Optimistically Cautious

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Cheap Eats and Great Conversation: Ikea Restaurant

There's nothing better than a busy, intimate coffee shop in the evening - when you can feel the caffeinated buzz in the air, and conversations are almost instinctively spoken in a moderate hush. As great a venue as that can be, the opposite works as well - spacious, dimly lit dining areas light on patrons that breed lengthy, private discussions. The Ikea Restaurant (for dinner) in one such place.

Annie and I have been here a few times for their very economical selections. With a plate of pasta, soup or salad, and drink combo going for $3.99, and a dish of salmon and steamed vegetables priced at $6.49, Ikea offers some of the best deals in the city (this discounts the amount inevitably spent on unnecessary prints, kitchen accessories, and miscellaneous soon-to-be garage sale fodder, but my focus here is only on the food). Ikea claims the lower prices come as a result of their store mantra of self-service (no waiters to serve or clear plates), but how many people realistically pop into the store and manage to bypass merchandise completely? Food is definitely a carrot in this case.

We both ordered our reliable standby - a plate of 10 Swedish meatballs, potatoes with gravy and a dollop of cranberry sauce, accompanied with soup or salad and a drink. While not entirely filling on an empty stomach, for $5.99, it leaves enough pocket change to pick up a few 50cent hot dogs on the way out (which I did; I'm still in the wisdom teeth recovery zone of anything goes).

But as in many of my reviews, food comes second to the setting. I adore the dining area in the restaurant with its simple, stylish decor - quintessential Ikea. Single pendant lamps, sleek rows of light wooden tables, and a breathtaking wall of windows create a perfectly understated, minimalist aesthetic. And in the evening, as the sun sets, the ambiance is equivalent to that of a friend's kitchen - cozy, comfortable, with unending refills of coffee.

Though their $1 breakfasts are great - give Ikea a try when you're looking for a South Common dinner alternative.

Quiet Corner (I like this shot for the visibility of the Ikea sign, as well as the overview of the parking lot; many have said the store looks resembles a mini-airport)
Swedish meatball special

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