I grew up in New York City and can work a crowd and deal with multitudes of people far better than most; and even *I* find IKEA to be overwhelming and oppressive. There is a desperation to buy something, anything, because everything is so cheap and the place is so trendy.
Swarms of locusts pour in the doors in a mad craze, lured by the smell of cinnamon rolls that wafts out to the parking lot. They lunge at the greeter, who must be able to recite his shpiel about where to find carts vs. bags and the floor vs. the warehouse in his sleep; his lips may keep mumbling the words until rigor mortis sets in.
And everywhere, it is as though people have oozed into every nook and cranny ... and each one of them has taken amphetamines, bustling and bouncing about gathering trinkets, trying out chairs, and eating Swedish meatballs in the cafeteria.
The only thing that makes the trip even remotely endurable is this: there is always the promise of food as a reward, because I won't go near the place unless I'm promised lunch.
And was my meal worth the horrors??? Oh, yes. Thankfully, yes!
I went to Plato's Coney Island in Canton, very close to the circle of Hell. Lunchtime on a Saturday is not an ideal time either to shop at IKEA (is there any day or time that the place isn't chaotic???), and it was not a great time to show up at Plato's, either -- we got the last table in the back, which actually was nice because it was secluded and more quiet.
There was an extensive menu, but the decision was made easier by a couple of factors:
1. I'm so sick of eggs as a cheap source of protein that I refused to have anything to do with the breakfast options.
2. I have so been craving meat that I merely looked at the carnivorous offerings, which made the decision much easier.
Since each of us wanted a burger and each of us wanted a chicken gyro and each of us wanted a salad, it only made sense to order one of each and split them. Our fabulously warm and friendly waitress even then told us that it would be cheaper to order one sandwich and then order the other "deluxe" to get a Greek salad and fries as accompaniments. Absolutely! Sounds like a plan to me!
The "small" side salad was actually enough to serve as a meal for one -- I'm afraid to think how gargantuan a medium or large one would be. It featured a creamy dressing rather than a vinaigrette, and had just the right tang to complement the feta and beets.
And then our wonderful waitress brought out our sandwiches already cut in half and placed onto individual plates. We'd thought we'd just cut them in half ourselves and spill a fair amount onto the table as we traded food and carried it over to the other plate; but clearly, the folks at Plato's were thinking faster than we were that day!
The chicken gyro was tender, on a slightly sweet pita bread with a very thick -- instead of the usual liquid -- yogurt sauce. Generous toppings of tomatoes and onions were exceptional in conjunction with the tender, slightly spiced grilled chicken. Honestly, I could have eaten an entire one of these in addition to everything else!
The burger was a perfect medium-well (more cooked than I prefer, but I'm easy-going and accommodated my lunch companion), with generous helpings of onions, tomato, lettuce and pickles. Half of one was more than enough for a meal, and this was on top of the already-eaten salad ... I always maintain I can eat more than people think I can!
And oh -- bestill my heart (literally, if you eat too many of 'em!) -- the fries were extraordinary, absolutely extraordinary! Golden, crisp, hand-cut ... crunchy, and with a variety of longer specimens mixed in with perfectly toasty little tidbits, as well. By the time we'd eaten all the salad and the sandwiches, unfortunately the fries did not receive their due attention.
Now, a feast such as this should have cost a near fortune, right? Burger with loads of toppings, huge salad, chicken sandwich, platter-ful of fries ... easily a $20-30 meal, right??? Guess again: $13.83. I'm serious, see for yourselves!
I hope never, ever to have to endure the circle of Hell again! But I would love to go back to Plato's at any time ... :)