A version of this article originally appeared on MUNCHIES Denmark.
The plant-based revolution is in fully underway in Europe. First, the McDonald's in Sweden added the McVegan to their menu, and last Thursday IKEA entered the ring with a veggie dog. But who in their right mind would go to McDonald's to eat vegan food? And just like you go to McDonald's for the burger, aren't the cheap hot dogs IKEA's primary draw besides furniture (and maybe meatballs)?
I went to the IKEA in Malmö—the only location that's serving the veggie dog thus far—to taste the glory myself and to find out why the furniture tycoon is taking steps to ensure that we're eating less meat.
As I left Copenhagen and headed over the Sound, the strait that marks the border between Denmark and Sweden, I realized it was the first time in my life that I'd actually looked forward to a trip to IKEA. I arrived at Hyllie station and was met by four Swedish police officers who wanted to know my purpose for entering Sweden. I told them I was on my way to IKEA to have lunch, and the police—while rather skeptical—walked off and let me pass without a hitch.
When I arrived at the restaurant, which is on the second floor of the IKEA store in Malmö, it seemed like half of Sweden had congregated there. The department store had only been open for 15 minutes, and it definitely wasn't time for fika just yet, but there was already a long line of people queued up for the brunch buffet, eager to get their fix of poké bowls with salmon and avocado, and vegetarian lasagna.
I was met by four Swedish police officers who wanted to know my purpose for entering Sweden. I told them I was on my way to IKEA to have lunch, and the police—while rather skeptical—walked off and let me pass without a hitch.
The veggie dogs, however, were not immediately visible. I put a cup of coffee on my tray and made my way to the checkout. Had they taken the veggie dog off the menu already? A tall, blonde-haired, blue-eyed IKEA employee (dressed in the obligatory yellow uniform with blue pinstripes, of course) informed me that the the veggie dog was indeed in the building, just in the Bistro, in the warehouse after the cash registers.
Here you can treat yourself to soft-serve ice cream, hot dogs, and fountain sodas after you've spent several hours surrounded by Lack tables and Billy bookcases.
I ordered two veggie dogs, and my heart was racing when they asked me to pay. Each one costs five Swedish krona, which is all of 62 cents in USD.
Carina, the Bistro attendant behind the counter, topped several veggie dogs off with a creamy sauce (which sort of tastes like what you get on a kebab), and then added sweet mustard, pickled red cabbage, and crispy onions.
"Wow, is that the veggie dog?" exclaimed a guy who identified himself as a representative from IKEA North America. He immediately ordered one and asked Carina if the dogs are made from the same kind of "meat" that was used in the vegetarian meatballs IKEA introduced a few years ago. Apparently they are not.
But what are they actually? The menu poster on the wall lists the veggie dog, but there wasn't a single indication as to what the "sausages" are actually made of. I asked, and got a list of ingredients (which included water, kale, red lentils, quinoa, fennel seeds, and additives).
I took a bite. The bread was soft, the red cabbage was sour, and the onions were crunchy. The sausage itself was a little harder to describe. It was soft, almost like mashed potatoes. It didn't taste bad—not at all. It just didn't really taste like much.
As far as I could see, I was the only one in the Bistro (with the exception of my new North American friends) who was eating the veggie dog.
I called up Anders Ledhagen, the Sales Manager for IKEA Food, who helped make the company's vegetarian hot dog a reality, to ask him where the idea came from.
"We're working towards a more plant-based and sustainable menu," he told me. "We're seeing more and more that people are taking care of their health, the environment, and animal welfare. That's the future, so it makes sense for us as a business."
Ledhagen said that there's been demand for vegetarian dishes, but that he also believes that it's IKEA's job to serve healthier and more environmentally-friendly food. But if you really wanted to send a signal to the rest of the world, why not do away with the meat option entirely and only sell the veggie dog?
"I think a lot of people who come to IKEA still believe that both the traditional hot dog and the classic meatballs still have a place in our range," Ledhagen explained. "But so far, the reception of the vegetarian hot dog has been positive, and we'd like to introduce more plant-based options in the future. It doesn't stop with the veggie dog."
So far, the veggie dog is only available at IKEA's Malmö location. It's still in development and hasn't yet found its final form, but the plan is to introduce it to other locations throughout Europe later this year. Until then, if you happen to be in Denmark, you'll still have to cross the Sound if you want to add some extra flavor to your purchases with a vegetable-based sausage.