Meatballs are to Sweden what fried chicken and apple pie are to the United States – no visit to the Scandinavian country would be complete without eating a steaming plate of them. Before traveling to Stockholm, my experience with Swedish meatballs was limited to Ikea; needless to say, I knew there were surely better options. Some online research for the best meatballs in Stockholm led me to Bakfickan, the casual “hip pocket” (literal translation) to fancier Opera Bar next door.
According to new friends we met in Bakfickan’s communal dining space, most Swedes don’t order meatballs in restaurants because they can never compare to Grandma’s version back home. But it’s hard to imagine that Bakfickan’s could be made any more delicious. Served with fresh tart lingonberries, pickled cucumbers, mashed potatoes, and mouthwatering gravy, this was unquestionably the best dish I had in Stockholm.
A close second was Bakfickan’s Baltic herring appetizer – as fun to eat as it was to look at. The artistically arranged plate featured herring pickled in a variety of ways – curry sauce, mustard, black currant juice – and accoutrements including potato, sour cream, and red onion. I think you should always try the local specialties of wherever you’re visiting, especially when they are this sensational!
When I asked the front desk clerk of my hotel to make a reservation at Master Anders, he responded that it was one of his favorite restaurants. So I knew we were in for a treat! Located in Kungsholmen far from Stockholm’s touristy Old Town, Master Anders has been a local institution since 1905. The menu boasts an intriguing mix of Swedish, Parisian and New York bistro fare: think smoked salmon with dill potatoes, escargots Bourguinon, Maine lobster, chicken Caesar salad. I opted for a fillet of Arctic char hot off the grill with tomato salad and a drool-inducing potato gratin on the side. The daily special was a succulent roulade of pork belly with roasted summer vegetables. It’s easy to see why this place is a favored dining spot.
Kryp In (pronounced creep in) is Swedish for “cubbyhole,” or a small, cozy place that you won’t want to leave. After my earlier success with pickled herring at Bakfickan, I was eager to try Kryp In’s version. Unfortunately, my palate was overwhelmed by the grape jelly flavor of one of the preparations and I’ve forgotten how the rest of the dish tasted. But I do remember my reindeer steak! The tender meat was served atop cheesy mashed potatoes with silky celeriac cream, sweet apple compote, tangy dried lingonberries, and a rich red wine sauce. Each mouthful was more delectable than the last!
Pork belly showed up again at the Flying Elk, this time as the star of a BLT. This rendition of the classic sandwich was elevated by oven-roasted tomatoes, garlic mayo, two types of cheese, and, of course, luscious pork belly. The fish and chips, while perfectly executed, paled in comparison to this knock-out flavor combination. The highlight of this meal, though, was the cheddar gougere appetizer. Those tiny little bites packed a savory punch!
One of the most enjoyable attractions in Stockholm is Skansen, the world’s first open-air museum. We spent the better part of a day there, discovering how Swedes of yore used to live. When it came time for lunch, we skipped Skansen’s restaurants in favor of grilled-to-order sausages on the outdoor summer terrace. Served on a bun with a heap of coleslaw, it was absolutely delicious. Also, I’m a huge fan of pear cider. Can the rest of the world please catch on to this Nordic-Baltic trend?
The Swedes are so passionate about the morning ritual of enjoying coffee and pastries that they have a special word for it: Fika. I must be part Swedish because I’ve been practicing fika for years. The best places for fika in Stockholm’s Gamla Stan are Kaffeekoppen (order the cinnamon bun) and Under Kastanjen (get the sponge cake). Both are located on beautiful squares surrounded by candy-colored architecture so I recommend going early to beat the crowds. In central Stockholm, Luzette is a serviceable option that’s conveniently located in the train station.
Which restaurants do you like best in Stockholm?
What dishes should I try next time?
Bakfickan Address: Jakobs torg 12, Stockholm, Sweden Pricing: €€€ Master Anders Address: Pipersgatan 1, Stockholm, Sweden Pricing: €€€ Kryp In Address: Prästgatan 17, Stockholm, Sweden Pricing: €€€ The Flying Elk Address: Mälartorget 15, Stockholm, Sweden Pricing: €€€