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Copenhagen The Smørrebrød Heritage
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Copenhagen The Smørrebrød Heritage

The classic Danish open sandwich was originally just bread and butter – Smor og Brod – and has established itself as a staple of Denmark's traditional lunch items. Though fancy and gourmet versions now exist, here are five unmissable addresses to discover how the story of this sandwich began, ranging from humble establishments to super cool new wave chefs.

Eating out in Copenhagen is an experience which blends the country’s historical tradition and cultural heritage with its ability to constantly renew and reinvent itself from generation to generation.

The famous Danish ‚open sandwich‘ is often found in small, unpretentious, (until recently) smoke-filled, dark basement-like establishments below street level. By remaining true to their heritage, these restaurants have become go-to places in Denmark’s culinary scene for all generations, from children to grandparents alike.

Comfort food with no frills

Many of these establishments have been around for over 75 years, earning them great loyalty from customers who seek comfort in the dimly-lit, dark interiors, where sand adorns the floor, and the smell of Scandinavian Aquavit is strong. It’s a glimpse into a bygone era. This attention to tradition and heritage accounts for these restaurants‘ popularity, and thusly, it is only in the nuances and minutiae that one can tell these places apart: an extra slice of cucumber here, onion compote rather than raw slices there… The differences are subtle, so as not to imbalance the essence of the trusted Smørrebrød.

No gourmet here

This traditional food is the perfect antidote to the intricacies of today’s internationally acclaimed ‘Nordic Cuisine’, and the antithesis to all the experimentation taking place in Denmark’s modern kitchens. The Open Sandwich is straightforward: a single slice of dark rye bread (or white bread) with either pork fat or butter, dressed with either cold cuts, fish or veggies, and spiced with varying options. It is served cold on a plate, and accompanied with beer or schnapps. No wine list here!

This type of food offers comfort. In an age where healthy living reigns supreme, this delicacy is sure to contain everything your doctor disapproves of. When you sit down to enjoy a Danish open sandwich, just let go of it all and just enjoy what’s on your plate.

Culinary fads will come and go. Eventually we will tire of liquorice-flavoured rhubarb and fancy gimmicks of the sorts. But these traditional restaurants will stand strong, unchanged, and unnerved by the onslaught of changing times, thanks to their simple yet opulent, open sandwiches steeped in tradition and legend.

Here in the pictures are five highly recommend restaurants for the truly original open sandwich or places that play with the original concept and serve a modern version, often with a twist.

The Scandinavian bazaar When strolling along Europe’s longest pedestrian street, Strøget, step inside ILLUM – the first and unmatchable department store since 1891. The staircase is a piece of art and the range of Scandinavian designers is huge.
A Strøget rooftop Make your way to the ILLUM rooftop and enjoy the view. Many dining options await you; from a lavish breakfast in the morning onto a glass of wine, steak or lobster, Italian pizza, pasta at Eataly, aperitif options and more.
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