IKEA is well known for their well-designed, affordable home furnishings (many of which need to be assembled by the consumer.) But their stores also have small cafeteria-style restaurants where you can take a break and buy some lunch or a snack after winding through the cavernous showroom and marketplace.
On a recent Saturday, we took a drive to the IKEA store in New Haven, Connecticut. Although the purpose of the visit was to pick up a few small necessities for the house and to check out kitchen cabinet design for an eventual remodeling, we happened to be there at lunchtime, so we stopped at the cafe.
The cafeteria is just about the only part of the building with windows, and the combination of light colors, bright metallics, and simple furniture design gives it a bright, airy, relaxing atmosphere that adds to the "refreshment factor." The selection is limited - I think there were five or six main selections along with a single soup choice and a variety of desserts - but that's to be expected at a retail store's lunch counter.
Although the store was busy the day we were there, the cafe was relatively quiet. One of the service islands was closed and there was only a single cashier. But the help was quick, efficient, and polite and lines were short and fast-moving as customers made their selections and brought the cafeteria trays to the register for payment.
Selections included Atlantic Salmon with dill, Swedish Meatballs, and fried chicken fingers; my wife and daughter both opted for the Swedish Meatballs and I decided to have the Garden Vegetable Soup with a dinner roll and butter.
The Swedish Meatball platter was pretty much as expected - about a dozen small and quite delicious Swedish meatballs, nice balance of meat and filler, pleasantly seasoned. They were topped with a light brown gravy that most certainly from a packet and which had a distinctive soy-like flavor to it (quite like Maggi sauce bottled for the American market.) Sides included roughly mashed red potatoes (creamy and delicious with chunks of unmashed potatoes and potato skins mixed throughout) and lingonberry preserves (sweet and tart, loaded with whole berries, quite a bit like cranberry sauce.) For dessert, the ladies also selected a wonderful apple cake: a two-inch-deep graham cracker crumb crust filled with big chunks of stewed apples, topped with a buttercrumb crust and vanilla custard sauce. It was much more like a deep-dish pie or apple tart than a "cake."
The Garden Vegetable Soup was also very pleasant, although once again it was obviously an "envelope" soup; the broth had the distinctive flavor of reconstituted soup mixes, and the potatoes had been quite obviously dehydrated. But it had been enriched with frozen lima beans and corn, as well as slices of fresh zucchini and yellow summer squash. The weather outside was cold and rainy, and the hot soup was particularly welcome.
The dinner roll was nothing special, pretty standard stuff.
That bottle of Kristian Regale was interesting, though. It was a lightly sparkling lingonberry/apple drink, light and quenching, with a delicious tart taste that once again reminded me of cranberries. Interestingly enough, the bottle said it was a product of Spain.
Extremely reasonably priced, lunch for the three of us, including drinks, came to about $20.