Common Roots

Twin Cities, Minnesota


rating star

Common Roots has really lost the plot in the last two years or so. They started out as a great place to get affordable, healthy, veg-friendly food. Now, however, they've decided that they want to be all things to all people -- except, apparently, to vegans. They do have a decent selection of (expensive) vegetarian fare, although even that is dwindling.

When I went there earlier this week, aside from a kale soup, they had NO vegan options. I told the cashier I'm vegan, and ordered the walnut veggie burger. A minute or two later he came to the table and told me that the burger has milk in it. I asked what other options they have, and aside from the soup and a few salads (which I don't consider a meal) there was nothing. The kitchen did end up making me a very tasty veggie sandwich, and it's really only because of staff such as the cashier and kitchen staff that I can even give this a fair review, because they were all helpful and incredibly nice. However, the people making the decisions at Common Roots really need to step back and look at whether their new business model is going to work. They clearly want to be a coffee shop AND a fancy dinner restaurant AND a casual lunch spot, but because they're not fully focused on any of those missions, they fail in all three. It also seems like they're trying to be a French Meadow clone, but they're not doing well there, either. It's sad, because I used to truly love Common Roots, but I don't think I'll be going back there any time soon.

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Common Roots always has a few vegan items on its menu (which changes monthly). Yet the vegan items that my friends and I have tried have been incredibly lackluster. On my last visit I ordered a breakfast hash which came as a small plate of oily diced potatoes, sweet potatoes and tofu without any discernible seasoning or flavor. It was truly one of the worst dishes I have been served in a restaurant. My friend felt the same about her tofu tacos. My experience was disappointing as the options had sounded promising.

Nevertheless I have returned to Common Roots for tea. They make a commitment to local, sustainable consumption which I like to support. They also provide soy milk for coffee/tea, free of charge, alongside the typical pitchers of dairy milk and cream.

I have not tried the soups and will likely give them a chance should I end up there for lunch. Yet, given the plethora of higher quality vegan options in the area, that is unlikely.

Image for veg*ngirl

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I agree with the other reviewers that there are hardly any vegan items offered. For a restaurants that is so progressive in other aspects, it doesn't make sense. They need more vegan starters and entrees. Also, the menu should have all vegetarian items labeled and all vegan items labeled (correctly). And it's a no-brainer that your staff should be educated as to what "vegetarian" and "vegan" mean.

That said, I congratulate them on using local, organic and fair-trade ingredients.

Image for Old'n Bald

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I love that they source local organic ingredients, compost their food, and use recycled paper products. This place is really forward looking and ethical when in it comes to certain things.

They have soups, entrees, and they can make excellent sandwiches too.

Image for Michelle Lewis

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While I appreciate the green mission of this restaurant and love the organic composting, I would not consider it to be "vegan friendly" by any stretch of the imagination. If I do go there with a friend, usually all I can get is coffee and a bagel, which is the same with any restaurant. One time we noticed that not only was a mozzarella salad in the deli case marked as vegan, but a staff person actually promoted it as vegan, and bickered with us a little bit about it. It also seems to me that the very meat-centered menu impacts the restaurant's environmental message, since meat is not an environmentally friendly product.

Image for conde.kedar

rating star

Update IV: Common Roots is still a decent place to get a cup of tea and lounge around. They usually have vegan scones and biscotti, but neither are particularly good. If you're lucky, they might have a vegan cupcake available. From what I've heard, Common Roots is not interested in its vegan customers, and their steady decline in vegan offerings is a testament to that.

The bagels are made with honey. Just FYI.

Over the last year or so, they've decreased their vegan offerings, not only in the baked goods area, but also in terms of regular menu entrees and breakfast items. They used to have great cookies and tarts, but those are long gone. I always found their entrees to be passable, but nothing great; it is definitely expensive considering the small portion sizes you receive (granted, it's local/organic/etc.).

I still visit Common Roots on occasion, but if you're looking for a more reliable vegan-friendly business, go next door to French Meadow, where you can always be guaranteed to have an unusual and innovative variety of vegan treats and dishes.

Update III: The quality of the service here is mixed. It takes forever to order as people stare at the menu and lines frequently build up at the cash register. The food also usually takes close to 15 minutes to arrive. The people behind the counter are either really friendly or slightly aloof.

Common Roots creates problems as it's not quite a restaurant, and not quite a coffee shop. As such, I've found myself in situations where I order a meal, and then don't have anywhere to sit, because all the tables are colonized by no-good faux beatniks with Macbooks, who order a cup of coffee then plant their flags on tables for hours and hours, even during peak times, when some people just want to enjoy their cup of tea.

I am still impressed with their social dedication---they compost everything, use recycled products and biodegradable utensils and plastics. They also host various social events and speakers, as well as "meet your farmer" sessions. Finally, they have a few local beers on tap, with an outside garden area open during the summer; their happy hour is a pleasant respite after a long day at the office.

I also like that they have a private room open to groups wanting to hold discussions or events.

It's all a question of expectations. As a cafe/coffeeshop, Common Roots is pretty good and offers more than it needs to for vegans. But, as a local, organic, environmentally- and socially-committed cafe (which one would think would offer more sustainable vegan food) Common Roots falls short.

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i've always wanted to try this place and i was pleasantly surprised by the scone i had and the wrap i had. the scone was awesome! it was apple cinnamon and very chewy-not crumbly like other scones can be.
the wrap i had was the thai tofu wrap and that was also very good. they must have used extra firm tofu because the tofu was very chewy and delicious with the peanut sauce. i would come here again, though i didn't see much variety for vegans. the prices were a bit high too, but it was still very good!

Image for Dave Rolsky

rating star

Updated: I'm not as big a fan of Common Roots as I once was. The past few months have a seen a notable decline in the variety of vegan non-dessert options. Last time I was there I ordered the squash and leek risotto. It was really delicious, but the portion was piddling, and though the menu said it came with sauteed greens, none were in evidence. And it cost $10.50!

Their vegan options these days just don't satisfy, though I find the vegan desserts are still consistently good. I visit regularly to play Go, but I generally aim to eat dinner at home first, and have dessert there.

I'm amazed I haven't written a review of Common Roots yet, given how often I'm there.

It's actually a tough place to review since sometimes I go there for tea and dessert, sometimes for a meal, and sometimes just to meet with people.

As a coffee shop, it's excellent. They have some really great made-in-house vegan desserts, including excellent scones, cupcakes, and amazing tarts. The only downside is they often run out of vegan stuff before the end of the night, so if you go in the last hour or two they're open, it may be slim pickings.

As a restaurant, they make some fantastic food. Their soups are some of the best soups I've ever tasted. My only complaint is that they change all the time, and they don't seem to cycle my old favorites back in very often. But that's okay, because the new ones are wonderful.

They also make good sandwiches and entrees. Not long ago, I had some lentil bolognese pasta which was excellent. Their entrees tend to be too light on salt, but that's easy to fix.

My biggest complaint here is that they rarely have more than one vegan sandwich or entree. I'm somewhat picky about certain things (bleah, cucumbers or celery), so if the entree has that, I'm out of luck. I wish they consistently had more vegan options in the meal category.

Their bagels are great, and I highly recommend them. They are by far the closest to proper east coast bagels that I've had. They're a little flat, but they're properly chewy. I try to always keep some in the freezer for breakfast.

My biggest complaint is that their wireless is terrible. When the place is full, it just stops working. My guess is that they're using equipment intended for a home network when they should be using something beefier.

My second biggest complaint is that they're sometimes just too full and there's no seats, but that's not something they can fix, except by raising prices or lowering quality. Oh well.

rating star

This is a great cafe! AMAZING iced coffee, and I love that they sell wine & beer here, too. Really good food, and a lot of options (especially for a coffee shop) are available each day! I also like the ambiance, and the servers are very friendly & helpful (no coffee shop 'tude like I all too often experience).

It is always packed when I'm here, so it's not always easy to find a seat (and there are no comfy chairs; just tables), but it's understandably busy as this is a great place to be. There aren't enough outlets to plug everyone's laptops into, which is why I knocked off one star. But the ethics & mission statement of Common Roots are terrific & such a refreshing change from most cafes. Oh--great music, too! I spent a Sunday afternoon here a couple weeks ago, and they played a lot of guilty pleasure music from the '80s, particularly Michael Jackson. And of course I was singing along out loud because I can't help it.

Image for Cass Danger

rating star

I was surprised at how busy this place was on a Thursday morning (is everyone else just employed like me?). :) My friend and I stopped in for bagels and I was pleasantly surprised with the unique spreads they had. I ordered an onion bagel with lentil pate, which was absolutely wonderful. I couldn't pinpoint the spices in the pate but it was glorious. My friend had an onion bagel with carrot-walnut spread, which was also very good, but I liked the lentil spread better.

I'm a big tofu cream cheese fan so I was disappointed to find they didn't have tofu cream cheese, but I suppose their toppings are a lot healthier than anything Tofutti ever came up with. As for the bagels themselves, I was pretty disappointed with them. It's not that the bagels were bad, I just think I'm spoiled living in New York City, the center of the bagel universe. The bagels in NYC are big, fluffy, and chewy, and I found the bagels here to be small, flat, and crispy. It tasted more like a frozen bagel reheated than the freshly made, soft and chewy bagel that I was expecting. However, my friend told me good bagels are hard to come by in MSP so I guess I should be happy with what we found.

Image for Unny Nambudiripad

rating star

Common Roots is a favorite. They have great vegan desserts and a good atmosphere. They support community groups with donations, and I've had several meetings in their common room that they offer for free. The room has horrible acoustics. They compost, pay a living wage, and buy local food. I often run into somebody I know there, which is fun.

rating star

Nice idea for a cafe, but the fact that the bagels have honey is really sad. And if you're vegan, don't bother going for breakfast - there's hardly anything for us.

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Tasty food and good practices, as other reviewers have said.

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note for vegans: the bagels have honey.

initially they didn't have as much vegan things as i'd like, but they've improved. they always seem to have a couple vegan sweet things.. cookies, cupcakes, tarts, bars.. they usually seem to have a vegan soup or two. and i think some sandwiches can be made vegan.

could use a little more atmosphere.. like some art on the walls or something. though it does have tall airy ceilings and good light. and i like the idea of trying to do as much local as possible.

rating star

Common Roots has the best bagels I've had in the Midwest. They only have basic varieties (no cinnamon-asiago-blueberry -chocolate chip bagel but who cares). I'm blown away by their commitment to principals. The tables are made from reclaimed wood from a Minnesota barn. The counter is made out of recycled cardboard. There is no trash can, only a compost bin. (They mostly use washable silverware but the also have those corn-made compostable tubs for cream cheese and compostable straws for beverages.) When I was there I had a salad that was nothing more than heirloom tomatoes, arugula, sea salt and olive oil but oh my gosh it was so good! The tomatoes and arugula were sooooooo fresh! Wireless is free, as is reserving the community room. The patio is cute. The inside is lovely -- high ceilings and brick walls, totally different than Soba's (which used to be in this location. I would feel very comfortable coming to this cafe to work for a whole afternoon. Common Roots is one of those places that makes me feel happy to live in Minnesota.

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