Isn't it good? Norwegian Food
June 11, 2017 7:59 PM   Subscribe

All the previous mentions of visiting Norway have highlighted how expensive it is to eat out. What's the best way to self-cater without missing out on Norwegian culture or good fun holiday times? Crucial snowflakes after the jump.

Further details:
  • The two of us are booked to stay in Airbnbs with kitchens in Oslo, Bergen and Trondheim, only a couple of nights in each place. We're also spending one night onboard a boat where only breakfast is provided (so we'll either have to shell out or improvise for 2 lunches and one evening meal.)
  • We're both competent cooks but don't relish spending a lot of time cooking or cleaning up.
  • I am vegetarian (I eat eggs and dairy but no fish/chicken/any other meat). I am willing to be a bit more flexible when travelling but probably won't be eating big slabs of meat. My partner happily eats meat and fish, has a mild nut allergy and an aversion to offal but will otherwise eat pretty much anything.
  • We're Australian, so that's our frame of reference for food and money. Often when we travel a large part of our experience is eating and drinking, so avoiding eating out is going to be strange!
Specific questions:
  • If you've self-catered in Norway, what worked well/badly for you?
  • Are there things we should look out for in Norwegian supermarkets that make particularly good easy meals?
  • Are there hidden gems in Oslo, Trondheim or Bergen that are cheap and/or particularly worth the cost of eating out? Street food or similar? Bonus points for things that are characteristically Norwegian.
  • Any info about food onboard the Hurtigruten boats?
Thanks hive mind!
posted by Cheese Monster to Travel & Transportation around Norway (17 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
A lot of Norwegian home cuisine seems to consist of putting salty things on bread and eating it so as Australians you should have no problems acclimating. I, personally, enjoy pickled fish, smoked fish etc and the chewy bread but ymmv and really you can can buy almost anything in small town Norway these days. But I would suggest buying local bread and a selection of the various spreads and fish things in jars that people like and at least trying it. Smoked or pickled herring is great, smoked is breakfast food and pickled is for lunch. Also lingonberry jam- yum. Norway is only of the only places you can find it sold commercially.
posted by fshgrl at 8:37 PM on June 11, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: My self-catering experience is limited because I was hiking and didn't have a kitchen, but I quite enjoyed Norwegian style sandwiches for breakfast/lunch, trying lots of new cheeses including brown cheese, jams, smoked salmon and all the stuff that comes in tubes like caviar and flavored cheese. Try the Norwegian bread or crispbread instead of stuff you're used to.

I believe you can buy frozen meatballs, fish balls etc which might be fun. Street food... well it's not classically Norwegian but they have put their own spin on it: kebabs.
posted by acidic at 8:42 PM on June 11, 2017

So I looked at the meny for a Chinese restaurant in Oslo. A plate of Singapore noodles will set you back 188 krona, which is just under thirty Ozbucks. A serve of curry puffs will set you back twelve bucks. Short soup? Another twelve. This is a fairly upscale-seeming Chinese restaurant (called Dim Sum by Taste of China, for reference) and those prices seem pretty average to me. If we extrapolate that out and apply it to Norway in general, I submit that what you'll be paying over there is about what you'll be paying here.

Seems like the Scandinavians have some of the most expensive McDonald's' in the world, however, so you can rule that out.

You don't go to Norway to eat Chinese food or Maccas of course, but even the lunsjmeny at the (probably) famous and certainly fancy-looking Engebret on Bankplassen shows that it will cost $AU28 for a traditional dish of cured herring, potatoes, cheese, beetroot, and red onion. That seems fine, I guess? Depends how much you get.

Have fun!
posted by turbid dahlia at 9:05 PM on June 11, 2017

Best answer: I stayed in an apartment-style place in Oslo a couple of years back and self-catered most meals. It was great. Villa Park Apartments, Inkognitogaten 26, Frogner Oslo. Highly recommend. Right near the Castle, which has great gardens for picnics. (Although they close the gates before it gets dark at night, and the nice soldiers will ask you to leave if you are still there.)

I just went to the supermarket and bought what looked good, with heavy emphasis on interesting dairy products, and fresh fruit (it was summer). I usually stopped at bakeries during the day to buy fresh rolls and/or cake. Bakery prices are very reasonable - cheaper than Oz for most things.

Cafes were a little more expensive than Oz, and sit-down meals about double or triple what you'd pay here. I went out to a sit-down dinner once, and a sit-down lunch once, both places carefully chosen for local, traditional Norwegian food with great reviews. Totally worth it. Buying alcohol at restaurants is ridiculous and not worth it - if I recall right it was something like $25 for a glass of cheap wine or $18 for a beer. Better to self-cater that from supermarkets and have a glass before going out.
posted by lollusc at 9:39 PM on June 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

Norway has some really unusual cheeses. They aren't my favorite, but when in Oslo...

Also, the pickled fish will be amazing. Consider making an exception to your vegetarianism for it.
posted by Toddles at 9:41 PM on June 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oh, also, I just noticed you mentioned you are vegetarian. I was travelling with a vegetarian for part of the time, and the restaurant food options he found were not good. Expensive and boring (like $20 for a bowl of steamed frozen vegetables, or a salad that was mostly spinach with canned sweet corn on top). As far as cafe food and self-catered food went, though, he was fine, because he eats dairy, so we could share cheese platters and buy bakery things.
posted by lollusc at 9:47 PM on June 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

omg Gamalost looks and sounds amazing. Please promise to try some!
posted by turbid dahlia at 10:14 PM on June 11, 2017

Best answer: We survived 2 weeks of Norway basically on fresh bread, cheese spreads, packaged potato salad and salmon steaks grilled on these single-use grills you can buy at any petrol station (or prepare in your AirBnB's kitchen if you're not camping). All bought from local grocery shops/supermarkets. The salmon was excellent. All self-respecting supermarkets also had a cooler with fresh prawns to be bought by kilo! In retrospect, I wish we took the time and made something with prawns at least once.
posted by gakiko at 1:45 AM on June 12, 2017

Best answer: Norway is the most expensive country in Europe - in part because the have high toll walls against produce from other countries, and in part because local produce is expensive to grow. I'm not an experienced traveller in Norway, and since I was a child I've only been there for work, meaning most meals were taken care of by someone else. These meals at restaurants were unfailingly good, so it's not that you can't get good food, it's that it is expensive. Norway has taken up the New Nordic Cuisine ideology, both in restaurants and in shops - look for the word "kortreist" on labels or signs which means short traveled. Since I haven't noted down the names of places I've eaten, I googled New Nordic in Norway and found this promotional article The voices of the new Nordic cuisine.
When I have needed to provide for myself, I've just gone to the local supermarket and bought something I liked the look of. In Bergen, there is a wonderful fish-market where there are food stalls and they are actually quite reasonable in price. I've read there is a food market in Oslo called Mathallen with food stalls as well, and it seems very nice.
The thing is, like everywhere else in the North, Norway is very fish- and (lambs) meat-centric for natural reasons. You should be able to get some wonderful wild mushrooms and berries. And they have several interesting cheeses.
Finally, Norwegians love their pastries and cakes and waffles and pancakes - well you get the gist. Going for a coffee is koselig and delicious.
posted by mumimor at 2:08 AM on June 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

Sorry, I said to buy alcohol at the supermarket. That was misleading shorthand. I meant, at shops, rather than restaurants. You can buy beer at the supermarket, but not wine. You have to go to an alcohol shop (vinmonpolet) for anything higher than a few percent. It's still much cheaper than restaurant prices, though.
posted by lollusc at 2:20 AM on June 12, 2017

BTW I couldn't resist googling for reviews of the restaurant turbid dahlia mentioned up there: This is a fairly upscale-seeming Chinese restaurant (called Dim Sum by Taste of China, for reference)
The first review in Dagbladet has it on the list of cheap good restaurants in Oslo. It says the prices there are good for empty pocketbooks. I know, it's crazy, but the Norwegians earn a lot more than the rest of us, too.
posted by mumimor at 3:59 AM on June 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

Hardbread and (brown goat-) cheese are available at supermarkets, very Norwegian, and (lacto) vegetarian. Use a Norwegian cheese cutter which is also available at supermarkets.
posted by meijusa at 4:30 AM on June 12, 2017

7-11 in Norway has really good sandwiches. (As an American, this surprised me; our 7-11s have sandwiches but they are not good.)

When you arrive in Norway stop at the duty-free stop in the airport and buy as much alcohol as you can. Don't worry, all the Norwegians will be doing the same. (Even the ones who don't drink, because they'll be passing it on to their friends who do drink.)

Eat lots of berries. They're not particularly cheap but they are delicious.
posted by madcaptenor at 7:56 AM on June 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

Seconding the 7-11 rec, with an equal measure of surprise. There are other similar places as well - those convenience store sandwiches were a godsend in Norway.

If we extrapolate that out and apply it to Norway in general, I submit that what you'll be paying over there is about what you'll be paying here.

I ate two meals in relatively expensive restaurants in Oslo. At the Indian restaurant, it was US$35 for a chicken curry with rice and a cup of chai. At the Vietnamese diner-type place in Grünnerløka, it was US$25 for a plate of noodles and chicken with a diet coke. Food in Norway is indeed crazy-expensive.

posted by lunasol at 11:55 AM on June 12, 2017

My vegetarian wife and I will be in Oslo at the end of next week, staying a few nights at a self-catering apartment, so I'll check back in after we get home - hopefully that'll still be prior to your trip and I can give up-to-date relevant information.

We've looked around on Google maps, and there's a few places that we'll probably try out, but we'll probably mostly stick to middle eastern stuff - I've found a falafel sandwich at a place for 90K, which is about $10US. There's also a Loving Hut near where we're staying, which serves totally vegan food - their burgers and wraps are all under 100K (although they're pretty full of woo as a company/ organization). I'll report back if we find any hidden gems, either for the OP or for posterity.
posted by LionIndex at 1:35 PM on June 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

LionIndex, you want to go to Istanbul Kebab. In four nights in Oslo we went there twice. (It probably helped that we were staying in an AirBnB in the same building.)
posted by madcaptenor at 5:33 PM on June 12, 2017

Best answer: I'm back!

So, my wife and I went to Oslo, on a trip that also included longer stops in Stockholm and Copenhagen. We had a studio apartment on Parkveien that we got through, owned by something called The Apartments Company, which had their HQ right down the street from where we were staying. The kitchen in our place was kind of meh, and we weren't staying long enough to really get anything at the store that would take a while to consume, so our self-catering mostly involved cheese sandwiches. If you're going to Oslo purely for sightseeing purposes, you shouldn't need much more than 48 hours to see just about everything on your list. But this question is about food.

I kind of got the feeling that Oslo is actually a bit cheaper than Copenhagen in a lot of respects, although it seemed like there was a lot more street food in Copenhagen. Things are still pretty expensive compared to US standards. I hardly saw a hot dog vendor in Oslo, but in the evenings there were a few food trucks down at the harbor by the Nobel Peace Center. I didn't check the prices on them. We went out a couple times while there - a late lunch/early dinner at the Loving Hut the day we arrived, and a nicer lunch at a bistro by the National Gallery. Both meals were really good - with Loving Hut, you don't feel like you're missing anything by eating vegan food (and I say that as an omnivore). We had a BBQ medley plate, a falafel sandwich, a side of fries, and an order of (2) summer rolls, and it all came to around 350K. The other place we went was Elias, which is a slightly foodie bistro with quite a few decent vegetarian options. My wife had the omelet, and I had the salmon and egg. Mid-100K level for an entree at a table service restaurant is not bad.

On our walk from our hotel to Loving Hut, we passed a few signs for restaurants advertising vegan food - I don't know if it was just the neighborhood or what, but our small sample of places seemed to offer pretty good options. I don't think you'd do as well along the main drag (Karl Johans Gate) or in the more touristy areas around city hall. It seemed like there was a sushi place every 100 feet everywhere in town.

We didn't do much cooking, but we did go to a couple stores in town. One was Coop, and the other was Rema, both in the vicinity of our apartment. If you have the facilities, you can definitely do well with self-catering, even with simple stuff. The store contents were fairly similar to what you'd find in the states, and prices weren't bad (although we weren't looking at alcohol). Frozen pizzas went for 35-40K. I'm pretty sure our whole shopping trip, where we got fruit, bread, cheese, cookies and some other stuff, cost less than a single meal at a restaurant.
posted by LionIndex at 5:21 PM on July 1, 2017

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