As we headed over to Ikea in Brooklyn this weekend, A and I talked a bit about our first experiences with Swedish food. Unsurprisingly for both of us, the first Swedish food that we remember having was from Ikea, and it was, of course, the meatballs. I'm not sure I could even tell you what else Ikea offered back when I used to go there with my parents a lot in the '90s. Just Swedish meatballs.
After living in Chicago for a few years which had an incredibly vibrant Swedish community in Andersonville, it's been surprising to us how little Swedish cuisine there is in New York. There's quite a few Swedish (or general Scandinavian) spots at the higher end of the spectrum, like Aquavit, but on the more casual side, they seem to be mostly coffee shops. It would have been so easy to hit up a casual Swedish restaurant in Chicago to check the Swedish box for our Women's World Cup challenge, but it was more difficult here. So we went to Ikea. They're a Swedish chain, so they count.
We were so hungry by the time we got to the cafe on the day we went (it was late and we had sat in traffic for about 30 minutes (while hungry) to go less than a mile; we could have walked faster) that we ordered a serious feast of Swedish food for lunch. I'm not sure we've ever gotten that much to eat at Ikea before.
A ordered the Swedish meatball combo ($7.99 with the Ikea Family card, which is free so why wouldn't you get one?), which came with 15 meatballs, gravy (cream sauce), mashed potatoes, and lingonberry jam. This is the plate that Ikea's had for as long as we can remember, and it pretty much tastes the same to us as it always has. We love these meatballs, the rich gravy, the creamy potatoes, and the sweet and tart lingonberry jam. Ikea's the first place either of us had ever tried lingonberries, and they're delicious.
The combo came with a drink (we got lingonberry juice, a lot of it) and our choice of soup or a basic garden salad. The soup was aromatic chickpea soup, so of course, we got that. Despite being the middle of June, it was quite cool and in the 60s outside, so soup was welcome. The soup was just okay, probably our least favorite part of our feast. It wasn't bad, just not as "aromatic" as we were expecting. There was some black pepper and some herbs with the chickpeas, but it wasn't as herbal or flavorful as we thought it would be. But it did seem healthy, so it balanced out a lot of the other stuff we had.
I ordered the chicken meatballs (and A and I swapped a few meatballs from each of our plates). This was the first time we'd eaten at Ikea since they introduced the chicken meatball option, so we wanted to check it out. The chicken meatball plate ($4.99) also comes with gravy, mashed potatoes, and lingonberry jam, but there are only 10 meatballs instead of the 15 regular ones. The chicken meatballs are a little bit bigger than the original ones, a little softer and spongier in texture, but full of chicken flavor. They were tasty meatballs, and I would consider getting this again instead of the original one in the future.
Normally we would just get meatballs, but we were so hungry that everything looked good as we walked past the refrigerated cases. I picked up a plate of the gravlax salad ($4.99), since gravlax is one of the most Swedish foods there is and we like salmon. This was good, but definitely not the best gravlax we've ever had. It came with a side of mustard sauce, some sprigs of dill, and a pile of arugula.
To finish off our Swedish meal, we indulged in a slice of Swedish apple cake ($2.49). The pastry part of this was soft and a bit dense, and the apples were sweet and delicious. We also tasted hints of spices in there, possibly cinnamon or cardamom and maybe some others. It came with a vanilla cream sauce. All together, it was a pretty good slice of cake. We were glad that we were so hungry that we picked up dessert since we don't usually try it there. The apple cake was flying out of the refrigerated case and luckily we got the very last slice. Now we know why it's so popular!
It was great to take a break from the frenzy of Ikea and dismal weather to grab some Swedish food, and it knocked another place off the Women's World Cup challenge. Unfortunately, it's now kicked up our craving for Swedish meatballs, and we didn't bring any home from Ikea!