The Cafe at IKEA

Just before Christmas, our family braved the shopping crowds and paid a visit to IKEA in Bolingbrook. Actually, for being just a couple days before Christmas it wasn't as bas as I expected. It had been a while since I'd been to IKEA and it was the first visit for the rest of the family. I remembered how long it took to get through the place and figured we'd work a lunch in at the cafe. I hadn't eaten there before but had always heard that it was good, economical and that there were yummy Swedish meatballs.

So, after making our way through the upper level, we came to the cafe where the boys tried out some pasta, chicken tenders and meatballs. I did try one of the meatballs, which was delicious, but I opted for the stuffed chicken. It was really, really good. Not sure what all it was stuffed with - some kind of white, creamy and slightly sweet cheese that left me wanting more. And I loved the veggie mix that came with it. I am totally in love with Brussels sprouts and loved that the veggie blend had cauliflower, carrots and Brussels sprouts.

True to the idea of European efficiency that the place is built upon, the cafe is a cafeteria-style eatery where you line up with your tray, get your plate, pay, find a table, fill a glass and clear your own table when you're done. Prices are reasonable and food is definitely above average for cafeteria-style. The boys were eyeing dessert, so they each got one and I got to sample all three - an almond cake, a cherry strudel, a slice of chocolate cake and a marzipan cream cake. My late father-in-law, a native of Germany, loved marzipan and we'd always get him marzipan chocolate treats for his birthday or Christmas. So, naturally I had to give the marzipan cream cake a try (it's the pink one in the picture.) It blew me away. It was so light and airy and not overly sweet or rich - even though it looks like it is. It's not an oversized portion and it's a perfect finish for a meal.

This week we made another trip back to IKEA with a couple of the boys to pick up some more things. When we told the boys we were going and asked if they wanted to come along, one quickly replied with, "Can we have dinner there?" I didn't hesitate to reply with a yes. I knew it would be nearing dinner time and a shopping trip there is never an in and out experience. You know you'll be there a while and will be hungry at some point. So, off we went again with two of the boys. When we arrived my stomach was grumbling and I suggested eating first and then shopping and got no resistance.

On the way upstairs, we eyed photos on signs of what was being offered in the cafe. It had a photo of a plate with a baked chicken thigh, potatoes and veggies for $4 or $5. My husband said it looked good and that he'd like to order that. I was looking forward to the stuffed chicken again. Well, we were a little disappointed when we got there that they didn't have the chicken pictured for dinner. They also didn't have the stuffed chicken. The boys wanted meatballs - one asked for Swedish meatballs and the other chicken meatballs. There was a 10-minute wait on chicken meatballs so they both ended up with Swedish meatballs. The only other options were chicken tenders or salmon. I was fine with trying the salmon. It looked good and came with a hearty helping of veggies with barley and a nice buttery sauce. It was pretty good - but did still leave me feeling a little hungry. I fixed that by getting the delicious marzipan cream cake. I could get used to eating those often. we were heading out the door I noticed a lady putting a box of them in her cart! I asked and she said they sell a box of four in the cooler section. (I hadn't even noticed the cooler section near check-out.) So, next time I'll have to get a few to bring home.

Just a few FYI's if you are new to the cafe:

- Kid meals are just $2.99 at the Bolingbrook location - some options are meatballs, organic pasta and chicken tenders.
- After you get your meal, you can grab some garlic bread or cornbread a la carte - or a little side salad or soup.
- Not sure why, but for some reason the desserts are placed first before the entrees. I guess to temp you into grabbing first, but just a warning for parents that the first thing the kids will see are big slices of chocolate cake, so you may want to have the kids find a table while you get the entrees.
- There's a self-serve soda fountain. The no-name cola may be a turn-off to some, but there are always some great carbonated fruity drinks - lingonberry, elderberry and others.
- They don't have it in the cafe, but on the lower level near the exit is another little food counter and they have THE BEST frozen yogurt. It's just a dollar for a cone. That includes tax.
- Also near checkout, you can buy a bag of frozen Swedish meatballs to make at home.