With a bold stroke of color here, a tenuous drizzle of sauce there, newcomer Wild Root Café and Market separates itself from other breakfast and lunch eateries around town by offering a nuanced farm-to-table experience during the daytime hours.
Chef Michael Trebbi and his wife, Anne-Marie, recently opened the bright and flowing eatery in the former Yokozuna Teriyaki spot on bustling 8th Street.
Michael Trebbi, who grew up cooking in Chicago, was able to break free from the world of corporate food service (he formerly worked for Thomas Cuisine) and assert himself with a seasonal menu of ingredient-focused fare that employs a profusion of local foodstuffs.
Tall windows bathe the dining area in light, accentuating the green curry-hued paintjob and ornate lamps that hang from the high ceiling like linen napkin chrysanthemums.
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Wild Root doesn’t offer table service, but the order-at-the-counter (and wait for your name to be called) system seems to work smoothly as the food comes out of the semi-open kitchen at a relatively fast clip. Beware the bottleneck at the counter during busy times, though.
Vegheads and the gluten-free crowd will find no shortage of inventive dishes here.
For lunch, vegetarian options include an intriguing seasonal beet salad ($9) that mingles field greens (lightly dressed with emulsified maple-balsamic vinaigrette) with fresh crimson and golden beets, spiced pumpkin seeds and dabs of tangy goat cheese — stretched out on a long platter next to orange slices and a shingle of poppy-seed-flecked cracker bread that was overly salty during one visit.
It seems like everyone is serving a banh mi sandwich these days. But Wild Root takes its Vietnamese-inflected sandwich ($9) in a veggie direction. A crusty Acme Bakeshop baguette gets split and layered with vegan soy mayonnaise, avocado, seared cubes of tofu (marinated in mushroom soy sauce), pickled carrot, cucumber planks, fresh mint, bean sprouts and spicy kimchi. The sandwich came with a composed green bean-tomato salad dotted with pearls of wheat berries and couscous.
Expect to find two different soups on a daily basis. This time of year the pots get filled with thick and hearty creations meant to warm bellies.
One afternoon, I took the chill off with a cup of kaffir leaf-kissed Thai green curry soup ($3/gluten-free) pocked with tofu, carrot, celery and mushrooms. Carnivores will be happy with the beef barley soup ($3), made chunky with nutty gems of grain and mirepoix (celery, onion and carrot).
The fall-inspired bruschetta ($11) is another good pick for meateaters. A long splinter of grilled baguette comes smothered with a hodgepodge of mixed greens, herby grilled chicken, caramelized butternut squash bites, toasted hazelnuts and little puffs of house-made ricotta — zigzagged with balsamic vinaigrette and syrupy balsamic reduction.
Diners can expect the same level of nuance during breakfast.
Toast and Jam ($11) is much more than toast and jam. A long toasted slice of baguette gets layered with succulent tiles of smoked and seared pork belly in close proximity to a smear of thick date preserves (redolent of cinnamon and orange zest) with the consistency of apple butter. Two perfectly cooked sunny-side-up eggs (cage-free, no less), garnished with tender popcorn shoots, sit atop the pork just begging to have their yokes popped.
Carnivores also can sink their teeth into a tasty twist on steak and eggs ($13), a long plank of grilled baguette striped with toothsome pieces of tender steak (nailed at medium rare) and two eggs with their sunny side showing — next to a puddle of cheesy Mornay sauce and roasted whole red potatoes with a garlicky kick.
Continue down the meaty path to the Southwestern-inspired Migas ($9), a fluffy egg scramble riddled with seared pieces of piquant chorizo, crumbled queso fresco, scallion, cilantro and crunchy tortilla ribbons — flanked by a mound of fresh spinach and citrusy tomatillo salsa with big chunks of avocado.
One chilly morning, I really wanted a hearty bowl of stone-ground oatmeal, barley and quinoa, but the restaurant was out. Not a big deal.
Instead, the Wild Skillet ($11) turned out to be an excellent vegetarian (and gluten-free) choice. This mélange of skillet-cooked mushrooms (oyster, crimini and shiitake), leafy kale, gooey white cheddar and whole red spuds, with a hint of garlic and truffle oil, was crowned with two sunny-side-up eggs littered with popcorn shoots.
It appears that Wild Root is a good fit for this well-positioned space, which has been a revolving door of eateries over the years.
Reviewers pay for their meals and attempt to dine anonymously. Email James Patrick Kelly: email@example.com.
Wild Root Café and Market
Address: 276 N. 8th St., Boise
Phone: (208) 856-8956
Hours: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday-Friday (Breakfast till around 11 a.m., then lunch starts). Saturday brunch menu from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Check Facebook for occasional pop-up dinners at night.
Menu price range: breakfast $6-$13; lunch $6-$12
Libation situation: A beer and wine license is in the works.
Kid friendly? Yes
Wheelchair accessible? Yes
Opened: November 2015