Oneonta residents and partners Anastasia Majestic and Nathaniel Roberts combine their love of play with their passion for food.
The two owners of Magic Box and Serenity Hobbies, respectively, launched Boba Yaga in late July.
Oneonta restaurant at 156 Main Street, named after Majestic’s Russian roots, is a tea and pancake boba cafe, with a side of board games.
“We were moving Magic Box from Dietz to Main Street, so that was the first, ‘Hey let’s take that other space too, because it was right between the current Magic Box and Serenity Hobbies locations,” said Roberts, 38. “That’s what started the conversation… but the concept of a board game cafe or an alternative cafe has always been in the air between the two of us.”
“I think maybe two years ago (Roberts) said, ‘Imagine a hole in (the Serenity Hobbies wall) with a coffee right there,” said Majestic, 30. started to imagine owning something related to food together. ”
Roberts said that while the Boba Yaga menu “changes weekly,” the authentic selection of boba, or bubble teas, is the star.
“We are definitely a bubble tea and pancake cafe,” he said. “These are two things Oneonta has never had or has in a very simplistic way. A milk tea that you could get in any Asian place (in town) will not be the same as here. It’s a similar flavor, but a different element. And we’re not taking any shortcuts; we even bought all of our equipment from all Taiwanese manufacturers.
The response to these unique offers, said Majestic and Roberts, has been gentle.
“We weren’t able to keep three things in stock – Thai milk tea, taro and matcha,” Roberts said. “They were gone in a few days. Everything is made in Taiwan and shipped to two warehouses – in San Francisco and New Jersey – and they serve all bubble tea stores across the country. “
“We have very good customers and (the response) has been very positive,” echoed Majestic. “And the good thing about pancakes is that it’s very easy to follow a gluten-free protocol. So, this is definitely an unserved market in Oneonta; with so many pizzerias open, it’s really hard to be gluten-free.
Roberts said he also tested a keto-friendly pancake recipe, coming soon to Boba Yaga’s menu.
Roberts and Majestic have said that as boba tea sets in, they hope to increase personalization. Roberts said he also plans to introduce ramen dishes during the winter and added the Door Dash service in late August.
“The menu is static at the moment, but we want it to be build yourself,” he said. “We had this suggestion for pancakes, and you can do the same with bubble tea. Many bubble tea shops prepare the menu for you to make yourself.
“Just because we know it’s very new to the area, for the start we decided to implement the vector,” said Majestic. “A lot of people come in and are lost, because they’ve never had this before. But if you’re feeling upbeat, you can say, “Hey, give me something that tastes like this,” and we can totally create it for you. “
Roberts said that “the main population of the cafe is teenagers up to 35”, although the place is designed for families.
“It’s a really good version of an anime cafe,” said Majestic, noting the Studio Ghibli-inspired decorations throughout. “(The Studio Ghibli films) are all very sincere, genuine and moral, with ideas of environmental protection, and as a restaurant we try to be very environmentally friendly – we recycle everything and anything that can be recycled, and we compost. “
“We chose Ghibli because it’s like the Disney of the anime world,” Roberts said.
The decline of the COVID-19 pandemic, Roberts and Majestic said, will hopefully boost the gambling side of coffee.
“We want to have games in the store so people can grab them and play and have game night and quiz nights,” Roberts said.
“I have a chess club,” said Majestic, with Roberts saying they were planning to add chess lessons and playing time “maybe right after you get out of school.”
“After COVID, we want to have a big table, like a tavern table, where you sit with people you don’t know,” Majestic continued. “A lot of people are looking for connection in this world, and it would be really good if we could provide that safe space. Usually this will be a very cool hangout where you don’t just sit on your phone; you can come and play, or bring friends who have never played, or you can just enjoy your time by drinking bubble tea and having a pancake.
Boba Yaga is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, although Roberts said hours could change based on demand.
For more information, find “Boba Yaga” on Facebook or follow @ bobayaga.oneonta on Instagram.