Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Swedish Restaurants: The Tapas Scam

OK, as I've written here before I'm not the biggest fan of Swedish cuisine and there are very few Swedish restaurants I think are worth the price of admission. A lot of this may be because I am vegetarian. While most Swedish restaurants have a veggie option, these options are often thought out by people who are obviously not vegetarian (a trait not unique to Swedish vegetarian cooking, and only shows that I am spoiled by growing up so close to NYC).

That said, there has been a trend for the last two years towards what I refer to as 'The Tapas Scam,' which has caused our list of possible restaurants for a nice night out to halve over the course of last year.

I realize Tapas is probably a wonderful thing to try while in Spain, or even at a fine Spanish style restaurant in Sweden specializing in Spanish food. But Swedish tapas, vegetarian style, are tiny plates of easily prepared cheap food for insane prices. For example, when one of our favorite regular restaurants went 'tapas' I ordered the garlic bread, halloumi, and soup. I got 3 slices of white bread with garlic butter, three slices of halloumi fried in olive oil, and a nice little cup of tomato soup, which wasn't bad, but wasn't anything to write home about. Each little plate would have cost 65-70SEk if ordered alone, but they cost 150SEK because I ordered them as an order of three.

Now lets say I was at a normal restaurant, even a normal Swedish restaurant. I might order a side of garlic bread with my Italian food. This side would usually be twice the size of my tapas bread, and cost about 35 SEK. If I had halloumi, it would normally be atop a salad, or sandwich, and thus be a bit more filling for the cost of 65-75 SEK. And a cup of soup? It usually ends up being about 65-75 SEK, but is often a bit bigger, and includes bread.

I get that it must be insanely expensive to run a restaurant in Sweden. I get that the overhead must make the owners cry on a regular basis. But what I don't get is why I have to pay through the roof for things even I, a rather basic chef, can produce at home with little to no effort or fanfare.

I cannot wait for this Tapas trend to be a blip in the memory of Sweden's strange culinary world.  


  1. Yep. Totally. I hear you.

  2. I don't know if you live in/or close to Stockholm, but if you ever visit you should really go to a vegitarian restaurant named Hermans at Söder. Then you'll get the view over Stockholm since it's at the "edge" of Söder overlooking Djurgården and Gamla Stan They have a really good all you can eat buffet for only 100 kr (including coffee!). I'm not a vegitarian nor are my friends but usually end up there all the time for lunch. You'll have to fight for the best spots with the insane amount of tourists though!

  3. Well, I am not a vegetarian but occasionally I eat vegetarian food. Best restaurant I have been to is "Martins gröna" at Regeringsgatan.
    Don't think it's vietnamese though.

    And here are some other restaurants that might be worth trying: http://www.stockholm365.se/vegetariskt.asp

    Happy eating
    (I hope that's an english phrase) :-)

  4. I second Anonymous's recommendation of Hermans. Örtagården in Nybrogatan is also brilliant, it isn't completely vegetarian but the meat and fish are on a small side buffet so it's very vegetarian friendly.

  5. OMG, its not just me! I thought I was spoiled by living in Prague. And thought maybe because I am located up in the middle of nowhere (Skelleftea). All in all, I have not been impressed by Swedish restaurants, or their prices, and would rather wait until I'm in the States or Prague to eat out. And I'm not vegetarian!

  6. Oooh, thanks for all of the great suggestions everyone! I'll have to give them a try when I'm in the neighborhood. Looking forward to Herman's and Martn's Grona.

    I don't mind if it isn't completely vegetarian, and I wouldn't mind paying a larger pricetag, if I knew I was going to have a really good meal.

    @Hilary -Hmmm, haven't spent as much time in Prague as I would like, but yum on the food. And good Indian as well.

    All this food talk is making me hungry - thankfully it's a great time of year to enjoy Swedish ice cream -which is always yum.

  7. I think tapas restaurants are the worst no matter what you order. Ordered some guacamole at a tapas restaurant and 50:- bowl was worth a half avocado. I went to a birthday party last year at a tapas restaurant and it was one of the biggest waste's of money. We all ordered one to two tapas and then got ice cream or some snack after the restaurant.

    Hermans is really nice. I also visited L'Hermitage in Gamla Stan which I loved. Surprisingly several of the Italian restaurants I have been to here serve great veggie dishes (Celine's on Hornsgatan - cute, simple, all under 100SEK; Pappa Grappa - only 3-4 veggie options but they are good, about 110-150SEK)

  8. hejhej

    we are a couple of vegans (my sambo is swedish) but im aussie..

    id reccomend you try a few restaurants like

    malaysia - has both vegan and vegetarian options and its cheaper on tuesdays (feel free to google)
    lao wai
    potstickers - they have a vegan dumpling at 2 locations
    tevere bageri in södermalm also has vegan pizza so woudl be suitable for vegetarians. a little pricy but nice to eat out...

  9. I'm Swedish, from Stockholm. but have lived in the Los Angeles for 11 years and London for 8 years. As for Skelleftea goes, you simply cannot expect the level of service and supply that you get in larger international cities, especially not like in NYC. That's simply unfair. The demand is simply not there, as anybody with a sense of simple supply and demand theory would understand. That goes for Stockholm as well. It's a very small city in comparison and does not have even close to the level of tourism as Prague and New York.

    It's like expecting to find what you are looking for in a small city in, say Arkansas. Good luck!