No Sombreros at Serrano


No Sombreros at Serrano

Young businessman Emil Helgi Lárusson talks the success story of his U.S.-Mexican-inspired fast food.

Published in the 2013 October-December issue of Iceland Review – IR 05.13. By Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir. Photo by Páll Stefánsson.


Good avocado is expensive but it’s worth it,” smiles Emil Helgi Lárusson, inviting me to nachos with freshly made guacamole when we meet at Serrano, the fast food chain he runs with Einar Örn Einarsson. “We make all our sauces from scratch.” Judging by the popularity of Serrano’s burritos, salads and quesadillas—such as the favored Mission Burrito with pork, rice, fried vegetables, fresh salsa, pinto beans, corn and chipotle sauce—customers appreciate the effort.

Healthy Food on the Go

“We use top-quality ingredients, the food is prepared on location and we don’t use any additives,” states Emil. The fusion of flavors in Serrano’s fast food—Thai, Greek, South and North American—results in the wide range of fresh ingredients used, explains Emil. Their master chefs avoid using spices, salt and oils to excess when coming up with new recipes. “To begin with we didn’t have any fixed items on the menu,” says Emil. “But then we thought people might always choose the same combination and eventually grow tired of it.” The food served at Serrano has its roots in the U.S. but not Mexico, as is sometimes assumed. “It’s an American version of Mexican food originating in the Mission District in San Francisco,” reveals Emil. “We haven’t marketed ourselves as a classic Mexican restaurant. There are no sombreros here.”

The first Serrano restaurant opened in Kringlan shopping mall in Reykjavík in 2002. But the idea came to Emil and Einar some years earlier. “We were backpacking in South America for six months in 1998-1999. After graduating from junior college we decided to take a gap year to go traveling,” Emil recounts.

You can read the remainder of this article in the October-December issue of Iceland Review – IR 05.13.

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