Uncommon food


Bagels and locally grown food featured at Common Roots Cafe

Let’s face it; I’m not a bagel snob. I appreciate quality when I get it, but I’m not a New Yorker and I don’t think I’ll ever feel bagels the way some folks do. That being said, I do have some opinions on the subject. First on the list is that bagels are not dessert. I really like blueberries, honey and walnuts, just not in my bagels (maybe on, definitely not in). I’m also a pretty big fan of chocolate chips, in cookies not bagels!

Common Roots Cafe, located on the northwest corner of 26th Street and Lyndale Avenue, keeps bagels simple and savory. They make and serve only plain, onion, poppyseed and sesame. The bagels are more than good enough to satisfy even a real bagel buff. However, whether you are an aficionado or you choose to view your bagel primarily as a vehicle for delivering cream cheese, the quality and variety of spread and topping selections at Common Roots will make you very happy. When I couldn’t make a single choice, the counter staff encouraged me to go half and half, and I discovered a new favorite: A plain bagel with the salty wonder of olive tapenade on one half and plain cream cheese on the other.

I’m not so sure if the olives are local, but the cream cheese sure is. It comes from the Organic Valley co-op in Wisconsin, which leads us to the manner in which Common Roots seeks to differentiate itself (beyond having truly wonderful bagels). The business is doing its best to be a model citizen of the community and of the planet.

The kitchen is committed to using local, organic and fair-trade ingredients whenever possible. The menu is strongly influenced by the recommendations of local farmers on what’s in season. The cafe strives to keep its waste compostable and recyclable. Moreover, one of Common Roots’ stated goals is to serve as a neighborhood gathering place where people actively engage with their community. The management has scheduled events to promote discussion and a meeting space for about a dozen people is available at no charge to non-profit organizations and other groups.

It’s not just bagels and community at Common Roots Cafe. They offer soups, salads, sandwiches, pastries and cookies. The sandwiches are fresh and hearty and the array of sweets is plentiful and tempting. I only tried two of the soups. Both were obviously crafted with care. The potato soup was smooth, comforting and downright delicious, with lots of celery aroma that made this traditional cold-climate standby anything but bland. The carrot and ginger soup was warm and inviting. Unfortunately, there was something about the combination of flavors that was very nice for a spoonful or two, but could not persuade me to finish a full bowl.

Business was brisk all three times I visited. Counter service was hectic, but very friendly and helpful. In addition to food, Common Roots features locally-brewed beers, wines from area vintners and proudly serves Peace Coffee. Their dedication to incorporating conscience into the business model even finds its way down to the sturdy and comfortable tables made from reclaimed lumber. The model aims to be sustainable and I certainly hope that Common Roots sustains itself as well.

Scott Schiefelbein lives in Uptown and eats anywhere and everywhere.