Olga Babak was grabbing a cup of coffee in Zootown Brew, in January, when she noticed a for-sale sign in the window across Broadway in the former Chop's Teriyaki space. Babak and her family had been selling vegetables and pastries at the Missoula Farmers market for 10 years, and had been considering opening a storefront for years. Olga, 20, and her mother decided to check the place out and on May 5, Babak's Bakery and Deli Mart opened next door to Bob's Sew and Vac and Einstein Bros Bagels.
Though she was born in Spokane, Babak's first language is Russian. For her, the kolbasa sausage and homemade Russian black bread for sale in the deli is a standard Tuesday night dinner.
"For me, this is just the culture I grew up in," said Babak, whose mother moved to the United States almost 30 years ago to escape religious persecution in Belarus.
- photo by Rebecca Keith
- Olga Babak and her brother Sergey hold a tray of their mom’s homemade pastries.
The shop also sells homemade pastries including butter cookies, cannolis and neapolitan cake—all made in-house from ingredients purchased at the Good Food Store or Orange Street Food Farm—which make for a quality complement to the Big Sky Coffee Roasters coffee and espresso served in the back. She hopes customers will take a break in the window seats and enjoy a mini caramel-blackberry tart while they order a cake for an event or pick up authentic ingredients for their next Russian meal.
Babak said the family decided to add a deli to the bakery when they realized just how big the new space was. Most of the area's Slavik families—a community of some 500 people centered around the Slavic Pentecostal Church of Missoula—usually end up driving to Kalispell or Spokane to stock up on the Eastern European preserves, spices and meats that Babak now sells at her store.
"We wanted to offer a little bit of everything," she said. "It's a very Eastern European mindset."
Babak's Bakery and Deli Mart is open daily from 7 a.m to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays.
Starters is a periodic column profiling new food businesses, trends and restaurants in and around Missoula. Send tips to email@example.com.