Last weekend we found ourselves without our son for the day for the FIRST TIME EVER. No, really. I can't think of another day that we've had together where we haven't had him around. Hmm. It was due.
So, knowing we were going to get this day to ourselves, we decided to spend the day at IKEA!! Several things to note... first, we live in Jacksonville. There is not an Ikea in Jacksonville, and the closest one is in Orlando, about 2 hours away. Also, the BF had never been to Ikea before, and, although he hates shopping, he was kind of excited about going. I've been a few times, and I've had a toddler with me each time. This was sure to be a different kind of experience.
Now, Ikea is one of my favorite places ever. I know some people don't like Ikea. Some people think it's for college kids or hippies or whatever. But here's why I like Ikea: the designs are mostly streamlined and clean, the price is right, it's great for people with kids, you get the satisfaction of building your own furniture, and they have flipping everything. My couch is Ikea. I can remove the cover and wash it. And it's yellow. And, if/when I get tired of the yellow, I can buy a new cover. My glass kitchen jars, son's crib/toddler bed, my bedding, bookcase, chair, new desk, buffalo shower curtain and apple slicer? All from Ikea. Ikea love-rant over.
My main concern with our trip, besides me going out of control spending, was where we would eat. Trips to Ikea (or Orlando in general) usually included several things: breakfast on the road (typically an egg/cheese croissanwich from Burger King), lunch somewhere awesome such as Earl of Sandwich, and dinner and dessert on the road (usually drive-through and an ice cream stop). These rules have changed a bit. Or completely. However you want to look at it.
I spent several days trying to find the right place for us to go to lunch. I figured I couldn't fudge the rest, but I could at least find us an awesome place for lunch. Using a combo of Happy Cow and Urbanspoon, I came upon quite a few options. I wanted somewhere that, first and foremost, could service a vegan. Second, I wanted it to be appealing to the BF, who is not vegan, but, bless him, has tried pretty much ever vegan thing I've had or made, with mostly positive results. Third, I wanted it to be close to the Ikea. And, fourth, I wanted it to be a little special. Not expensive special, but somewhere we wouldn't normally go. We could've just gone to Tijuana Flats, but that's where we usually go out to eat, and, while a safe choice, it wouldn't have been special.
I finally chose Mediterranean Blue, which had fantastic reviews every where I looked. I told the BF the night before, and he was pretty excited to get his hands on a gyro. When we passed downtown Orlando around 11:30, I pulled up the map again, and we took some back roads and a couple of turns, and we finally found it across the street from our stoplight. While sitting at the stoplight, we decided against going. Sigh. Neither one of us likes to go to a place that's empty, much less one that's in a slightly dingy part of town, especially when neither of us have ever been there. The red light was long. So we decided to go. Then, we pulled into the parking lot, and almost decided against it. I left it up to the BF, so we headed inside. We were the only people there... for about 10 minutes, when it became incredibly packed!
We started our meal with a small hummus and warm pita. The BF didn't like hummus but also had never really had hummus. He just figured he didn't like it. Um, he loves hummus. He was scooping up that hummus like there was no tomorrow. The warm pita helped too. It was definitely the best pita I've ever had. Hummus too. And I've had my share of hummus. I've even made it myself. This totally won out.
The BF had a gyro with feta cheese on that same warm pita, and he loved it. But, the real adventure of the day was my falafel pita. Although I've had garbanzos/chickpeas in more forms than I can count, I'd somehow never had falafel. It's no surprise to me that I fell in love with falafel this day. Warm pita, a layer of hummus, flavorful falafel, creamy tahini sauce, topped with lettuce, tomato and green onions... happy. Oh, and I didn't mention that we spent the extra $0.99 on the side of Greek Fries? Crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside, with a drizzle of olive oil, sea salt and oregano, these were some awesome fries.
Mediterranean Blue also has a whole case of side options as well. I'm guessing these change on a regular basis as they aren't part of the menu. I saw a few salads (greek and bean varieties) and some desserts in there, but I don't remember all the options. Lunch for both of us, including two fountain drinks, was about $21. And this meal completely sustained us, not only through Ikea, but also through the ride home. Even though I napped almost the whole way. But at least I wasn't longing for ice cream!
So here's to trying something new and being adventurous. And to furniture. From Ikea.