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The Boise Food Scoop: High Note Cafe Goes Vegan, Epi's Owner Will Retire


Between the city's spiking population playing construction havoc and the unstoppable passage of time, Boise's restaurant scene is always in flux. That said, the last week was particularly eventful: Two bites of area food news exploded on social media, launching hundreds of likes and comments.

In an April 26 Facebook post, High Note Cafe owner Maria Bahruth announced that she plans to transition her restaurant into a "completely vegan establishment" in the next few weeks, once its existing stock of meat and dairy runs out.

"If it works out, great; if it doesn't and costs me my livelihood, then so be it," she wrote. "I can no longer go forward knowing that I have supported great suffering and inexcusable practices by the meat/egg/dairy industry. I'm terrified, but I know I'm doing the right thing, and the right thing isn't always lucrative or safe."

After an outpouring of support from diners, Bahruth posted a Facebook update April 29 revealing the cafe will make its own vegan mayo, cheeses, sour cream, seitan (wheat gluten loaf), salad dressings, sauces, and gluten-free and regular bread in-house. On April 30, another Facebook post announced the restaurant would be closed that morning for re-training of staff, and open at 4 p.m. with a limited menu. According to a response she posted to a comment, Bahruth made her decision to stop serving animal products after watching Dominion, an investigative (and graphic) documentary about animal agriculture.

When BW called to ask about the transition, Bahruth declined to comment while the process was ongoing. Meanwhile, High Note's online menu has been swept clean of animal products, and features breakfast burritos stuffed with scrambled tofu and sandwiches like the Muffuleta, which comes loaded with grilled homemade seitan, muffuletta (olive salad), romaine, tomatoes and rosemary-black pepper aioli.

Across the valley, Meridian's beloved Basque restaurant Epi's made a splash March 1 when server Bridget Murphy posted on its Facebook page that both she and co-owner Christine Ansotegui will retire in the next few months.

"I will be retiring on May 11. Chris is retiring July 26," Murphy wrote. "The phone is ringing. A lot. She does not know yet if Epi’s is closing at the end of July. She hopes not. Plans are in the works. When there is concrete information, Chris will let me know to pass along to all of our friends."

Comments on Facebook were supportive, if a bit heartbroken.

Facebook user Steve Bennett's comment began, "Can we vote on this matter? No?" before he went on to wish Ansotegui and Murphy the best.

In a phone call May 2, Ansotegui said of the process that, "It is up in the air. It is a member of the family that is hoping to be able to [take over as owner]. It's not a fast process, so we're just, right now we're in that period of seeing if he can be successful in doing that. He's worked there for 19 years, so we're hoping that's something that will happen."

Ansotegui said the potential new owner shares her passion for the restaurant, and reassured that no matter what, Epi's will be open until her retirement date.

"I don't want people to feel frantic or whatever," she said. "We know we're going to be here until the end of July. We're sure."