Thursday, September 8, 2011

Ikea Cafeteria – Bloomington, MN (Bar-B-Quest 2011)

HotGirlsBrother, Low-Vee, and I have joked about trying the ribs at Ikea for at least two years now – since we found out they serve ribs on Wednesdays at a ridiculously low price. This year, we put Ikea on the Bar-B-Quest roster in the Eastern Division (I know they’re not on the East side of the Twin Cities, but we fudged the border a little bit). We decided to meet there for lunch and get this one out of the way. None of us had very high expectations for this place. It’s a Swedish furniture store, after all. What do they know about ribs?

As we walked in HotGirlsBrother said, “If these things are actual meat and not just McRibs, I’ll be impressed.”

We headed to the cafeteria and got in line. If you haven’t been to Ikea for any sort of dining experience, you might be surprised by it. The food is served cafeteria-style with trays and a sort of buffet line with prices indicating how much things are. The people behind the counters serve you (prison-style, as I like to say) most of your entrees/meats and sides and then you can pick up smaller sides here and there along the way to the cash register. While standing in line, we did see a half rack of ribs roll by us and it honestly looked like actual meat. It remained to be eaten, however.

When we got the lunch lady, I ordered up my half slab of ribs and she threw a pretty large portion of ribs on to my plate and then covered it with steamy brown BBQ sauce. Then she threw on some fries and told me the cornbread was just at the next station. So far, so good, on this trip. Sadly, I also ordered a side of Swedish Meatballs covered in gravy, since that’s what you do at Ikea. I love those things.

The whole bill for me came up to just over $10, and the other two paid almost $8 for theirs. That’s seriously cheap for ribs, no matter where you go.

We sat down and tested out the fries. The fries were actually quite good. Very crispy with a sort of breading on them, rather than just tasting fried. They were really good. The cornbread was next – and I’m a huge fan of cornbread. This square of cornbread was extremely moist and extremely sweet. But sadly, there wasn’t any corn flavor at all. It was simply cake – delicious cake, mind you, but still cake. Kind of a disappointment. That being said, Low-Vee thought it was one of the most delicious cakes she has ever eaten and is seriously contemplating having Ikea make her wedding cake (despite the fact she’s not dating anyone right now).

I devoured the Swedish Meatballs covered in their delicious gravy. I will always like these things. They are delicious and always seem to be made with quality meat when I’ve gotten them at Ikea. There isn’t much to them, but thankfully, I didn’t eat my usual three dozen that sometimes happens when I’m having a sadface day. hahahahaha

We all swooped into the ribs next. The first bite proved that it was actual meat on these bones. While not amazingly tender, the meat had a decent consistency. It took some effort to get all the meat off the bone, so it wasn’t falling off onto the plate or anything, but at least it wasn’t fighting back. The quality of meat was tolerable. Not the best cut or maybe not the best pig, but it was worth continuing – we DID discuss the possibility of paying for our meals and heading directly to the trash can – thankfully, we didn’t have to do that. The sauce wasn’t the greatest, to be honest. It was kind of a watery brown sauce that HotGirlsBrother said “is something you’d find on cheap Chinese food”. We even tried to spice it up with some Frank’s Red Hot sauce, but it didn’t help the flavor that much – it just tasted like ribs dipped in buffalo wing sauce. The lunch lady had loaded it on the ribs, which is normally a great strategy, however, it was VERY sticky. Like in the scene in Christmas Vacation when Clark Griswold gets sap on his hands and sticks to everything – it’s kind of like that. Even after you wiped off your hands on a napkin, pieces of the napkin stick to your hands and you never actually feel like you’ve cleaned your hands off… which leads me to the next point: no wet-naps to be found. This is completely a deal breaker for Low-Vee, and was exponentially compounded due to the stickiness factor of the sauce.

“Not horrible!”

“Surprisingly edible!”

“Much less scary than I thought it would be!”

“It really wasn’t that bad!”

“We ate it, and we’re still alive!”

These are some direct quotes from HotGirlsBrother and Low-Vee from the meal. I’ve decided to go ahead and help out the advertising department at Ikea and try to help them with their BBQ Rib marketing campaign. I think this will help:

Overall, the Swedish (through the mechanism of Ikea) put together a nice homage to what Americans know as ribs. They also make a delicious cornbread-colored cake. The ribs are just about what you’d expect if someone told you Ikea was making ribs for lunch or dinner. It really isn’t bad, especially considering the difference between our EXPECTATIONS and the reality of what we ate. If you’re ever at Ikea on a Wednesday, at least consider having the ribs. You won’t find a cheaper price and it sure beats walking to the Mall of America and fending for your life in traffic to eat at Famous Dave’s or Tony Roma’s. It’s the best price in town, especially for something that is entirely rib-flavored and edible. Also keep in mind that, despite the ad saying they only serve the ribs after 4, this isn't the case. They start serving them at 11am - I called to verify that before we met there.

Mission accomplished:

Sadly, Ikea lost the head-to-head battle with C.G. Hooks Eatery, but it still impressed us with a good showing. And we’ve already discussed how we need a rematch between C.G. Hooks and Lee’s & Dee’s to determine who really is the winner. It’s going to be a close match-up, and one rematch that I’m very much looking forward to. Here are the current results of Bar-B-Quest 2011!!!!

Top 5 things about Ikea Ribs
1. The price – amazingly inexpensive
2. The difference between your expectation and reality almost allowed it to win the category. Almost.
3. The fries were quite good
4. Moist-iosity and sweet-itude of the cornbread-colored cake
5. They have Dew!!!

Bottom 5 things
1. BBQ sauce
2. Lack of wet-naps
3. Cornbread had zero corn flavor
4. Still had to work to get all the meat off these ribs
5. I wish I had taken the food into the dining room furniture sales floor to have a high-brow meal

aka: Rib Quest 2011


Noah said...

I like that you successfully found something interesting to write about. I wish I had a nitch. When are you allowed to hang out with me?

Used Cars Bloomington said...

Oh man, the Ikea cafeteria always has the BEST food and amazing meatballs, the frozen ones that you can bring home and microwave. Plus everything there is so cheap too. They have a good salmon dish there too. I have gone to the Ikea cafeteria just to eat and didn't even look at the furniture.

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