Ísafjörður, Iceland

Photo: Tjöruhúsið

So many choices. Plokkfiskur (cod that’s been boiled, flaked, and mixed with potatoes and onions in a bechamel sauce). Baccalo topped with raisins and pine nuts. Atlantic wolffish mixed with cheese, grapes, capers, and little onions. Pan-fried rainbow trout. Greenland halibut covered in a thick hoisin sauce. Cod cheeks smothered in garlic. Monkfish hidden in a creamy blue cheese. These are just the fish dishes. Hopefully, you’re hungry.

This seafood feast is the reason you traveled to Ísafjörður. Tjöruhúsið is considered the best seafood restaurant in not just the Westfjords but the whole country. Fish is hauled off boats just down the street. It’s delivered to an old fish warehouse, built in 1781, that’s been turned into a casual, unpretentious restaurant. The whole building—from the floors to the walls to the communal tables—is wooden. More wooden picnic tables sit beyond the wide-open windows on sunny, though usually windy, days.

Back inside, Icelandic flags are strung from overhead beams. Large skillets hang from heavy hooks. They’re quickly being removed to cook more seafood. Breads, salads, vegetables, and piping hot fish are laid out on a long buffet. Heavy soup tureens are being brought to the tables. Between the warmth of the stoves and the delicious smell, you’ve never felt so cozy.

Ísafjörður (Ice Fjord) is the largest town in the Westfjords. The northwest part of Iceland was first settled in the 9th century. It eventually grew into a trading post for Danish merchants; their timber-framed houses are among the oldest in the country. The fishing village also became known as the site of Iceland’s most famous witch trial (Kirkjuból). It’s now known for its Westfjords Heritage Museum, its breathtaking views, and some of the best hikes in the country. More and more people are now coming to eat at Tjöruhúsið, as well.

So reservations are, not surprisingly, strongly recommended at Tjöruhúsið. There are two seatings, at 7 and 9 pm, each evening. The meal costs about $50 per person. And it all starts with a langoustine-and-tomato-based fish soup. Just don’t eat too much of it. There’s a lot of fish ahead of you. Tjöruhúsið might end up being the best meal of your whole Icelandic trip.

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