In high school we used to sneak off campus and drive over to Rae’s, a 1950s-style diner, to drink tall iced coffees and smoke cigarettes. Some nights, we’d head east and saunter into Canter’s Deli. In bright red lipstick, vintage dresses, and big boots, we’d order cup after cup of coffee and hope that Anthony Kiedis or Flea would take the booth next to us. By the time I got to college, I was addicted. And at Berkeley, my fix was everywhere. Lattes in pint glasses at Café Strada, shots of espresso at Café Roma, or cappuccinos from the new small place on north side. It only makes sense then, that after all my years in cafés, that I’d feel so at home in Reykjavik, a city where coffee culture thrives. In a few block radius, there are dozens of places to type away at my keyboard, to catch up with a girlfriend, or to stare off into the middle distance and watch the world go by. And too, it is here where I can observe the latest trends in fashion, eavesdrop on tourists, or just slip into daily life, sitting silently at a table and hoping others think I’m a native.
Best Coffee & Cafés in Reykjavik (in no particular order)
Mokka Kaffi: Arguably the oldest coffee shop in Iceland, this small café is decorated with a tasteful retro design. With only a few tables it’s not a place to linger for hours. Great waffles. Skólavörðustíg 3A/ 101 Reykjavík/ 552 1174 http://www.mokka.is
Kex: This restaurant and bar space has an unbelievably delicious menu, but the coffee is what keeps me coming back. They serve a super-high-octane, addictive and delicious coffee in a double or single-sized French press. During the day, there are often plenty of tables, which is great for when I want to spend a long time working, sitting on the couches, or watching the sea. Skúlagata 28/ 101 Reykjavik 561-6060/ http://www.kexhostel.is
C is for Cookie: It may be a small café, but C is for Cookie has the biggest cups. Lattes are really large and the simple foods (soups and sandwiches) are seriously tasty. Plus the décor is wacky and comfy. Tysgata 8/ 101 Reykjavik/ 578 5914
Bergsson: Step down into this new restaurant and cafe and you find yourself facing long wooden tables and freshly baked goods. While I prefer to come for lunch, mid-afternoon and early mornings are great for just a good quiet cup. Templararsund 3, http://bergsson.is/
Te og Kafi: Founded in 1984, Te og Kaffi now runs roasting facilities, a wholesale division, retail shops, and cafes. They have over eight cafes in Reykjavik, including: Laugaveger 27, Lækjartorgi, and inside Eymmundson Book store on Austurstræti 18/ http://www.teogkaffi.is/
Kaffitár: At Kaffitár they specialize in importing, roasting, and serving Arabica coffee beans. Apart from the roasterie, the company owns eight coffee stores/espresso bars. Through the years, several of their baristas have competed and won at the World Barista Championships. My favorite, though almost always crowded Kaffitár, is at: Bankastræti 8/ 511-4540/ http://www.kaffitar.is
Kaffismiðja: For serious coffee drinkers only. This café has no decaf options and offers only a few teas. They roast their own beans and the place is always filled with hipsters and artists. Sometimes it can be hard to find a seat and you almost always have to share your table with others, which is a great way to meet the locals. Kárastíg 1 / 101 Reykjavík / 517-5535 http://kaffismidja.is
Stofan Café: With the worn old couches and wooden tables, it feels like you’ve stumbled into someone’s living room. But it’s really for you to sit and enjoy. Not a huge menu, but great people watching onto the square from the large picture windows. Aðalstræti, http://www.facebook.com/stofan.kaffihus
Tíu Dropar: One of Reykjavik‘s oldest cafés, this gem is located in a hidden basement on Laugavegur. A table full of really old men sits for hours in one corner. A piano beckons in another. The décor looks like my grandmother’s house and the egg breakfasts are terrific. Laugavegi 27 / 101 Reykjavík/ 551-9380
Jói Fel: Sticky buns, fresh bread, whole wheat sprouted and spelt rolls, this amazing bakery, with over six outlets around town, also has catering and great coffee. At their Gardabær location, they also serve chai tea lattes. http://www.joifel.is
Babalú: This colorful little house has comfy couches and a patio that is popular in the summer. Skólavörðustígur 22 / 101 Reykjavik /552-2278
Inside City Hall, there was a great café where you could sit and look out at the pond. From that perch, I always felt like I could float away with the swans. That café closed and there is another one open only this month, but the site is changing hands and it will likely be a restaurant in the new year. But there’s a chance the cafe will stay on. We’ll have to wait and see. . .
Do you have a favorite café in Reykjavik? What have I missed? Do tell.