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For centuries, Copenhagen has been a charming, village-like city, known for its fairy-tale center, filled with bicyclists living out a bohemian existence. Unlike, Italy and France, food was never a main draw for the visiting tourist. An American on their way to the fjords would be prepared to pay $8 for a cup of coffee and an additional $10 for an accompanying cake. A typical meal in a café would cost around $55 for two people and consist of food that was basically meat, potatoes and Carlsberg.
All that has changed in the past five years with the triumphant arrival of noma, now regarded as one of the world’s best restaurants. Thanks to chefs like René Redzepi and Claus Meyer, local Nordic produce, seafood and meats are being reinvented on a broad scale across the country. Here’s a quick rundown on some of the best places to sample Danish food in Copenhagen at its finest within a reasonable budget (sort of…).
Beloved by Monocle and Wallpaper, The Royal Café feels like a warped Japanese- Danish version of Alice in Wonderland. Sit underneath an enormous portrait of Danish royalty and over-sized chandeliers while sampling Danish cuisine’s main staple, smørrebrød (translated as “open-face sandwich”). The “smushie” is the café’s specialized version that combines Asian and Danish ingredients such as pickled herring, curried apples and watercress. Eat in style with Georg Jensen flatware and beautiful, mussel-blue Royal Copenhagen plates while seated on an Arne Jacobsen barstool.
The more traditional version of smørrebrød can be found at the ever-popular Aamanns. Come in the summer time, order lunch to go and have an impromptu picnic in front of Rosenborg Castle just down the street. Sample classic open-face sandwiches such as smoked salmon with cauliflower puree and pickled onions or roast beef served with homemade remoulade, horseradish and chives, all served on freshly baked bread. If you can’t make it to Copenhagen, visit their newly opened outpost in TriBeCa on 13 Laight Street. You might find yourself rubbing shoulders with royalty as the Danish Crown Prince Frederik and his wife, Mary have been spotted grabbing a snack there.
Awarded a Bib Gourmand by the Michelin guides, Fiskebar serves up some of the country’s best seafood at very reasonable prices. Located in the buzzing Meatpacking and Red Light district (Kødbyen), Fiskebar greets visitors with a giant, sparkling aquarium filled with exotic jellyfish. Serving classics from the sea, the menu changes based on the seasons, but always offers perennial favorites such as fresh oysters from Limfjorden, mussels from the North Sea and cod seared in brown butter. Afterwards, head just a few steps to some of Copenhagen’s coolest bars and art galleries such as The White Room or Karrierebar.
A cool mix of scruffy, raw design and high-end art, Karrierebar is a gallery, restaurant and bar all rolled into one. The venue has showcased works by artists such as Olafur Eliasson, Maurizio Cattelan, Carsten Höller and Rirkrit Tiravanija. Rivaling the artworks are the master bartenders whose innovative cocktails always draw in the crowds. Order the refreshing “Red Cow” – a fusion of aquavit from Aalborg, lime, mint and ginger or the “Mario Mantequilla” – basically a scrumptious peanut butter sandwich explosion with agave syrup, homemade raspberry jam and nut-infused Corralejo Blanco tequila.