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Review by Diana
Or you have to go to the bathroom and it's hidden in some obscure "department" of a store ... or you're thirsty and you have to leave the store or be grumpy. But if you go to IKEA, there is a reason to go, whether you need to do any shopping or not. It's the cafeteria/restaurant! It's usually on the second level, but check the signs when you get into the entrance.
It's a showcase for products sold in the store, including furniture, dishes, silverware, even the food. The menu is simple and limited -- Americanized Swedish fare that is not really all the adventurous. Thus it appeals to kids and men! If you opt to go through the whole store from showrooms to marketplace, the restaurant and bathrooms magically appear at about midway through.
The menu is thus: meatballs and gravy served with lingonberry jam and steamed red potatoes; poached salmon; mesclun salad with creamy poppyseed dressing; open faced shrimp sandwich; apple cake; a queen cake with green marzipan icing; hot dogs and fries for kids; lingonberry juice, sodas, coffee, etc. That's really about it, though sometimes they have a couple of different soups with an appropriately austere Scandinavian touch, like cream of carrot, and steamed vegetables. But it's done very well, it's fresh, and the place really caters for families.
You pick up the tray and tell the people behind the steam table what you want, or you pick up the cold items from the chilled case. Kids love this, they love making choices, they love dispensing the soda themselves, sitting in booths, etc. It's a very kid-friendly place.
But the reason I love the cafeteria is the "manager's special" -- 20 IKEA meatballs, pale gravy, a small salad, a drink, 4 steamed red potatoes, a dollop of lingonberry jam and a sprig of parsley, for $5.95! The meatballs are not like any others. You can buy them frozen by the bag; like all frozen meatballs, there is a sort of rubbery surface, but that's honestly part of the appeal. They taste good, they are simple and cheap and everyone loves them, even if lingonberry jam is the only exotic thing on the plate.
I'm all for off-the-wall date spots, and the IKEA Cafeteria qualifies. Besides, if your significant others start mooning about how nice it would be to have kids, take him or her here and let them watch the families try to deal with kids in a store where touching and feeling is okay and expected. So in addition to the great food, you are providing a good social service!
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