail selection—including Angan skincare, unisex jewelry from Orrifinn Jewels, and hygge-inspired Ihanna Home goods—I headed to Skál, the first of three restaurant pop-ups that will open during the Iceland takeover.
In Reykjavik, Skál (which means “cheers” in Icelandic) is one of 10 vendors at Hlemmur Mathöll, that city’s first food hall. When I visited the popular, two-year-old hangout during my trip, I enjoyed the homemade soup and traditional cake at Rabbar Barinn, so I was excited to taste Skál’s modern take on Icelandic cuisine much closer to home.
The eatery is operated by chef Gísli Matt (considered something of a food wunderkind in the country), Björn Steinar, and Gísli Gríms; the trio knows what they’re doing. The food I tasted at Denver’s Skál was better than almost anything I ate during a week in Iceland—and much more affordable, too. (If you haven’t heard, Iceland is pricey.)
The Reykjavik hot dog was more sausagelike in size (the frankfurter I tried in Iceland was reminiscent of a ballpark dog), adorned with the traditional toppings: crispy onions, ketchup, a specialty brown mustard, and remoulade. Pickled cucumbers and a toasted bun were welcome tweaks on the classic.
The fish on the fried cod sandwich was meaty and not too crispy, with pickled celery adding a lovely crunch. Glazed lamb belly—lightly coated in a rhubarb-pomegranate barbecue sauce—was meltingly tender and contrasted beautifully with bites of smoked buttermilk-and-caraway cabbage. On the side, an order of salt-flecked potatoes was cooked perfectly and topped, like most dishes, with a sprinkle of fresh dill.
To wash it all down, Kiss & Ride crafted three Iceland-themed cocktails and there are two ales available from Einstök Beer, which is based on the northern edge of the island. The Negroni-like “Viking Blood” swirls Campari, vermouth, and orange bitters together with Brennivin, an aquavit considered Iceland’s signature spirit (it’s also referred to as “Black Death”). The “Fire & Ice” could use some more fire, but the blend of Reyka vodka, ginger, lime, and bitters pairs nicely with Skál’s offerings.
Made in Reykjavik is Zeppelin Station’s third “Made in a City” takeover; the first two explored Montreal and Portland, Oregon.
Before the venue’s focus travels elsewhere, two other food pop-ups are on the horizon: Systir (opening April 20) and Dill, Iceland’s first Michelin-starred restaurant. There’s also a Reykjavik Mini Festival from March 22 to 24, which will feature live music, comedy, and food and drink deals.
All of which is to say: My vacation come-down was averted.