It’s not a surprise that Nordic cuisine has been the epicenter of elite culinary scene in recent years due to an impressive focus on local produce, organic vegetables and ecological seafood farms. Stockholm, in particular, offers a star-studded Michelin list of fine-dining options. Most notably are: Frantzén, Oaxen Krog and Gastrologik.
A deeper dive into Stockholm’s foodie scene, however, is a closer glimpse into back pocket restaurants, or bakficka. Typically run by Michelin-starred chefs, bakficka are food bars or classic mini bistros that offer premium-quality traditional Swedish dishes. Gastrologik’s bakficka restaurant Speceriet, for instance, is the perfect spot for well-made food in smaller portions without the enormous price tag. For another similar option, try Operakällaren’s bakfickan. Operakällaren is one of the most exclusive and legendary restaurants in Stockholm, but its bakfickan is a smaller and more intimate experience to indulge in old-time favorites, including the iconic Swedish meatballs.
Let’s not forget, the Swedish adore Asian flavors. Hence, there’s no shortage of Asian-fusion restaurants in Stockholm. Not only will you find Indian dishes offered by food trucks rolling through the city, you can also make a reservation at Farang – an excellent example of a 5-7 courses of Asian-inspired tasting menu.
During my brief stay in Stockholm, a few friendly locals gave me a short list of their favorite restaurants. Here’s a simple food guide that’ll open your palate to fresh herrings and raw reindeers with a whole lotta Swedish zest.
Restaurang Loén – best gluten-free fine-dining
Rådmansgatan 23, 114 25 Stockholm, Sweden
This open kitchen collective seats 12-15 people for a cozy dining experience so everyone can watch their dishes being prepared. A new fine-dining restaurant at the former Duck & Crab’s location, chefs Nicholas and Oskar envisioned a delicious paradise of small dishes. The rustic wooden furniture and Scandinavian designs extend a warming welcome to compliment vintage dishware serving international small plates meant to be shared with your entire party. There’s a wide array of gluten-free options, including: Truffle Salami (even whole sausages) and Tagliatelle. The truffle collection is delightfully dynamic, ranging from black to butter. The wine is just as seasonal and innovative as the food, do we even need to mention the natural wine selection? Bon app.
Bistro Arsenalen – best traditional Swedish cuisine
Arsenalsgatan 3, 111 47 Stockholm, Sweden
Known for its fantastic traditional Swedish menu, Bistro Arsenalen is a fan favorite among locals and travelers. Situated in the heart of Stockholm, Arsenalen is a classic restaurant with a former location now overtaken by the new Chanel boutique. Arsenalen’s new location features the same owners, same menu and the same heartwarming atmosphere. You can find much of Swedish cuisine’s simple yet contrasting flavors in dishes such as: Swedish Tenderloin Carpaccio with Pine Nuts and Fried Fillet of Perch with Asparagus, Clam, Wild Garlics Velouté and Trout Roe. You’ll meet a great mix of people here, from baby boomers to Gen X’s. As my local friends told me, they love it here because they can’t get enough of the food.
Den Gyldene Freden – 2nd oldest restaurant in the world
Österlånggatan 51, 111 31 Stockholm, Sweden
One of the oldest restaurants in the world is also the most renowned in Sweden, Den Gyldene Fredon has been a favorite of writers, poets, and artists throughout the years. Freden, meaning “peace,” is located in the beloved old town Gamla Stan area of Stockholm. Every week, Every Thursday, the Academy – the organization which nominates the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature – still upholds the tradition of dining here. Not only is the restaurant inn the Guinness World Records, it also services upscale Nordic cuisine.
Sturehof – best seafood
Stureplan 2, 114 35 Stockholm, Sweden
Needless to say, seafood is an imperative part of Swedish cuisine thanks to the Baltic Sea. A picked herring, or inlagd sill, is a must-try for anyone who’s never had this sweetened appetizer. Some might bolster a love-hate relationship with surströmming, or fermented Baltic herring. Lobsters and shrimps arrive from the Skaggerrak coast, while farmed salmon come from neighboring Norway. For the ultimate eatery to try out Stockholm’s best selection of Swedish seafood, head over to Sturhof. Centrally located, Sturhof is one of the most historic restaurants in the city by recently celebrating its 130th anniversary. The car company Volvo was also conceived in this restaurant, where Assar Gabrielsson and Gustaf Larson agreed to launch the automobile company in 1924. Herring, shellfish, meatballs, creamy sauces and potatoes are just some traditional yet juicy highlights.
Taverna Brillo – most stylish crowd
Sturegatan 6, 114 35 Stockholm, Sweden
Taverna Brillo is where influencers and Stockholm’s posh crowds hang out. It’s the city’s most popular hotspot during weekend brunches, if you’re one to see or be seen, then grab a table and top it with a glass of chilled chardonnay. The tasty menu is Italian-influenced, developed by local celebrity chef Tommy Myllimäki. The stylish restaurant’s main dining room is surrounded by two bars, in addition to a pizzeria, bread shop, charcuterie, deli counter, orangery and an ice cream parlor. If you’re not too hungry, Brillo is a fantastic spot to start your night out with a few glasses of wine.
Food trucks on Södermalm island – best local vibes
In Stockholm, there are approximately twenty different food trucks gracing city sidewalks, offering fabulous food at accessible prices. Download StreetKäk to locate all the food trucks in Stockholm. If not, head over to Södermalm where you’ll discover Hornstulls market (Hornstullsstrand) then stumble upon quite a few food trucks from Vietnamese Bánh Mì sandwiches to Mexican enchiladas. Some names to remember: Strömmingsvagnen is a popular truck for herring and potatoes, Gnarly Burger and S.W.A.T. are also high in demand.
Max – best late-night snack
A trip to Scandinavia wouldn’t be complete without a stop at Max Burgers. Founded in Sweden as the country’s first hamburger chain, Max is the only franchise to outcompete McDonald’s in the region. Since burgers are made-to-order, the wait might take longer than other fast food restaurants. Its climate-positive menu is an added draw, Max’s burgers have 110% of their climate emissions offset. In addition to planting trees that absorb and store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as they grow, Max goes further to capture the carbon dioxide equivalent of another 10% of their emissions to help reduce the overall levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. This means, your late-night grub actually helps fight climate change.