(Take a break from shopping at Wegman’s Burger Bar. Photo courtesy of Wegmans)
By Marisa Marsey
Have you heard about the Swedish meatballs at IKEA? They’re delicious. If only you didn’t have to put them together yourself.
I’m joking, of course. You don’t have to be a DIY-er to dine here. Those addictive, salt-slicked ping-pong pellets of beef and pork are ready-to-eat at the restaurant and café on the second floor of our hulking new, buttercup and blue IKEA in Norfolk.
I wanted to try a couple for starters, so when I read the macroscopic overhead menu, as streamlined as the assembly-required furniture sold at this Swedish-born megacorp, and saw they were just $1, I asked for two. Turns out one order translates into four meatballs; I wound up with eight. Fortunately, as mentioned, they’re addictive (and at that price, not only antibiotic-free, but also darn well near-free!), and coming as no shock is the blushing confession that I was an IKEA virgin. Apparently the only one. A passel of children who must have snaked their way through the cafeteria queue before (whether for lunch or dinner or at breakfast when another menu prevails) knew to snatch a three-tiered trolley for their family’s trays. Others delighted at meal’s end in stowing dirty plates in a designated area, like at college dining halls.
The man next to me in line, suppressing chuckles at my rookie mistake, shared that he always eats in-store whenever at an IKEA. “Where else can you eat this good this cheap?” he challenged. The Salmon Fillet Platter/$6.99 made no argument. His usual: Swedish Meatballs Meal, meaning eight meatballs, mashed potatoes laced with lingonberries, unidentifiable healthy-looking green vegetable, choice of side salad or soup, and beverage/$8.99. He said that his mother lives near IKEA in Las Vegas; she and her friends go practically every day for lunch.
I see why they’d feel at home. Actually, it might be exactly like home. You can purchase the “Janinge” scooped-seat, scratch-resistant, adjustable white bar stool you’re seated on in the nearby Dining Showroom as well as whatever you’re consuming, from those meatballs to that salmon (it comes from Aquaculture Stewardship Council-certified farms per flip cards on the restaurant’s tables that state lots of eco-friendly info) to organic coffee in the Swedish Food Market downstairs.
Every element of the Veggie Ball Entrée/$3.99 I supped on, chick peas, green peas, carrots, bell peppers, corn, and kale compacted into eight golf ball-sized spheres (reminiscent of curry-hued, unfried falafel), brown rice-quinoa, and tasty but waterlogged, caper-studded cabbage-spinach-fennel (mystery vegetable revealed!) can be bought for home, too (the restaurant sprinkles buckwheat on the greens for a nice crunch factor).
My favorite dish was dessert, Daim Cake ($1.99), thin layers of ground nut cake and custard stacked (like so much else here as you’ll see in “Furniture Pick-up”) beneath a cap of milk chocolate pocked with crispy bits. Modeled after Sweden’s Daim candy bar, it’s like toffee except the creaminess lets the treat glide over your teeth instead of gluing onto them. Speaking of candy, if you’ve a sweet tooth, you’ll go gaga over Lördagsgodis, the candy smorgasbord in the Market (next to the Bistro with quick, over-the-counter snacks). You’ll be just like a kid in a, well, in an IKEA. (1500 IKEA Way, Norfolk. 888-888-4532. ikea.com/ms/en_US/grand-opening/Norfolk.html)
As if IKEA landing here isn’t validation enough that we’re “on the map,” Wegmans opened in April, too. Unlike IKEA, you could say I’m on intimate terms with Weggies. My husband, a Rochesterian, took me to the flagship in his hometown during our courtship decades ago. His choice of date spot – the most wondrous grocery store I’d ever seen – with produce in colors I couldn’t imagine except in Oz’s Emerald City, Olde World baked goods, and an evocative array of artisanal cheese clinched our romance.
This Virginia Beach Town Center store, the 113-year old family business’s 99th, houses fast-casual Burger Bar and Market Café (seasonally-changing hot and cold food bars, pizza, prepared meals, made-to-order subs, sushi that’s all gluten-free) if you’d like to eat here. And you’ll want to when you discover that along with wine, beer, and margaritas (regular, spicy or jacked up to “Cadillac” with premium tequila), Burger Bar serves ORANGE CRUSH. The VaBeachVA, adult kind, that is. What better way to extract the drudgery from grocery shopping?
Burger Bar’s bestseller is the American Classic (ketchup, mustard, pickles, and American cheese on toasted brioche) while Danny’s Favorite (named for chairman Dan Wegman), a quarter-pounder featuring “hometown” meat hot sauce – a kicky condiment concocted of finely chopped ground beef (its prickly warmth must be welcome during those long, cheerless Rochester winters) and Maple Onion Burger with aged cheddar, smoky bacon, maple onion jam, and chipotle aioli duke it out for second. Revealing topnotch quality, that cheddar is custom-made for Wegmans (which has its own cave for aging cheese).
There are turkey burgers and Impossible Burgers as well as soups du jour and sandwiches such as a lobster roll and chicken avocado BLT. Brisk salads (the garlicky herb goddess dressing with avocado, pesto, Greek yogurt, and champagne vinegar is especially winning) bespeak freshness, a fitting tribute to the store’s produce-peddling roots (today Wegmans has its own organic orchard and farm for testing new varieties and growing methods to assist its 30 organic farm partners).
Lump crab cake, whose recipe is used throughout the chain, was developed by Tom Schwarzweller, this location’s executive chef. Oh, shakes, root beer floats, and frozen custard, can be had here, too. Most menu items fall between $8 and $18, with $6 “Kids Meals” offering smaller burgers, hot dogs, and – take note – not only chicken fingers, but also roasted chicken bites. Among 300 seats (including al fresco) is a children’s area with tables and chairs to scale. Caffeine fiends should check out the organic nitro cold-brew coffee and green tea on tap at The Buzz where trained baristas also craft espresso beverages and smoothies. Breakfast sandwiches, too.
There’s an entrance directly into the Burger Bar and Marketplace Café, underscoring that many come only to eat. But if you’re here for your weekly shop, consider having a designated grocery cart driver so that after that orange crush, you don’t forget to pick up the milk. (4721 Virginia Beach Blvd., Virginia Beach. 757-271-0500. wegmans.com/stores/virginia-beach-va.html)
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