How many of you have ever eaten at IKEA? Sure, I've eaten the $1 frozen yogurt countless times (so good, even in the winter), and even get the $1 cinnamon bun (not the best, but a girl's gotta carb load sometimes) from the exit bistro in front of the registers, but have you ever actually sat down in their restaurant to have a meal?Me neither. I've never even taken a peak at what's beyond the large sign advertising IKEA's meal deals before I head down the stairs from the showroom. The most I've done is scan the large sign to see that nothing looks too appetizing or veggie-friendly. I also thought that what they advertised on that large board (pictured above) was all that they offered, which is to say, not much. Boy, was I wrong. Come with me as I walk behind that sign and into IKEA's restaurant.First of all, the restaurant area is huge, and is more like a cafeteria than a restaurant. You line up, grab a tray and silver ware, and push your tray along the ledge in front of desserts (just like cafeterias, they tempt you with dessert first), salads, and sandwiches behind glass doors that you can lift up, reach in, and grab what pleases you.Then you move to the hot line (just like cafeterias) where a person behind the counter serves you up a scoop on this or that (mac and cheese, steamed veggies, Swedish meatballs, chicken tenders, glazed salmon, rice, pasta, etc.), and can even pan sear your meat to order.
Then, if you wish, you can move to the salad bar to make your own salad of fresh veggies, fruits, and other typical salad bar toppings. Grab a bag of chips, a cookie, or a cup of yogurt, and a glass for your beverage, and pay.
Seriously, I had no idea that I could make a salad at IKEA, or eat yogurt, or get a side of rice with steamed veggies. I thought my options were limited to what was on that large board before I headed down the stairs. Guess that's what I get for not actually looking!I was also surprised to see so many people eating at IKEA (the place is huge, and I sat away from everyone, so that's why it looks empty in the pic above). Mostly families with small children, and the elderly meeting up with friends were partaking of IKEA's restaurant when I was there, and I can see why -- cheap, fast eats in a kid-friendly environment for the families, and cheap eats in a cafeteria-style environment for the elderly (old folks just love cafeterias).
If you sit at the large window overlooking the parking lot, it's quite relaxing watching the people scurry to and from their cars, plus there's the surreal, massive ocean liner docked across the way to daydream about (only at the South Philly IKEA).So what did I eat? I forwent the roasted pepper, basil, and mozzarella panini and the prepared salads in the glass case, and grabbed a dessert -- Swedish apple cake with vanilla sauce. I grabbed this specifically because I've been eying the boxes of vanilla sauce they sell in the food shop by the exit, thinking the sauce would be great drizzled on bread pudding. The vanilla sauce was good, but a little thinner than I imagined it would be.
The apple cake was perfectly fine, and would have been better if it were warm instead of cold from sitting in a cooler. If you like their desserts, just run down to the food market; most are boxed, sitting in the freezer. Yeah, my Swedish apple cake was once frozen, but not bad at all.
From the hot line, I ordered the vegetable pytti panna (don't ask; must be Swedish -- bork, bork, bork) with a dollop of basil sauce. The basil sauce tasted more like honey mustard, but, stirred into the veggie medley, added some flavor to the bland and healthy tasting dish. If the cubed potatoes had been browned and crisped, this dish of mixed veggies and potatoes would make for a great hash brown-type breakfast.
I suspect the vegetable pytti panna was also frozen at some point, not that there is anything wrong with that in this cafeteria-caliber setting (frozen veggies are ofter fresher than non-frozen). I also suspect that there is only minimal cooking in IKEA's restaurant -- mostly heating of frozen foods and prepping. Kind of like a cafeteria!
So, for $6.72, I got a tasty dessert and a bland, but decent entree. I'm certainly not suggesting you run to IKEA to eat, but if you're in need of some nourishment so you can make your way through the maze that is IKEA without passing out, they do have more than Swedish meatballs. Although, almost everyone was ordering the Swedish meatballs!
Now I know. And now you know.
2206 S. Columbus Blvd, Philadelphia, PA 19148
Mon-Sat, 9:30 am-8:30 pm; Sun, 9:30 am-6:30 pm