News and notes from Fredericksburg's entertainment scene
BY KURT RABIN
THE FREE LANCE-STAR
Years ago—before Volvo introduced its sleek new hatchback, before “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” became a franchise—another Swedish import reached our shores, one that has continued to be unsurpassed in popularity up to the present day. Sorry, ABBA fans, we’re talking about IKEA, the world’s biggest furniture retailer.
IKEA, as everyone knows, is an acronym that translates as: “It’s not particle physics, stupid. It’s particle board!” Look, I love IKEA. I’m just not sure I love it the way I did 30 years ago. Back then I’d wander its showroom—actually more of a theme park celebrating the IKEA experience, an experience anyone can install at home with the handy L-shaped wrench and cryptic instructions provided—and think: “Whoa! I could own a room that looks just like that one!” Who was I kidding? My room was never going to look like the model. Not in a million years!
Even though IKEA’s merchandise features names as easy to pronounce as the ones on a National Hockey League roster, Americans can’t get enough of the affordable, ready-to-assemble home décor.
Actually, the products are all named after Norse gods. That’s right! There’s Ektorp (“Protector of Flatscreens”) and Poäng (“Repository of Backsides”), and the one my wife has had her eye on, Hemnes (“Guardian of Bygone Best-sellers”).
IKEA is such a big draw that the local Woodbridge store even has its own three-lane feeder road—Interstate 95—to handle the inevitable traffic tie-ups. One thing that makes it a favored destination—besides the incredibly addictive Swedish meatball platter in the cafeteria—is the store’s habit of making many of its most popular items unavailable online—for example the halogen bulbs that prompted our most recent Sunday pilgrimage. (I know! What were we thinking, shopping at IKEA on the weekend?!)
Needless to say, we weren’t prepared for the teeming throng of IKEA patrons, not to mention their extended families, we would encounter. And that was while we were trying to find parking in the garage!
A sign at the top of the escalator read: “If shopping makes you hungry ” (Hey, everything makes me hungry!) Taking the bait, we decamped for the restaurant, an island of calm compared with the rest of the store and the place where the nation of Sweden dumps its surplus of lingonberries. You think I’m kidding? They’ve even got lingonberry soda pop! (Think carbonated cranberry juice.)
If its furniture pricing is an exercise in “How low can we go?” IKEA’s food begs the question “How bland can we get?” My wife’s garden salad ($1.99) and dill-cured smoked Norwegian salmon ($4.99) flat-lined as far as flavor profiles were concerned. And my “new” Swedish tapas plate ($3.99)—featuring a minuscule portion of “Crayfish Temptation” with marinated root vegetables, a mini cheese pie and a tiny block of Swedish cheese—barely broke the taste threshold.
However, IKEA’s famed Swedish meatballs with cream sauce platter ($3.99) with mashed russet and redskin potatoes and lingonberries proved to be a real treat, the Scandinavian equivalent of turkey dinner with all the fixings, the ultimate comfort meal.
Feeling fortified after devouring satisfying slices of Chocolate Overload ($2.99) and Swedish almond ($1.99) cake, we perused the store’s housewares aisles before dragging an impossibly long, flat-packed bookcase down from the bins of the warehouse area. On the way back to the garage, we passed the Exit Bistro, where shoppers can pick up two hot dogs, chips and a drink for the unheard-of price of $2.50.
I don’t know whether the shopping had made me hungry or if it was lugging our Hemnes bookcase onto a rolling cart. In any case, I required a snack. A freshly iced cinnamon bun ($1) and cup of coffee (75 cents) was just the thing to get me back on the road.
But don’t worry, IKEA, we’ll definitely be back! Those halogen bulbs might be long-lasting, but they won’t burn forever.
What: IKEA restaurant, and exit bistro
Address: Potomac Mills, Woodbridge (28 miles from Fredericksburg)
Info: 703/494-4532; ikea.com
Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday–Saturday; 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday
Prices: Entrées: $3.99–$7.99; Desserts: $1.49–$2.99; Children’s menu: $2.49
The Scoop: Family-friendly, economical, good food (no assembly required), parking
Payment: Major credit cards accepted.
Kurt Rabin: 540/374-5000