In Stockholm, you’ll find everything from traditional home cooking to a half-dozen Michelin-star restaurants, whose chefs are whizzes at inventive globally influenced twists on local seafood, game and fresh produce like lingonberries and cloudberries. If you think you know Swedish food because of eating at the IKEA restaurant, you’re in for a delightful surprise. Here are some must-try treats and where to find them.
Sweden’s best-known food gift to the world, it’s a generous assortment of hot and cold dishes served buffet-style; “smorgasbord” means “bread and butter table.” Swedes eat the components in a certain order: First fish, such as pickled herring, cured salmon and smoked eel. Then cold meats, salad and egg dishes; later, hot dishes like meatballs and cooked vegetables (such as boiled potatoes and asparagus), and finally, dessert.
Where to find it: From May through August, a wonderful smorgasbord is served at the Veranda restaurant in the Grand Hôtel, the luxury hotel whose guests range from celebrities and nobility to Nobel Prize winners during the awards. If you’re near the Skansen open-air history museum, try smorgasboard at Solliden Restaurant.
These sandwiches are open-faced, meaning one slice of bread with a heaping topping. One of the most delicious is shrimp piled high with sliced boiled egg, onion, mayonnaise and lettuce on buttered bread. Often, it’s topped with crème fraȋche flavored with dill (Sweden’s favorite herb) and fish roe. It’s so popular that there’s a saying, “glide in on a shrimp sandwich” but roughly corresponding to the expression ‘get a free ride’, meaning to get an advantage without having done anything to deserve it.
Where to find it: A classic shrimp sandwich is served in a cozy atmosphere in a modernized open, airy 17th-century building at Restaurant Långa Raden in Hotel Skeppsholmen.
Thinly sliced salmon cured with dill, usually served with mustard sauce, is enjoyed as an appetizer and is always part of a smorgasbord.
Where to find it: It’s one of many traditional Swedish specialties at moderately priced Restaurant Tradition, which features modern Swedish design, Swedish music and an outdoor courtyard in Gamla Stan (Old Town), right next to the Royal Palace.
Yummy meatballs, a mix of ground beef and pork with allspice, served with lingonberries and potato puree or boiled potatoes, are made in different ways. Some contain grated onion, others have diced onion fried separately, some are served with thick meat gravy, others with thin meat juice.
Where to find them: You can find these at many restaurants through the city.
These tart, tiny red berries seem to be Sweden’s favorite fruit. You’ll find them everywhere, gracing meatballs, pancakes, black puddings, desserts, etc., from home cooking to haute cuisine; whole or in jam or sauce form. Many Swedes recall fond childhood memories of picking them in a forest and making them into jam.
Västerbotten cheese is named after a region in northern Sweden. A hard yellow cow’s milk cheese with tiny holes that tastes like a combination of Parmesan and cheddar, it is often eaten on crisp bread with figs, grapes or other fruits. But it’s very popular in this quiche-like pie, sold everywhere from farmers markets to supermarkets.
Where to find it: At Restaurant Tradition, this cheese pie is part of a tasting menu (minimum two people) of classic Swedish foods that range from gravlax and meatballs to fried mustard-breaded Baltic herring and toast Skagen.
Toast Skagen is shrimp mixed with chopped dill, mayonnaise and lemon, topped with a mass of whitefish roe atop toast sautéed in butter. This dish is a popular appetizer at Swedish dinner parties.
Where to find it: Try it at Sturehof, a seafood-focused restaurant founded in 1897 that’s open 365 days a year. Or go to Riche, a fancy Paris-inspired bistro in a setting of crystal chandeliers, gold-framed mirrors and white tablecloths.
There are levels to potato dumplings. Choose traditional potato dumplings served with smoked bacon, onions, butter and (surprise) lingonberry jam. Or maybe you’d prefer fried dumplings with cream sauce and lingonberry jam or the vegetarian version with mushrooms, cabbage and onions. And yes, there’s even a gluten-free version and twists like Italian-style gnocchi with pesto, spinach, tomatoes and Parmesan.
Where to find it: Potato dumplings are a specialty at Nalle & Kroppkakan, where the restaurant owners even wrote a book on them.
Folks from south Louisiana rejoice: The Swedes are as crazy about these bite-sized red mudbugs as you are. In fact, summer crayfish parties are a Swedish tradition. At these parties, the freshwater shellfish are cooked in a broth with dill flowers, beer and salt. But you don’t need to wait for an invite to a Stockholmer’s home party to enjoy it; restaurants like Sturehof start serving crayfish around August 8, while the Grand Hôtel’s Veranda starts its crayfish buffet around August 18.
A casserole of potato strips mixed with anchovies, onions, bread crumbs and cream, it’s a classic part of smorgasbords during holidays like Christmastime, Midsummer (June 24 in 2016) and Easter.