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Ikea, a place to get shelves, wine glasses -- and free breakfast

Want a hot, nutritious free breakfast? Go shopping at Ikea

Who knew that at the same place where you can pick up a build-it-yourself futon or Lack floating shelf, you could also pick up a free plate of potatoes, sausage and eggs? Beginning in September 2014, all Ikeas across the U.S. started offering free breakfast on Mondays, as part of the company’s national plan to generate awareness for the restaurant and boost business.

At the Ikea in Burbank, dozens of people line up inside the restaurant to get some free early sustenance, which is served from 9:30 to 11 a.m. It’s an eclectic, multiethnic demographic of diners, including many senior citizens on fixed incomes, a handful of the mentally and physically challenged, some homeless people carrying plastic grocery bags filled with their belongings, young mothers pushing two or more strollers, and, yes, a few hipster urbanites. 

Many of these folks have no intention of wandering through the Ikea marketplace to buy Malm dressers or Alang table lamps. They head over to the store at 9:30 a.m., often lining up at the doors before they open — the Ikea retail store doesn't open until 10 — because this is the cheapest eggs and sausage meal in town outside of the Union Rescue Mission.

And you can go back for seconds, and thirds, and fourths, and even fifths. You can even load up on breakfast to-go in recyclable containers. No limits on those either. Coffee will cost you an additional 75 cents, but with free refills. If you want the Swedish pancake breakfast, you need to cough up an extra $2.99, with an additional 99 cents for the cinnamon roll.

“It’s more than generous,” says Diana Sandoval, an actor and resident of Burbank who frequents the breakfast every week. “It’s stunningly amazing.”

Sandoval sits at a light-wood community table among five senior citizens, all of whom know each other well from their weekly attendance.

“I come here every week,” says Paul, a man in his late 50s. “I put in a bid for them to bring back the pork sausage.” The pork sausage, retracted from the menu briefly, is now back on the 99-cent Ikea breakfast plate, which is available Tuesdays through Sundays. On Mondays, they serve only turkey sausage, for cost reasons. 

Another senior in his 70s sits reclined, reading the news in old-school print, four boxes of breakfasts piled up next to the paper in a neat stack.

“It’s wonderful coming here,” he says. “I’ve been coming here since it opened in the early '90s.”

The Ikea restaurant runs much like a dorm cafeteria or a Sizzler. You take a tray and pass by the various pre-made a la carte and dessert options, the gravad lax — a dill-cured salmon salad — the sea salt caramel cupcake, the triple chocolate layer cake, and then you get to the hot breakfast, where you can choose from the Ikea breakfast plate of sausage, bacon and eggs, the Belgian waffle, Swedish pancakes, regular pancakes and bacon. 

Behind this smorgasbord, the open kitchen is unequivocally Ikea.  Nondescript cooking utensils hang in perfect order above the range, and squeaky-clean speed racks stand by the cook frying up the eggs. 

The eggs — albeit real — came frozen out of a carton. The potatoes, also previously frozen, lack crisp and seasoning. And the sausage, nothing comparable to the sausage you’ll find at Salt’s Cure or Cooks County, is one step down from Jimmy Dean. For the food enthusiast, this free breakfast is well below par. 

It's all too easy to knock this kind of previously frozen food, but the huge crowds and long lines flooding the Ikea restaurant on Monday mornings show that many Angelenos are food insecure, and that a breakfast costing nothing is a very good deal indeed. It's also a good deal for busy parents, people who don't know their way around the kitchen, and many others for whom a hot, nutritious breakfast is not as easy to come by as it should be.

While Ikea offers this freebie to increase business on sluggish Monday mornings, it's also fostering a sense of community and comfort to diners every week.  And they have free Wi-Fi.

Ikea Burbank, 600 N. San Fernando Blvd., Burbank, (888) 888-4532, ikea.com.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
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