Sometimes, a restaurant can serve as a time machine, propelling a diner through time and space into a memory.
Such is the case with Le Baron's Honker Cafe in downtown Nampa. From all outward appearances, it doesn't seem like something that has the power to bend the laws of physics, but if you make it past the contemporary assortment of simple wooden tables and booths lining warm golden-beige walls, the historic soda fountain from the Dewey Palace Hotel and the warm smiles from the staff, and open the menu, you'll feel like you're in a different era.
It's in the expansive menu that the true nature of Le Baron's is found. The homey cafe has been a family enterprise since 1974, and it manages to bridge the gap between the farm town and the growing metropolitan area.
The menu is filled with comfort food that gives a hearty nod to the past: meatloaf, liver and onions, finger steaks, roast beef, roasted turkey and dressing, all served with homemade mashed potatoes, a vegetable and a roll. Breakfast is served all day and includes an entire page of egg options.
It's old-fashioned farm food, in generous portions, that is unpretentious but made with simple, quality ingredients. Best of all, the prices are just as unassuming, to the point I kept double-checking to make sure I had read it right.
My favorite dining companion--herself a farm girl--smiled as she reminisced but decided to go with the special, a Sicilian lasagne ($8.99). The massive rectangle was stuffed with spicy Italian sausage and piles of ricotta cheese, although it could have used a little more marinara sauce. Thick slices of garlic bread topped with parmesan and a sprinkle of oregano and garlic lined the plate were enough to induce a food coma.
I started with a cup of the tomato basil soup (99 cents), which was both thicker and spicier than I expected and piqued my interest in the pot roast ($6.79). The farmhand-sized portion was daunting, but I dug into a pot roast so tender there was no need for the accompanying steak knife. The thick brown gravy was decidedly homestyle, as were the satisfyingly chunky mashed potatoes.
A small cup held green beans with a slight metal tang that betrayed their canned origins. Usually, I would balk at canned vegetables, but somehow, here, it seemed only right. The monstrous, buttery roll billowed steam as it was broken open, and its light, fluffy layers were something to get lost in.
We did the responsible thing and packaged up half of our meals and then ordered dessert. The house specialty apple turnover ($3.99) filled a platter-sized plate, but we didn't let that hinder us. In a horrifyingly short time, the warm, gooey, cinnamon-saturated baked apples, flaky crust and scoop of vanilla ice cream were just a smear on the plate.
We may have waddled out, complaining about not needing to eat for a week, but I know I wasn't alone in wondering about the breakfast menu.
--Deanna Darr wishes she could plant pastries.