An IKEA feast, featuring Owen, myself, and Jake to the right; Nate and Aidan to the left. Photo Credit: Ethan Hoofard

A bustling blue and yellow environment greeted us. An endless sea of white people and their very vocal children, along with the sweet smell of vaguely Swedish cinnamon rolls, let us know that we arrived. Ethan and Jake rushed to the escalator in excitement.

This trip was planned very suddenly, partly out of a need for some journalistic fodder, but mostly because it happened to be lunch. Between us (Franklin students Jake Burnet, Owen Flagel, Ethan Hoofard, Aidan Haendler, Nate Treat, and myself) we brought enough money to buy out IKEA’s comprehensive restaurant menu, and pondering the sheer amount of food we planned to purchase was the only conversation we could muster during the ride over. At the food court, we found a line that reached all the way back into the stuffed animal section of the second floor.

We finally made it to the section of the line where you pick up your trays. Behind us were a dad and his two eager sons, who looked to be three years old at most. The boys, decked out in very stylish green dragon pajamas and safety helmets, ran in circles, at breakneck speed, around the stuffed animal bins, shouting about how hungry they were; not a far cry from what we ourselves feel like doing in that moment. The father, impatient with their foolish display of childish behavior, grabbed them both by the leashes attached to their clothes and sat them on the bench. I can only pray that they eventually achieved meatball nirvana at some point.

If you are not familiar with how IKEA’s food line works, it’s a simple, elegant system for getting food into your mouth and getting you out the door.  This is certainly IKEA’s motto (and if it’s not, it should be). It works like a regular restaurant buffet, but with less freedom and more expensive and obscure options. You and your party first get a wheeled cart with room for up to three plastic trays. I say “you and your party” because if you are coming to IKEA alone I can’t help you.

After you get your cart and trays, you move through the buffet bar and choose from two desserts. You can elect for a fluffy strawberry cheesecake that looks like it has potential. Or, if the first option has been picked dry, you can accept a plastic looking chocolate dessert that appears to have been sliced by a conscientious mom at a birthday party in order to conserve cake.

Jake and I loaded up with three pieces of the chocolate cake first, while Ethan, Owen, Nate and Aidan watched in disgust. Jake looked for any signage in the building that mentions cutting costs for meals and adding more food at the same time, and he seemed to have found some writing that said you can add four meatballs to your plate. So, naturally, Jake added 12. On top of those meatballs and the cake, Jake got a plate of mac and cheese and a dish of chicken tenders with fries. Mine and Ethan’s meals looked similar to his. We later calculated the calories in our meals and found an average of 2,000 per meal; we ate almost everything. 

After reaching the table, we placed our plates down and took a moment to marvel at the sheer quantity of food sitting in front of us. For around 60 dollars in total, we were able to procure six full meals (each of which were probably made to serve two to three people each) plus a few side dishes. At any middle of the line restaurant, even taking into account fast food, this much cuisine would’ve put us at least 100 dollars in debt. 

The meal itself was exquisite. I began by digging into the almond chocolate cake. I asked Nate how his first bite was and he responded by calling the cake a “creamy delight.” The almond dessert was a fantastic blend of smooth sweetness and crumbly tartness. Smiles befell our faces, and Jake started into the chicken tenders instantly. All I got out of him for the next five minutes was the occasional “I could do this all day,” or a slow molasses-like “I am so happy.”

The tenders are better than McDonalds, which was a pretty low bar to meet. They were okay. Don’t get them just for the chicken though; they came with fries, making that the only real way to rationalize putting a mediocre piece of breaded mystery meat in your mouth. After vacuuming down the whole plate of chicken tenders and fries along with three pieces of very heavy chocolate cake, Jake and I were feeling expectedly queasy. For our main course we dug into the coveted meatballs. These puppies were just as good as the stories foretold. They made everything worth it. Every bad thought, every negative emotion vanishes when you bite into IKEA’s balls (if I were allowed to put emojis in this article I would use the smiling devil one right here). They are topped with a surprisingly delicious gravy with a side of tart cranberry sauce that blends perfectly with almost everything on the menu. 

IKEA’s mac and cheese was God’s supper. From the few bites I grabbed from Jake’s plate while he wasn’t looking, the pasta was perfectly cooked, and the sauce radiated cheese. Its presentation was impeccable as well. The dish was picture perfect in every sense of the word. It was a blend of the best Kraft mac and cheese you’ve ever tasted and an exciting new taste Owen best described as “pizazz.”

IKEA’s menu may not be the most distinguished, but for a great price you could eat like a bankrupt king. Also buy a dining room table while you’re in the building; they’re only like 400 dollars. 

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