Two weeks ago I was in Copenhagen, a stop-off that was tacked onto my first-ever trip to Oslo. (Here’s why I was there.) You might be going, “Wow, so luxury!” but my decision to add Copenhagen to the itinerary was made specifically to save money. “Doesn’t that make so much less sense than just flying straight, or with connections, to Oslo?” Yeah, that was pretty much my immediate thought, too, but flying through Copenhagen (and Reykjavik, briefly) knocked off several hundred bucks from the overall total, and it actually became more economical to just take a few extra days there on my way back to the US. (Weird, I know.)
This has been a long-winded way of explaining to you that I am kind of a cheapskate. As such, it may come as no surprise that I am a big advocate for hot dogs – delicious, yes, but more importantly, V. AFFORDABLE. And incredibly prevalent in Scandinavia! (If you’ve watched any sort of travel show, you are likely already in the know.)
Nordic countries’ signature styles vary, and I was able to taste-test ones from Norway, Denmark and Iceland before I returned to the other hot dog capital of the planet – NYC.
Let’s start with Norway, shall we?
Apparently hot dog stands used to be all over Oslo, but now, there seems to be just one main venue that’s managed to fend off the cheap-o convenience store competition. It’s called Syverkiosken (located at Maridalsveien 45), and it’s a cute little hole-in-the-wall setup in Grünerløkka. I rocked up immediately when they opened for the day (like a true psychopath), and I ordered “The Special”, which is a hot dog topped with the normal things you’d expect (ketchup and mustard) in addition to some things I’ve never had on a hot dog before, like potato salad and a potato pancake.
While the mouthwatering monstrosity was being prepared by the shop’s owner, I had a fleeting thought of, “Oh fuck, I hope they accept credit cards!” Nearly everywhere in Oslo takes cards (there are even some spots that refuse to take cash), and since I’d had no trouble using my card a few years back at a hot dog stand in Reykjavik (I know, different country, but same cashless affinity) I just hoped for the best. Unfortunately, my moment of panic was warranted – Syverkiosken does not accept foreign cards, just cash. It’s not like in NYC where you can just pop into any old bodega to grab cash, either – there are specific locations where you have to get cash out, and I was not near any of them. WHAT WAS I TO DO?! Fortunately he took pity on me and gave me the hot dog for free. Even though it only cost a few bucks USD, I still feel very guilty about this, and am trying to figure out how to mail him some NOKs to say thanks.
Did my guilt sour the culinary experience? Heck no! It was an incredible hot dog, although hella messy, and something I absolutely felt self-conscious walking around Oslo shoving into my mouth hole at noon on a Saturday. (The mustard I spilled on my pants felt like penance for my failure to bring cash.) I had been worried that the potato pancake draped over the whole shebang would make everything overly dry, but the potato salad and the condiments counterbalanced the bread overload, and the pancake ended up just helping to keep everything else (aside from the mustard) from spilling out. Ingenious! And overall a great, snappy hot dog that I’d gladly eat again and again.
The next day I headed to Copenhagen, which is where I got my first-ever taste of the Danish spin on hot dogs. And let me tell you, the carts are UBIQUITOUS over there. I ate from a slightly “bougier” retailer called DØP, where the sausages they’re slangin’ are organic. I went with the roasted dog topped with everything (aka fried onions, raw onions, remoulade, ketchup, mustard, and VERY importantly, pickles), and as with all of the hot dogs I tried this trip, the hot dog was longer than the bun and super snappy. Very into it.
I think I paid around $4 USD, and it was well worth it – I’ve never had pickles on a hot dog before, but I don’t think I can go back to normal life now! All the different flavors and textures made for one heck of a well-balanced wiener, and I somehow managed to spill NOTHING! I’d like to think this was due to my determination not to miss out on a single morsel of this Danish genius.
And finally, I felt it necessary to complete the hot dog trifecta on my quickie stop-off in Iceland. Unlike the Norwegian and Danish hot dogs, my love affair with Icelandic hot dogs (and their pylsusinnep, which is a sweet brown mustard that is like crack) dates back to 2015. I already knew that the airport variety was not going to be as good as one from Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur in Reykjavik, so I wouldn’t say my expectations were EXCEEDINGLY high, but for airport food, this guy (made from lamb) slayed pretty hard. Definitely less snap than the previous two had, because DUH, but the toppings are just so undeniably good anyway (the aforementioned addictive mustard, plus ketchup and crispy onions) that I could have been eating a shoe and not known the difference.
So which country wins the wiener battle this go-round? I’m not just being nice when I say it’s an incredibly tough call. I would gladly eat any/all of these any day of the week for the rest of my life. However, after much deliberation, I’m going to have to give the title to Denmark for now. I think I definitely need to do a bigger cross section next time to truly be certain which country reigns supreme. But I’d also like to propose we all start adding lots more pickles, potato salad and sweet brown mustard to our hot dogs here in the US. I’m sure I’ll seem like a traitor when I say that I’d trade Gray’s Papaya for any/all Nordic spots, but when you know, you know, you guys. And Scandinavia is hawking a truly superior sausage.