One of the first questions that everyone asked when hearing of my travels to Sweden was, “So what do they eat there?”. The seemingly rhetorical question was generally followed by some pretty great answers- Swedish Fish and Swedish meatballs ranking among the top two. But I actually started to wonder, “what exactly is Swedish cuisine?”
Since the travel itinerary put our first night in Stockholm on Thanksgiving day (which just so happens to be the American holiday that literally is most focused around an exorbitant amount of food) I decided to do a bit of research before I went. Most menus seemed to consist of gamey meats (reindeer, elk, bison) and A LOT of mention of this word FIKA (but we’ll get to that later). So I thought it best to go prepared with one nice restaurant booked for our “pseudo-thanksgiving” dinner, and after that it was all up to exploration.
Our first Swedish meal was had at a cafe we stumbled upon in the town square of Gamla Stan. A small little restaurant serving up homemade meatballs and hot glogg.The Swedish meatballs lived up to their namesake and we officially fell in love with our little glasses of hot mulled wine. I’m pretty sure we could’ve sat their for hours talking and eating (and using their wifi), but alas it was our first day, jet lag was setting in, and we still had so much to explore. But just for a moment, it was the picture perfect location for our first taste of Sweden.
Our Thanksgiving reservation brought us to our fancy dinner of choice. An unusual little restaurant tucked underground beneath houses and businesses in the old part of town. Originally 7 separate wine cellars, the different rooms were purchased and renovated to create one continuous restaurant. It was eclectic, romantic, unique and most of all, DELICIOUS.Suffice it to say, I’m a fan of French food. Really I’m a fan of French anything. So when I found out this restaurant was Swedish-French cuisine, I was sold. The traditional Swedish dishes like elk carpaccio and braised reindeer were met with an elegant French touch. A definite recommendation for the lover of refined cuisine who still desires a “taste of Sweden”.
Back Bar (The Flying Elk)
I’ll have to admit, before leaving we had scoured visitstockholm.com for ideas of places to eat, but never made any solid plans aside from Thanksgiving dinner. If ever planning a trip to the “capital of Scandinavia” check out this site. It’s super easy to navigate and has TONS of awesome suggestions. The Flying Elk is all over this website.. and pinterest.. and instagram. So naturally, I was determined to go. This well known restaurant was born from the idea of British pub-style food but immersed in Swedish culture. Owned and operated by a two starred Michelin restaurant, The Flying Elk seeks to offer some of the world’s best food in a more relaxed (and affordable) atmosphere.True to European style, The Flying Elk actually has 3 locations all connected with different names, but serving the same menu from the same kitchen. For us this was a plus because the atmosphere of each room may be slightly different, but so are the prices. We sat in the Back Bar and actually preferred its cozy vibes over the larger dining room. The food was fantastic, the wine was flowing and there was not a care in the world. Our last meal in Stockholm surely did not disappoint.
Quite possibly my favorite food establishment in our little Stockholm holiday was this perfect cafe, Kaffeverket. It happened to be raining that afternoon- and maybe it was because we were cold, or maybe because this cafe was so instagram-perfect, but the food was on point. We had heard a lot about fika, which we soon found out is basically like a Spanish siesta, except the Swedes congregate in a cafe sometime in the afternoon with friends and family to have a pastry and coffee. They catch up, laugh and relax- overall it’s a time to enjoy each others company in the hustle and bustle of every day. It’s certainly one tradition I wish we Americans would adopt. So if you ever want the BEST. FIKA. EVER. look no further than this gem.I’ll admit we also ate real food while we were here, which was seriously to die for. The best goat cheese salad I’ve ever had. I will forever be working to figure out this recipe.We of course topped off the meal with a cappuccino (that I would argue could heal the soul). All around, I’m most certainly a fan of the fika.
This hidden treasure was our last cafe breakfast in Stockholm. It was literally around the corner from our airbnb and we had only wished we stumbled upon it sooner. A small space, but worth it if you can grab a table. Healthy brunch food is what they’re all about so you KNOW I’m all about it too.This place is seriously hidden, so if you don’t look closely you might miss it. But then you’d never experience the king of all avocado toasts.
The last place I’ll share doesn’t actually serve food. But I must say it’s worth mentioning if you ever venture to Stockholm. That place is the ICE bar at the Nordic Hotel. I have to be honest, it wasn’t at the top of my to-do list in the grand scheme of my Sweden itinerary, but hey- it’s Scandinavia, you might as well dress in a crazy cape and drink out of an ice shot glass once in your life!It was one of those “bucket list” experiences. Cool to see and do (well literally cool because its about 19 degrees Fahrenheit in there). But in the end we only lasted about 30 minutes and decided to call our adventure over. I will say though, the drinks were surprisingly good.
So there we have it, all the classic Swedish cuisine: meatballs, glogg, reindeer (sorry santa), fika, and even a trip to the ice bar. I was pleasantly surprised and even a little inspired to bring a few Swedish traditions home to New York with me (because we all need an excuse to eat more pastries and drink more wine). So be sure to stay tuned for some more of my favorite moments from my holiday across the sea!