Boise has grown rapidly in recent years, but it hasn't outgrown its warmth and sense of authenticity. Arizona/California transplants David and Lizzy Rex hope it never will. The husband-and-wife team own The Wylder on Broad Street, and their latest restaurant, Certified Kitchen + Bakery in Hyde Park, only adds to the city they've come to love.
"We just think it's a great place to be and raise our kids," said David, who grew up spending summers at his grandparents' house in Salmon. "That's kind of it in a nutshell. Nothing super fancy; a bunch of things fell into place for us, and here we are."
- Emily Alexander
Inside Certified's narrow, hall-like space, the skylights overhead brighten the white-painted brick and marble countertops, making the space crisp and lively. This modern interior, along with stylish menu items like chia pudding and coconut quinoa oatmeal, could almost fool the inattentive visitor into believing this Boise addition belongs in some up-and-coming Los Angeles neighborhood. But look closer: In the center of the dining area is a communal table where people can introduce themselves between sips of coffee by the locally owned roaster Form and Function; the English muffins are made with the same heritage sourdough starter as The Wylder's pizzas; the staff members behind the counter greet customers with smiles so genuine it's difficult to resist telling them one's deepest secrets; and each item in the display case, from muffins to carrot cake, is handmade by Lizzy's mother Yaya. The building itself was once inhabited by Certified Rug Cleaner, a business beloved by North Enders for decades.
"The storefront was obviously important to keep," said David, as was the name, to honor the original shop. Though the Rexes are comparatively new to Boise, they clearly know the city well: Certified combines the cool minimalism of metropolitan hotspots with a rustic intimacy so beloved in Boise.
Located between North End Pizza and Euphoria Salon on 13th Street, the space offered the Rexes an opportunity to implement a concept they had always loved: "Just a fun, easy place to go eat breakfast or lunch, a cookie or a coffee." They live just a few blocks from Certified with their two kids, and designed the menu by asking themselves what they wanted to eat every day.
On a Sunday morning, the huge crowd at Certified seemed to share the Rexes' tastes. The line stretched to the door, and the cooks bustling around the open kitchen constantly called out names and placed plates on the countertop to be picked up by their rightful owners. The room was loud, but there was a happy buzz. Half of the diners look like they had just rolled out of bed, and for the rest, it looked like their second stop of the morning after taking their dogs for a walk in the Foothills.
There are options for everyone: Certified's egg sandwich is a hunger-queller; its richness is balanced by fresh arugula and the buttery, almost-spicy crème fraiche pooling in the English muffin's doughy cavities. For more gluttonous appetites, the croque madame is a mustardy interpretation of the classic French dish—ham, cheese and egg stacked between that same house-made English muffin. Though one would be remiss to skip this latest iteration of the infamous sourdough starter, which boasts the perfect hint of sourness without sacrificing the hangover-friendly voluptuousness of fresh-made bread, a more health-conscious diner might opt for the Trailhead Bowl or Patti P's extra special granola. The lunch menu features butcher sandwiches and to-go salads.
No matter what, don't skip the pastries, which are displayed in a multi-layered landscape on the front counter. While staring at them in line, it's nearly impossible not to slip into a carb-happy haze of possibility. Yaya (her real name is Patti Pullen) manages the restaurant's bakery. With the creation of Certified came the opportunity for her to use her skills and become an integral part of the family restaurant.
"She's always been a really talented baker," David said.
Try the lemon poppyseed bread or the oatmeal-peach scone, perfect for dipping in hot coffee, so long as you can spare the crumbs lost to the bottom of the cup. Better yet, be the first to break into the olive oil chocolate cake in the morning, no matter how early it is.
In the future, the Rexes said they plan to break out of the breakfast/lunch corner, and David listed off items from The Wylder's menu that may become part of Certified's takeaway supper program.
"You can eat breakfast and lunch in the space or take it away, but eventually you'll be able to take home supper as well."