Shopping IKEA is like drinking heavily in your thirties. What sounds fun at first (Ooh, cheap furniture! Ooh, a tequila shot!) undoubtedly ends with you on the floor in the fetal position vowing to never make this mistake again. That is, of course, until you do.
We recently moved into a new office and I was nominated to decorate it, not because I’m particularly adept when it comes to interior design (I once spray painted all my furniture black) but because I’m super cheap and hate offices. Thus, it became my job to turn the Agenda global headquarters into a space I’m willing to sit in while spending as little money as possible.
No problem. I’ll just go to IKEA even though last time I did that I said I’d never do it again. Particle board furniture is apparently a tough drug for me to quit.
In all my years of IKEA shopping, I’ve never once stepped foot in the cafeteria. I consider this a pro move: in and out, no distractions. But since this time I had to shop with my esteemed colleague Ted Williams who requires a lunchtime feeding at 10:45 a.m. like a toddler, we had to make an emergency meatball stop.
As it turns out, the food at IKEA is the store’s only redeeming quality, which I suppose is why I got so excited about microwaved veggie balls the first time I tried them that day. Here’s why I now love IKEA food:
(1) It’s in a cafeteria. I just love cafeterias. I don’t know why. In college I was probably the only senior with a full meal plan still dropping by the dining hall on the daily. Options. I love options.
(2) It’s served with Swedish design ingenuity. You can stack multiple food-frilled trays on their sturdy little rolling carts. I didn’t know this the first time and just carried my plate around like a total noob.
(3) It starts with dessert. The cakes and pies are the first thing you see in the line. This is how life should always be.
(4) There are vegetarian options. There’s a vegetarian meatball platter with 10 balls served over bean chili and steamed vegetables. They also have a hummus wrap stuffed with the meatless meatballs that’s reminiscent of a falafel wrap. And, as best I can tell, the soup is always vegan. I give the split pea high marks.
(5) It’s not IKEA furniture. I hate to break it to you, but the food isn’t that good. It’s good because it’s not the furniture that’s about to bring you tears when you try to cram it into your car. It’s good because it’s not a perfectly designed showroom making you hate your life and question your purchases. It’s good because it’s the only thing in the whole damn store that doesn’t require assembly.
So no, I guess I’m not done going to IKEA. Maybe I never will be. At least now I go in knowing that the only smooth part of my whole experience will be the soft, round, spherical shape of their mass produced meatballs.