Friday, July 18, 2014

Father's Day Brunch at IKEA

For several months we have been seeing signs for holiday brunches at Ikea's store restaurant. The first we saw - just a few days before its date - was not a brunch but a Valentine's Day dinner presented much as the brunches are described. Unfortunately, Valentine's Day was a large snow storm so any idea of attending - even if there were tickets available was snowed out. We then saw a sign for an Easter brunch and then for a Mother's Day brunch and and then one for Father's Day. While we were at the Midsummer Smorgasbord I asked the manager about what happens at brunch. He told me that it is served at the regular restaurant counter and is served to you. It does require an advance ticket but they were undersold and coming on Father's Day - two days later - we could buy tickets when we got there for the brunch. I asked what the hours were and he told me 9:30 am to 3 or 4 pm. He told us that with a ticket you can go back to the serving counter as many times as you liked. These meals are served in every Ikea store at the same times on the same day no matter where the Ikea store (at least in the US - I don't know about international stores) is located.

We usually don't go for brunch. This one was intriguing because many of the good regular items served at the Ikea restaurant were included on the brunch. While we don't eat breakfast, the hours of this one were set so that we would really be eating lunch. I considered if I wanted to eat such a heavy meal for lunch but we decided that we would reverse lunch and dinner - especially since the local Asian buffets and Old Country Buffet were increasing their prices to $13.99 because it is Father's Day. What the heck! We decided to go.

I am going to list the items that were on the table card describing what is included in the brunch -

Salad Bar
Seasonal Fruit Display
Mini Bagels with cream cheese
Gravad Lax
Scrambled Eggs
Swedish Pancakes
Turkey Sausage or Bacon
Swedish Meatballs with cream sauce and lingonberries
Barbecue Baby Back Ribs
Penne Pasta with Marinara Sauce
Chicken Fingers
Mashed Potatoes
Macaroni and Cheese
Grilled Cheese
Seaonal steamed vegetables
Assorted Swedish Deserts and cookies
Fountain beverage, coffee, and tea

The price for any and all of this is $12.99 OR $9.99 with the free store discount "family" card. Children pay $4.99 OR $2.49 with the discount card. Wow! I have had these barbecue baby back ribs before and they are good. I have often thought,"wouldn't it be great if the ribs were served at one of the special Smorgasbord dinners at Ikea!" They never are but they are served at these brunches.

We arrived a few minutes after Noon. The dining room was not crowded and there was a short line at the serving counter. We went up to the cashier and purchased two tickets - first, confirming all that we had heard was included. Yes, just get what you want from anything - EXCEPT - the prepared salad plates and wraps as those are not included and then come through the cashier line and show your ticket.

Everything on the list was there to have with one small exception. There were no grilled cheese sandwiches so if one had come for grilled cheese one would have been disappointed but everything else was there plus soup - chicken soup with orzo and also chunk home fried potatoes. Not everyone was having the brunch and a number of people were just ordering off the menu boards as they went along the counter - and paying for each item. Some realized as they were going along that buying a ticket would save them money and some did that when they got to the cash register. Most of the items included on the brunch were also on the menu boards as platters and with the brunch you could have the platter as it is usually served or pick and choose what you wanted the servers to put on a plate for you.

I decided to go with the breakfast items first and I asked for Swedish Pancakes and sausages. I was going to start slow and easy. I have never had Ikea's Swedish Pancakes before but they have always looked good on the signs. I was given three folded pancakes and two breakfast sausages. There was no bacon - apparently it was sausage or bacon - whichever was being served at that restaurant. These special meals happen at all Ikea stores at the same time. There was a basket out of bagels - they were far from mini - these were big bagels. I decided to pass just not to fill up on bread. As I came past a display of desserts, there were mini Ikea cinnamon rolls - these as full size pastries are sold in their cafe and are wonderful. These did not have the white icing on top.

The pancakes were great. Swedish pancakes are very thin and roll or fold. There was lingonberry jam to put on them. There was also hot maple syrup and packets of butter. The sausages could have been hotter and for turkey sausages were not bad. There is a reason that these were turkey sausages as there were people asking who could not eat pork for religious reasons. This plate was an excellent start and I was soon ready to go back for more. The cinnamon rolls despite their size were as good as the large ones that they sell in the cafe. Since the restaurant was not closed off for the brunch and people were continually coming in, we decided to each go back one at a time - where at a buffet we never hesitate unless there is some reason to be concerned - about going back together each time.

This next plate was for barbecue baby back ribs and another pancake. I could not resist the chunk home fried potatoes and the lady put a large helping of that on the plate also.  Then I asked for Macaroni and Cheese and I received two large scoops in a bowl - the usual side serving (which would normally cost $2.29). As I got to the salad bar I took two large rolled up sliced of Gravad lax and put them on a dessert plate. At the salad bar there was also cups of coleslaw, cucumber salad, a large tray of cut fresh fruit, rolls, butter, creme cheese packets, the maple syrup, and the soup. The one disadvantage of being served this way is portion size control. I would normally take much less than I was being given and you don't know how much you will get until you get it - and it was always more than less.Each time we went up to the counter, wall we had to do was go past the cashier and wave the ticket and receive a "thank you!" and a "go right through".

The baby back ribs served here - and included on the brunch - are what would be considered a half rack of ribs - six to eight meaty ribs. These ribs are cooked to fall off the bone. They are moist and tasty. For me - and likely just for me - I would prefer less barbecue sauce because it is increasing the sugar that I am eating and with this meal I was above maximum carbs (I took an increase in medication in anticipation of this.) I like these ribs when I have them just at their restaurant and I very much enjoyed them at this brunch - perhaps more so knowing that the $7.99 ribs were included in an all you care to eat of them meal for $9.99 total. These ribs are good! And these are not Swedish barbecue ribs - these are American barbecue ribs. The macaroni and cheese is Wonderful with a capital W. This is among the best mac and cheese I have had. These are close and even surpass some of the PA Dutch buffet mac and cheese served. It is thick and full of cheese. It is not runny at all. This is the way mac and cheese should be. The potatoes were good! The Gravad Lax was the same I have had at their smorgasbords. And all of this with another pancake - this time with butter spread on.

Now, my picky eater wife was doing fine. She was enjoying pancakes, sausage, soup, some of my mac and cheese, meatballs and more. She was trying to save the carbs for dessert.

Less you think two plates was it - there was a third trip back - before dessert. At about 1:00 pm the restaurant and the line at the serving counter started to get crowded. We each wound up waiting near the end of the barricades the line snakes through after 1 pm - and this continued this way until about 2:00 pm when things got empty again. As I say, there are regular diners and brunch diners mixed together in the restaurant - some are coming for lunch while shopping and some are coming to the Father's Day Brunch. The third plate was a mix of what I liked the best - more ribs, more sausage, more Gravad Lax this time with a packet of cream cheese for each roll of salmon that I took, and I still had unfinished mac and cheese waiting for me at table - and I could not resist another mini cinnamon roll. Now, we eat leisurely. We don't gulp down a plate in minutes. We eat, talk, and take our time - there will be more when and if we are ready to go and get some more. This third plate was it for me. I have to note a little more about the value of this - in this area a bagel and lox sandwich with cream cheese - usually a single to a single and a half layer of lox (here Gravad Lax - locally just called Lox) will cost you in a diner or bagel bakery/restaurant somewhere from $10 to $12. This entire brunch was $9.99!

OK - dessert. In the cold case along the serving counter there was chocolate sheet cake, banana sheet cake, and carrot sheet cake - each frosted accordingly. At the end of the salad counter there were Elderflower cupcakes, chocolate cupcakes, cookies, cinnamon rolls, and red and green whole apples. We each were attracted to the cupcakes. I took a chocolate one and she took an Elderflower one. The Elderflower tasted like a sweet flower - both the cake and the frosting. It was very good. The chocolate cupcake was also very good - a well made chocolate cupcake. At that point we quit.

It is perhaps a good thing that these brunches are only served for special holidays. And I wish they would do this in the evening for dinner but I can understand why they don't. I am looking way forward to seeing if they do this again for Valentine's Day dinner. And maybe we will try another brunch at some point for one of the holidays they do this for. These are not usually as well advertised in the store or the website as the Smorgasbord special dinners, but if it is a holiday approaching look and see if they are having one. Get your free IKEA Family discount card in the store at a computer kiosk  - it is one of the few store discount cards we have actually gotten something back with  - free coffee or tea in the restaurant or cafe, special meal prices in the restaurant, and a discount on these special all you care to eat meals!

If you don't like Ikea food - and for some reason some people get wild about this, don't go. (I don't understand why but I get more general complaints about the store with nothing to do with the food or the restaurant whenever I write about special buffet meals at Ikea. 

If you want a great and abundant meal - all you care to eat - for ten bucks go!