Sunday, July 29, 2007

IKEA Cafe and Restaurant - Guest Review

The first thing one notices about the IKEA store in Round Rock, Texas is its all-encompassing blueness and its abnormal hugeness. And that's saying something for a place in Texas. I think IKEA is Swedish for "I Keep Estimating Area," as you spend most of your semi-aimless wandering through the labyrinthine store wondering how many square feet the place actually covers. You might guess something in the vicinity of the Louisiana Purchase, but you'd be wrong, although the bargains to be had at IKEA are comparable. After getting over the sheer size of the place, as this was my first visit, I was glad to see white arrows on the floor and large blue signs every few feet directing traffic, faithfully leading me to the Café. (Yes, that's my finger - I'm still getting used to my new phone, and I wasn't sure what the Swedes would think of me taking pictures inside). Of course, these Swedish furniture makers are smart and make you walk through half the store to get to the Café, but this also builds a healthy appetite. Waves of relief coursed over my parched lips upon sight of the oasis they call the IKEA Restaurant and Café. Unsurprisingly, the Café is a spacious, well-lit, and strikingly colorful dining area. Ordering your food is akin to the process at Luby's. Pick up a tray, look at all the lovely food hiding behind the glass, then tell the nice lady (Helga) what you'd like to eat. It's a fairly painless process, unless you piss off Helga. Take my advice and just don't piss off Helga. The glass is not actually a sneeze-shield, it’s Helga-proofing. My appetite was pre-whetted for the Swedish Meatball plate. My wife ordered chicken enchiladas, a daring selection for a Mexican restaurant connoisseur at a Swedish restaurant in Central Texas. The enchiladas came with rice and steamed vegetables, but she had to order macaroni and cheese as they were out of steamed vegetables, likely due to the throngs of people both in the store and in the Café. The meatball plate also came with mac and cheese. We rounded off the meal with a piece of chocolate pie and a piece of apple cake. I was hoping to find a menu online. The best I could do was this PDF for an IKEA Café in Bolingbrook. The link from IKEA’s website for the Round Rock store was not working as of this writing. Our total price was under $15. The plates were cheap and they go to great extent to let people know they have to bus their own tables, thus allowing IKEA to sell plates on the cheap. I wish more places would do that. The wife's enchiladas were edible - not great, but not bad for a Swedish Café in Texas. The side dishes were likewise; something above the quality of your typical high school cafeteria, but nothing to write home about. The twelve bite-size meatballs were covered in the right amount of gravy. Unfortunately, or so I thought, there was a smattering of red lingonberry sauce making a none too subtle approach towards the meatballs. This was my first ever encounter with this creeping, invasive Swedish sauce, so I was dubious of its intentions. But, in the name of journalistic integrity, I forced my taste buds to refute their xenophobic tendencies. I was pleasantly surprised. Fruity sauces should never be mixed with gravy, but this combination somehow worked, giving the meatballs a subtle and quick sweet taste. Our dessert was quickly consumed, although I failed to finish my chocolate pie. In other words, the food portions would make Goldilocks happy; they were just right. The meal met my expectations, which were not all that high. It was an edible, quick, cheap meal that filled the void created by the effort needed to get to the Café. The meatballs tasted like something you could have bought in a supermarket, so I was not surprised (after another mile walk to get out of the place) to see the Swedish meatballs for purchase near most of the checkout counters. It’s a great place to eat if you’re lost in IKEA, or, more likely, your spouse is buying half the store and you’ve spent six hours there, but I wouldn’t go there intentionally – I’d just buy the meatballs.

1 comment:

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