Paula tagged me, and when I saw what I had been tagged with, I immediately felt at a loss. You see, my relationship with restaurants in Bergen is, well, more or less non-existent for a couple of reasons.
First of all, my company has an excellent employee cafeteria and a hot dinner Monday through Thursday. I get my dose of salted cod, or Ma’s meatballs, or lapskaus (Norwegian Mulligan stew) there, cheaply and without the fuss or leftovers such dishes cause a single gal (who doesn’t really know how to make them, anyway).
Secondly, though Norwegians eat out far more than they used to, and the variety of restaurants and types of food has multiplied the last couple of decades, it is still relatively expensive to eat out in this country, and so it’s not done that often, not even weekly. People who do eat out once a week or more either have an expense account or still live at home and pay no rent. So if I’m going to fork over that much money, I want to feel it was worth it. Which brings me to:
Thirdly, I might eat out more often if I actually liked the food. The best food and service cost accordingly, making those experiences not something to do on a weekly basis, and sometimes not even monthly. Since I get my dose of typical Norwegian food at work, I tend to focus on the town’s foreign restaurants, but they don’t satisfy my tastebuds. The American restaurants in town taste cheap to me, like an attempt at mimicking American that almost but not quite succeeds. We have a Mexican restaurant, but it must be some kind of hybrid. It offers no dishes I know from California, and there’s never any refried beans or yellow rice, but there is the ubiquitous handful of green salad, which may sport a tomato, but never any dressing.
That said, there are a few places I would recommend to visitors, as well as prioritize for myself, depending on occassion:
- For some of the city’s best sandwiches, and conveniently located right off the main square behind Hotel Norge, there’s Godt Brød (Good Bread). You can also get a variety of teas and coffees there. My favorite place to rest my feet and get a bite while shopping.
- For something to eat on the go, or the basis for dinner, try hot fish cakes at Søstrene Hagelin (the sisters Hagelin) – an institution in Bergen, and just up the street from Godt Brød. You can sit down to a hot meal there, too.
- For something exclusively “bergensk” (of the city of Bergen), there is Bryggeloftet & Bryggestuene (Wharf Loft & Wharf Rooms), right on Bryggen itself. The decor downstairs (The Rooms) features paintings of old-time Bergen on every wall. Upstairs (The Loft) is more like a Norwegian lodge. The menu features uniquely Norwegian dishes, elevated to fine cuisine. The service is quick and good and the employees are very used to tourists. Try the local specialty: Bergen’s fish soup.
- For dining with a spectacular view and excellent service, there’s the restaurant at the top of the funicular: Fløien Folkerestaurant (Fløien Folk Restaurant). More expensive than Bryggeloftet, but if you want to extend your stay on Bergen’s roof, this is a good place to do it. They have an exclusive fish and shellfish stew which is one of the best seafood dishes I have ever had in my life. For the lunch crowd, they offer a cafeteria-style hot meal.
- Finally – at a mid-priced range – your typical family restaurant, Norwegian style: Restaurant Lido. It’s on a corner across the street from the tourist office, and if you’re lucky, you can get a table with a view of Bergen’s open-air fish market and watch the comings and goings of the locals. The food is typical fare for a Norwegian cafeteria (which brings back childhood memories), and the place appeals to older Norwegians because there’s nothing exotic or demanding about either food, furnishing or atmosphere. That and the tables set with paper tablecloths and crayons also make it a popular restaurant for folks with kids. Some of the guests’ more artistic doodles hang on the wall.
I used to go to this restaurant one Saturday a month with my friend Elsa, and we’d order “today’s special” and the house wine (meaning, watch the cashier pump some box wine into a carafe). We’d then spend hours talking and looking out the windows at life outside. Never a dull moment.
Lido has no website of its own, but it and many other Bergen restaurants are listed here.
PS: I’m not tagging anyone for my own screwy reasons.