GARDEN CITY, Idaho — There’s a new flavor in Garden City.
“When (customers) walk in they love the look and the feel. Everybody comments how good it smells in here,” said Wepa Cafe owner Art Robinson.
“Wepa!” is a shout of joy and celebration in Puerto Rico and it’s that spirit owner Art Robinson brought to the Treasure Valley.
Robinson is originally from New York. His mother was born just outside San Juan, so Wepa is a taste of home.
“I still have family there. I go and visit as often as I can,” he said.
Nestled just off the Boise greenbelt, Wepa Cafe was only an idea about four years ago. It started first as a pop-up and food truck. Now it’s a brick and mortar building with outdoor patio and rooftop seating, a take-out window, and of course flavorful food.
“It’s a very savory cuisine. A lot of flavors really melded together."
Head Chef Alex Burtov is a Boise native. He spent years living in Alaska and coincidentally, Puerto Rico.
“I was interested in coming back (to Boise) and when I was up in Alaska looking for work I met Art and he said he was opening a Puerto Rican restaurant. That really caught my attention,” Burtov said.
He’s blending traditional flavors with new ideas, creating a spicy menu unique to these parts.
“In Mexico and in Central America spicy refers to heat. In Puerto Rico and the Caribbean spice refer to the flavor of things,” said Burtov.
Robinson said it’s not just about the food — it’s also about the people. In 2017 he witnessed the aftermath of Maria, a Category 5 hurricane that hit the island causing incredible damage.
“I saw a lot of the devastation firsthand. It was mine boggling to see,” he said.
Now, he’s giving back, using a portion of the proceeds from the restaurant to help rebuild.
“We call it authentic Puerto Rican cuisine with a social conscience."
For those looking for traditional cuisine or in the mood to try something new, stop by Wepa Cafe and take a vacation — without ever leaving home.