Root, Root, Root for the Home Team!
Staring at the clock, I counted down the seconds until school was out. The last click, the bell would ring, and the boundaries would melt away. Summer had arrived. Gone were divisions by age or subject. No more recess that always felt a little too short. No more shoes! I could spend my time relaxing, casual in a swimsuit and shorts, playing with the kids in my neighborhood. Whether it was the exhilaration of riding bikes, playing tag, selling Kool-Aid, or running through freezing sprinklers, there was always something exciting happening on those bright, happy days.
What I loved best was the easy friendships with kids of every age. My neighborhood had kids from preschool to high school, and during the summer we all played together in the park behind my house. No matter the activity, everybody was welcome. We picked blackberries and climbed trees. Decked out in black, we played long night games of “spy” or capture the flag. Always there was baseball.
My brother organized more pickup baseball games than I can count. With as few as four players or as many as a full roster, we would play until it was too dark to see the ball. My brother, the gifted pitcher, would step right up to the batter’s box and gently toss the ball underhanded to whichever tiny batter was up. Nobody kept an accurate count of balls and strikes against the little kids, and nobody tried too hard to field against them either. We just wanted to play together. Even our Mennonite neighbor kids would come out and sit on the grass, too shy to play, but part of the group nonetheless.
Those sunny summer days when we did all the things with all the people are my favorite childhood memories. Along the way, we lost the kind of freewheeling summers my brother and I spent roaming the neighborhood. Sometimes, for my own children’s sake, I wish that we could get a little of that back. I am always searching in the hope of finding some of that goodness.
Last week, I discovered Wild Root Café & Market. Owners Michael and Anne-Marie Trebbi are enthusiastic and charming. Michael is the chef, and Anne-Marie works as the manager. They have created a menu that has something for everyone. Michael describes it as eclectic American: casual quick service with a focus on presentation. Whether it is a hint of Italian flair, Migas, Vietnamese, French or a vegetarian/vegan dish you are seeking, Michael says what you will find is “a good healthy menu made from scratch.” Wild Root uses fresh, locally sourced, seasonal ingredients to create choices that will tempt even the most discerning palates. Menu offerings change regularly, so there is always something new to try. The café itself is a catchall; part counter service, part table service, with a help-yourself water station.
Curious to see what a gourmet café offering vegan options would do with a greasy-spoon classic, I ordered steak and eggs. It was light but filling, with ingredients, I found to my delight, arranged in an array of increasing temperatures. The potatoes were especially tasty. My friend chose the savory waffle, a surprising and wonderful combination of flavors. Michael’s gorgeous presentation blurs the boundaries between formal and casual dining. Dishes are plated with an earthy elegance, equally inviting for those seeking semi-formal dining or for laid-back walk-ins from the farmers market located just beyond the patio.
With such appealing dishes, it’s no surprise Wild Root was filled with customers spanning every age and walk of life who appeared happy to be there (this included several children—no small feat, considering Wild Root doesn’t have a dedicated kids’ menu). The food was fantastic but even better than that, I felt this true mom and pop cafe had found something of those lost summers—the all-encompassing feeling where anything is possible, and everyone is welcome. Like a baseball game where a kindergartener faces down a high school pitcher, you can’t guess how great it is until you try it. But when you do, it’s glorious.
Wild Root is located at 276 N. 8th St. in Boise. It is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Saturday.