Huddled between a Macy's and a vitamin shop in Nampa's sprawling Gateway Center off I-84 on Garrity Boulevard, the Royal Bakery and Cafe is easy to overlook. The cafe boasts a few tidy tables, a sprinkling of mass-produced art and a chalkboard sign advertising an assortment of omelets, crepes and sandwiches. Behind the counter, an espresso machine rattles under a shelf overburdened with sugary syrups.
But move past these generic first impressions and you'll find something--more accurately someone--rather unique. Galina Antonov, a native of Ukraine, opened the Royal Bakery and Cafe nearly four years ago. Though the cafe's menu makes a number of concessions to the American palate--like the California chicken sandwich with Thousand Island dressing ($8.49)--it also offers a handful of European, Russian and Ukrainian specialties.
The borscht ($3.99), with its flavorful broth and light vinegar bite, won't stain your lips with its ruby hue. In fact, I couldn't find a single beet lurking under a sea of red cabbage, potatoes, carrots, tomatoes and, interestingly, red beans. Antonov later explained that the beets had been blended into the broth, noting that the recipe is "Ukrainian and Jewish."
The beets were much easier to spot on the plate of golupsi, or cabbage rolls ($9.49). A side of creamy egg salad was crowned with vibrant slivers of beet and carrot, and a sprinkling of fresh parsley. Though it's hard to dress up wet cabbage, Royal Cafe's rolls were pleasing to look at and to eat, packed with a moist blend of ground beef, chicken, carrots and rice, and bathed in a tomato-y sweet and sour sauce.
While an order of pelmeni ($8.99)--doughy white dumplings the size of a truffle--weren't quite as colorful, the flavors were equally simple and savory. Dense, well-seasoned mounds of chicken and onions were concealed in a thin, handmade dough. Glazed in butter and vinegar, then dusted with black pepper and dunked in the accompanying sour cream sauce, the pelmeni made a great shared plate.
Perhaps the best item to share at Royal Bakery and Cafe is the sugar-flecked peach cookie ($1.99). Two walnut shortbread cookies are sealed together with a creamy caramel core and look just like a peach. A simple pull-twist yields two lovely, lightly sweet confections.
Antonov explained that she's contemplating closing up shop in January to focus on catering and improving her English. Looks like I've got a few more trips to 2C in my future.