8352 Honeygo Blvd., White Marsh, (410) 931-5400, ikea.com
Would that there were an inner-city IKEA that we could go to once a week. For a grand sum of $15.86, we split a three-course meal, cafeteria-style, on our visit, spurred by the recent arrival of the IKEA catalog. In the White Marsh store's streamlined and sparse, yet pleasant, digs, we chose: a plate of marinated smoked salmon dressed with a lemon-dill sauce ($4.99); a Swedish meatball combo with 15 meatballs with cream sauce, mashed potatoes, and lingonberry sauce, plus a cup of soup and a refillable drink ($4.99); a quarter of a rotisserie chicken, light or dark meat, with a scoop of mashed potatoes (IKEA's Thursday special at $1.99); and tarta chokladkrokant, a slice of almond cake with butterscotch and chocolate ($1.99). The butternut squash soup we selected was very simple, much more squashy than sweet-a good thing-with occasional chunks of vegetable that didn't quite get pureed enough. The lax (the Swedish word for salmon), though plentiful, was disappointing; the dill sauce overpowered the protein, which was fishier than it should be, a decided drawback of the serving format. The meatball combo was a delight, almost a take on Thanksgiving with its serviceable mashed potatoes, the cream sauce (read: light-brown gravy), and the lingonberry sauce-a downright improvement on cranberry sauce. Like roast turkey, over-fried meatballs lose their novelty after the 10th bite. The rotisserie chicken was the real star of the meal, succulent, peeling away from the bone with the slightest nudge of the fork. We'd go back for that any day. The tarta resembled a candy bar in pie form: A thin chocolate shell topped off a layer buttercream and butterscotch, and the crunchy almond base saved it from being cloying. Lingonberry juice from the soda fountain cleansed our palate, a refreshing, slightly tart drink that's wonderful on ice. After the feast, we walked off the uncomfortable fullness in IKEA's snaking showrooms, picking up a few odds and ends.