3-star food from the North Star state

Common Roots Caf

Jay Boller

The term “Going Green” is facing some well-deserved backlash these days. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with attempts to lessen one’s carbon footprint, but when Target starts to market sassy/insufferable bags with slogans such as “I’m Saving the Planet, What Are YOU Doing?” eyebrows will be raised. Thankfully, there is a way to – sigh – “Go Green” without a corporately manufactured sense of righteousness and with the added benefit of tasty bison nachos (Made from Minnesota bison, naturally).

Common Roots Café is almost impossible not to like. Opened one year ago by Danny Schwartzman (who happens to still be in his ’20s) , Common Roots’ mission is to serve food that is grown locally, fairly and organically. Still, without decent food and ambiance, all that’s left is a commendable sense of social responsibility, right? In many cases, yes. But not in the case of Common Roots. Not only does it sound conceptually pleasing, but the café itself is comfortable and the food is unique. And unlike many trendy cafes, the prices are surprisingly reasonable.

Atmospherically, Common Roots strives in its relative minimalism. The walls are stripped brick, the tables are basic wood and the main décor features walls adorned with the burlap sacks that their free trade coffee arrives in. There are some oil paintings, plenty of local weeklies, and a community bulletin board. Orders are taken at the counter and food is delivered to your table. With its central Uptown location (near 26th Street and Lyndale Avenue) there’s ample opportunity for people watching too.

The menu doesn’t drift too far away from basic café fare, but there’s still plenty to like. For breakfast they have a variety of free-range egg dishes and homemade bakery. With vegans in mind, there are also a good number of animal-product-free pastries. Lunch consists of your basic veggie, cheese, chicken and beef sandwiches. But with all the organic and local touches mentioned on the menu, somehow it feels as though you’re getting something more. Perhaps that’s all part of Common Roots’ plan, but either way, it tastes darn good. The menu is ripe with fluidity as availability of local products is constantly in flux, but the current dinner items all appear tempting: fish tacos, handmade pastas with Wisconsin cheese and Kadejan chicken paillard. With prices that don’t tread northward of $12, the menu is both eco- and not-paying-a lot-for-dinner friendly. A perfect combo.

If BP and Starbucks’ recent forays into “Green” territory have your B.S. detector on overdrive, Common Roots is a solid option for re-instilling your faith in the eco-friendly movement. Their decidedly no-B.S. approach to local dining is an emission-free breath of fresh air. For roughly the cost of a meal plus beer at a fast-casual restaurant (Noodles, Chipotle, etc.), why not grab a BBQ Kadejan chicken sandwich with a Brooklyn Center’s own Surly tap beer at Common Roots? Any negative response to the aforementioned question can be roughly translated to “Because I hate planet Earth” – and you don’t want that.