It is already incredibly easy to lose half a day roaming the displays at IKEA in search of the perfect decor accessory or testing and comparing the endless selection of comfy couches. Now guests have even more incentive to linger thanks to a reopening of the store’s second-level restaurant, which recently underwent a major remodeling effort to improve layout and customer experience and is celebrating with a three-day weekend party starting tonight.
Ribbon-cutting is at 5 p.m., and the first 100 guests to visit the restaurant will walk away with mystery envelopes containing offers for food items or gift cards valued at between $5 and $100. Freebies continue throughout the weekend in conjunction with discounted meals for members of the IKEA FAMILY benefits program (which is free to join) and a singular all-you-can-eat Sunday brunch buffet from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon shoppers can indulge in a fika (that’s Swedish for “coffee break”) workshop at 2 p.m. and enjoy 50 percent off desserts from 2 to 4 p.m.
The restaurant’s palette of light woods punctuated with black, green, yellow and white sets the tone for menus fresh and sustainable, with dishes that are healthy for the waistline and the dining budget. Entrées average $7 for adults and $2.49 for kids, which means a family of four can eat well for $25 and not have to sit in hard plastic booths with a view of a ball pit to do so.
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“Because the restaurant follows the IKEA concept, our goal is to offer quality at a very reasonable and affordable price,” explains Kay Bruney, marketing manager for the Houston store. Classic flavors like traditional Swedish meatballs will remain but will have legitimate competition in the debut vegan version that is packed with a flavorful blend of savory vegetables and spices. The former is a combination of pork and beef ground simply and seasoned minimally, taking after traditional techniques in Sweden. A tender mouthfeel makes popping them one after another very easy to do. They sit upon a puddle of rich gravy and share the plate with lingonberry preserves and a scoop of mashed potatoes. The lingonberries add much-needed pizzaz with their sweet-tart element, sort of like a cross between blueberry and cranberry, while the potatoes offer a truly comfort-food element most Americans will appreciate. IKEA's vegan counterpart, however, is a mouth-bomb of flavors thanks to the creative use of spices and textures. Quinoa, beans and vegetables marry into a dish even carnivores might well want to try if they can just ignore the V-word. They are that good.
Diners will also find chicken and spinach salad with mild blue cheese, sliced strawberries, chopped pecans and grilled antibiotic-free chicken breast; the dish is not particularly original, but it satisfies the company’s goal to please the masses in an approachable package. Though the chicken is unseasoned, it gets a boost from the creamy, slightly salty cheese and juicy berries. Plain pecans add textural contrast to the meal that would otherwise be a monotone of softness. The renovated space aims for broad appeal as well with 288 seats presented through a thoughtful design plan representing three unique environments: a living-room-inspired area filled with couches, wireless charging stations and free WiFi; a coffee corner filled with high-boys for grabbing a dessert or a light snack; and family-style tables where large groups can convene with ease.
Should a guest fall in love with his plate or chair, he's in luck because the entire experience is an ultimate “try before you buy” shopping trip: Everything in the restaurant, from seating to silverware, is sold just a few steps away in the store.