Monday, November 24, 2008

Beware of Laptops - Common Roots Cafe

I've been intrigued by all that I've been reading about the Common Roots Cafe. Word on the street is that they have a mean bagel, and are celebrated for their devotion to local, sustainable and organic foods. I highly commend them for that and was looking very forward to heading there for a nice meal last Friday night.

First off, I have to sound off on the status of Lyndale Ave. It's a shame how long that's been torn up. It's a royal pain, in terms of getting around and has to be a huge hindrance to all the businesses in the area. After some driving around we finally made it to the Cafe and did the Minnesota cold walk (hunched sholders, hands buried in pockets, quick-choppy steps) from our parking spot.

I entered the room and was amazed at how many people were there on a Friday evening at about 8:45. The place was littered with people, but my attention was quickly diverted by two different but very important distractions. Upon taking a few steps in I noticed that the place just wasn't that clean. There were dishes all over tables and quite a bit of debris on the floors. I was a bit shocked by it, but hey, it was late, I was hungry and I figured everything would eventually get turned into compost or something. I was a bit discouraged by the counter service and server - again cleanliness of the space, and knowledge of the server, but we settled on the burger (I had heard good things) and the Chicken involtini/meatloaf that the server highly recommended.
We sat down and started to sip our drinks and I noticed the second distraction. This one held my attention longer then the cleanliness, and was a very bad sign in my mind: Everyone was on a laptop. Shit! I had just ordered dinner at a place that everyone else deemed a laptop joint. I was officially nervous. No one would ruin a good meal by surfing Craig's list, finishing a paper, or seeking a companion on No, they were likely here for other reason, and were not seeking stellar food.
Nervously I sat there and sucked down my Finnegan's as I waited in fearful anticipation. After a decent wait or food came out and I gave it a serious once-over. As usual, Jess and I had settled on 2 items with the intention to share. I started with the meatloaf and was totally underwhelmed. It was essentially flavorless, and the texture was quite odd - a granular tofu maybe? I think the "involtini" distinction was because they wrapped the loaf in the chicken skin. It was kinda gross. The slab of polenta that was served with it was greasy, limp and unappealing. It was all served on a bed of arugula which was the only portion of the plate with any flavor. Unfortunatley it had already drown in the grease from the meatloaf and polenta. Neeldless to say Jess didn't enjoy the dish (The one bite she managed) either and my suspision that I wasn't being very open was eliminated.

The burger was much better. I love a good grass-fed burger, and normally I'm all for goat cheese and caramelized onions, but the burger ended up being pretty sweet and a little top-heavy. The burger was definitely beyond my medium request, but still managed to retain a juicy consistency - which made me wonder what they added to it to maintain the juices despite the lean cut. The bun was very good, and grilled nicely. It was the best part of the meal, which was disappointing, however, I can now see that they do have some baking credentials

I learned my lesson: Never order dinner from a place where everyone else is on a laptop regardless of what you've heard others say. We didn't even finish our meal, and that is no small offense given my intense love for food. I'd maybe go back to Common Roots Cafe for baked goods or a sandwich. It seemed capable of pulling that off, and maybe if I got there earlier in the day the place would be cleaner. I'd like to see a place so dedicated to quality food succeed, but you won't catch me there for dinner again.

Happy Eating,


1 comment:

kat said...

I used to go there to meet up with some people & knit in the evening & it always felt much more like a coffee shop (that served beer & wine) than a restaurant to me.

BTW, I'm so tired of this construction its not even funny. Sometimes I feel like the city is trying to block us into our neighborhood by closing every street we use to get out, lyndale, nicollet, 35, 62, sheesh! Then on voting day they tore up the street in front of our polling place! I thinks its a conspiracy

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