IKEA eat-i-quette: How to act around all those Swedish meatballs
With Denver's first IKEA opening in Centennial in the fall, it's pretty much guaranteed that for the first few months the place will be crammed like a herring barrel with gawking newbies and affordable Swedish furniture fanatics, everyone newly converted from "WTF is IKEA?" to "Holy Jesus! Have you been to IKEA!" like it was a suburban religious sect of the highest order.
But in addition to the truly astounding selection of DIY furnishings, the trendy throw rugs that look just like dead muppets and the lampshades that really do go with EVERYTHING, this IKEA will also have an oasis from the interior design circus in the form of a cafeteria peddling affordable Swedish food. Although dining at IKEA can be just as much of a chore as loading all those boxes of sleek-veneered particle board into the back of your vehicle, if IKEA virgins use this informal guide to proper IKEA eat-i-quette, then everyone's maiden voyage to the cafeteria should be as smooth as a credit card sliding in and out of the machine at the register.
Rule #1. Embrace the cafeteria-style line order. For the uninitiated, there will be a series of labyrinthine passages to enter, navigate and eventually guide you seamlessly to the beverage, hot and cold bars where you will choose your menu items. This is not a free-for-all. Line-cutters are about as popular as child molesters, so wait your turn. Please do not stop in the middle to gape at the menu board. You will have ample time to make your selections. There will be meal trays, silverware and glasses. Please take these things as you come upon them. If you forget, then you have to wade back through a phalanx of other eager diners who will curse the day of your birth for clogging up the pipelines.
Rule #2. Embrace the cafeteria-style ordering method. You will have many choices to make once you reach the bar. If you want the little green salad with gravlax and tangy mustard sauce, then take it from the cold bar and place it on your tray. Repeat this method until you have a tray reflecting everything your gut desires. Please do not poke at anything, take something and put it back, remove the plastic wrap and sniff at the desserts, or stand there like a drooling moron while the people behind you growl like feral animals. When you reach the hot bar, ask the nice hair-netted servers for what you want, and don't waste time trying to substitute a bunch of crap for a bunch of other crap. Nobody gives a rat fart that your kid has a tactile aversion to carrots. Order the damn meatballs because you are at IKEA and you are supposed to, then take your food and march in an orderly fashion to the register.
Just order the meatballs. It's a law or something
Rule #3. Embrace the cafeteria-style seating method. This is where the fun really begins. You must locate and procure your own seating, and you are in direct competition with everyone else who brought all of their kids, their neighbors' kids, their Uncle Bertie, their Nana and all their Nana's canvas shopping bags. And don't bother looking for the best table in the house, because there isn't one. Your best bet is to divide your group, have everyone scout, and the first family member to shout "Marco" will then signal the rest of you to dart to the empty table while screaming "Polo."
Rule #4. Embrace the cafeteria-style dining experience. If you want privacy, quiet or someone to bring you extra napkins, then you are shit-outta-luck. You will be sitting elbow-to-elbow with everyone, overhearing the people at the next table discussing everything from the no-fly-zone over Libya, to the pesky boil on somebody's thigh, to stroies about every other time they ate fish in a restaurant. There is no table service, so if you want an extra side of lingonberry preserves or a new fork, then haul your can back to the labyrinth line. Since there will also be bands of unattended children roving the dining room like they are looking for the Thunderdome, so cut down on the traffic and keep your spawn confined to your table.
Rule #5. Embrace the cafeteria-style cleanup. Your sense of entitlement about not cleaning up after yourself in public and letting the "people that do that" has to be temporarily shelved, because you are required to bus your own table, put your dirty dishes in the conveniently provided dish racks, and throw your trash away. Your learned helplessness might be challenged here, but on the shiny side, you don't have to tip anyone or wait for your check. You can head straight from the table back to the hallowed halls of our new textile mecca and, fueled on almond cake and pear soda, shop for hours until they boot you and slam the doors shut or you hit your credit limit, whichever comes first.
Get the Dining Newsletter
The week's top local food news and events, plus interviews with chefs and restaurant owners, dining tips, and a peek at our print review.