MSP - Common Roots Cafe
Mediocre food (salad dressing acidic to the point of inedibility), surly service. Definitely not recommended.
Wow! That's a surprise about the service. I haven't tried much there besides bagels with lox, cream cheese and capers and a couple random baked goods, but the women at the counters are usually very pleasant. (Weekdays at about 8:00 a.m., maybe five visits now?) Even patient with my incessant questioning about the odd colored hummuses and spreads.
That's too bad...surly service sucks. Thanks for the warning.
I've had some excellent soups and salads and never noticed surly service there. I'm watching my gluten, so don't usually have bagels, but had to try theirs since they are using local organic flour etc. I like the bagel, but to be honest I have to say I like the NYC ones better. The common roots bagel was a bit bland, although it had nice chewy texture. I also appreciate that they are making their own spreads without the chemical additives of places like Bruegger's, using organic cream cheese. They may be having some staffing issues but I think a lot of their food is very good. May not appeal to people who like high-salt cooking though. They are happy to let you taste anything ahead of time, so it sounds like a good idea to sample soups and salads before making a choice.
Having read this review, and having been making a point to try Common Roots for several months I finally went this morning (I'm actually there now) to see for myself what the disparity in the reporting was the result of.
After one visit, I found the following:
Plain Bagel with Lox: Bagel is good and fresh but not really like the NY bagels I know. Very good though. Lox are tasty and the thing came loaded, though I was puzzled by the addition of sprouts which overwhelm the flavor of the lox.
Caffe Macchiato: Feh. Acidic underwhelming espresso. Good dab of foam. My local measuring stick is the macchiato @ Broders which is closest to what we've had in Italy. Needs work.
Service: Outstanding. Smilingly greeted and welcomed despite a long line by two people. Perhaps they read this review already? Anyway, the barista was great and had a sweet antiquey owl necklace on.
Bagels are okay when they turn out. And the price totally beats out another bagel shop I won't name. However, on at least two occasions the baker erred or fate entered and they didn't get a proper rise from the dough but sold them anyway. Replaced them both times, but at the cost of a 20-mile round trip. If I can't trust them to sell quality products and have to yank out a bagel in the store before leaving to check it...well, it's just not worth it to me.
Other stuff I've tried has been okay, and service has been at least 80% fine, but the bagels ended my desire to recognize it as a place to go. Oh, and in the interest of full disclosure, the poor music selections and overly-loud volume did contribute to that decision.
ick! that's pretty bad about the bagels. did this happen any time recently?-- i ask because when c.r. first opened i had some menu items that were **very** weak (i would normally not return to a place with such poor food options). when i did give c.r. another chance everything was much improved. with the owner's philosophy of using as much local food as possible, i think it took the kitchen staff some time to adjust from whatever they were accustomed to. they learned bare-bones for all i know. i think the cooking is still improving *sigh*.
so re: bagels-- how long ago are we talking?-- could it possibly be an inexperience issue that could have worked itself out by this time?
I've been there many times. Granted, I only live 4 blocks from there, but I've always been really pleased with the place. The soups are delicious, there just aren't better bagels in town, and the organic cream cheese is very flavorful. And not at all waxy.
I'm really surprised about the surly service. It's too bad it happened to you - I've had nothing but incredibly friendly people help me there. I *cannot* say the same for one other bagel shop located in Uptown, where I had terrible, terrible, terrible service several times in a row. I think it makes a huge difference when the staff are connected to the company in a meaningful way. The staff I've talked to at Common Roots are enthused by the aims of the cafe, and it reflects in their work attitude. Chain places - employees are just there for a paycheck. I can't help but thinking of "flair" from Office Space when I see corporate restaurant employees.
I also really like their commitment to sustainability.
I keep going back to Common Roots Cafe over and over and I have to say I have never had surly service. I think everyone should have a place like this in their neighborhoods - they have a room that they let non-profits use for meetings for free, try so hard to be sustainable and local in their food and other doings, offer free wi-fi and have long hours. The place is always full of an amazingly diverse group ranging from students to people on dates. It just feels good.
The bagels are good - some times better than others times. The soups are incredible! Take a taste to see what you want first. The rest of the items... it's chance. They like to experiment. I think it is all kind of fun. SO much better than the grease-filled Soba's that used to be in this space.
I just stopped by for my first "evening" experience at Common Roots -- I needed a small, quick, healthy dinner and a place to do some work. If there was any doubt at all about wi-fi availability, there should be none. Every single table in the front section had computers on it, most tables with multiples. It was actually pretty funny looking...they were all perfectly lined up like cars at a Saturn dealer. If it weren't for the clickety-click-clicking of the keyboards, I'd swear you would have heard the plantive wailing of the poor, overworked midwestern U.S. power grid. I was lucky enough to snag the last available seat and promptly opened up my computer, happy to not be the oddball.
It's actually a bit of a shame that most of the people had their hands busy on the keyboard rather than a fork. My clumsy fumbling somewhere between the Escape from Alcatraz step and the Breach of Fort Knox procedure in my company's secure remote sign-on process was mercifully interrupted by the delivery of the fish taco "appetizer" that I had ordered. It really wasn't an appetizer so much as it was three full tacos, which was reflected in the $7.00 price tag. That said, they were excellent and a fine value for a small supper.
The basics: Very fresh soft corn shells, not doubled up but about the thickness of two standard shells. They held up perfectly. The fish was pan fried and was accompanied by a bit of slaw and a light, herb infused cream sauce. The web site says "marinated" tilapia which is a bit of a surprise -- generally tilapia has a bit more plain flavor. Hurray for marinating I guess. I actually was a bit focused on work so I didn't take detailed note of all of the elements (not that I ever really do), but these were probably my favorite fish tacos to date in MSP, edging out my beloved halibut tacos at Sea Salt. They actually would have been perfect if there had been a little lime to squeeze on top. Maybe that's available if you ask.
On a final note, I don't want to be disagreeable with the previous posters, but this was my third visit to Common Roots in the last two weeks (the other two were standard a.m. bagel/lox/capers stops). Because of the chatter here, I've been waiting for the less-than-pleasant service, but I just continue to luck out with the happy ones. The girl tonight (short bobbed hair) was super-pleasant. Maybe it's the "I'm going to post details about you all over the internet" t-shirt that I always wear (OK..kidding, but wouldn't that be cool to have?).