TC Jewfolk had lunch at the “new” Common Roots Cafe today. Common Roots shut their doors last week in order to refresh their space and update their menu. They’ve always tried to be a modern take on a traditional Jewish deli, with homemade bagels and other classic noshes on the menu. But it seems like they’re trying to double-down on the Jewish deli theme, touting on social media that they’re a “local foods delicatessen and noshery.”
Owners Danny and Elana Schwartzman are MOTs as well, so especially with Rye no longer part of the Uptown scene (z”l), TC Jewfolk needed to check out the new-look Common Roots. And… it’s really not all that different. They painted the wall behind their deli counter a welcoming shade of green; and gone are the chalkboard menus, replaced by clean white menu placards.
The menu itself has also been updated. But otherwise not much has changed–which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Common Roots has always been a reliable cafe for business meetings over coffee, a quick solo lunch, and/or a casual date night with the girlfriend (or potential girlfriend). And it’s still that.
But is it a Jewish deli? We ordered the quintessential Jewish deli item, house-made pastrami on rye. Also the brisket sandwich and sweet potato fries. The food was delicious, maybe even more so than past visits to Common Roots. But don’t get excited that a hallmark Jewish deli has finally arrived in the Twin Cities. The pastrami was not the pink, delicately spiced meat one would expect to find at a classic Jewish deli. It was lean and delicious (and locally sourced, 100% grass-fed from Thousand Hills Cattle Company), but Carnegie Deli it’s not. It was also rather small for a growing boy like myself. As Chef Russell Klein told us, it’s nearly impossible nowadays to make a decent-sized pastrami sandwich for under $15; but it’s still a tad disappointing that two hours after lunch I was hungry again. Also, buyer beware: the accompanying mustard is one of the strongest I’ve ever had. I loved it, but if you prefer mustard that doesn’t burn your face off, I’d ask for it on the side.
The brisket sandwich was even less Jewy–coming with BBQ sauce and slaw on ciabatta. Again, delicious, especially the ciabatta, but messy. It supposedly comes with bleu cheese, though we didn’t really taste any. Both sandwiches came with a side salad, which we would’ve loved to eat had the salads been dressed at all. Dry lettuce isn’t really our thing.
Props, however, on the sweet potato fries. So often they’re cooked until they’re mushy, or dressed up with sauces and toppings, or fried in obscene amounts of oil that it feels like I’m eating a dessert rather than a vegetable. These were lightly grilled, retained a slight crunch without tasting undercooked, and my only issue was that they were gone too soon. They were some of the best sweet potatoes I’ve ever had.
Overall, if you were a fan of Common Roots before, you should be happy to know that not much has changed–if anything, it’s only gotten better. If you’ve never heard of Common Roots, we recommend a trip to Uptown to check it out. But Jewish deli? Not so much. We’ll always love them for their bagels that rate as one of the better bagels in the TC. They also create a special Passover-friendly menu every spring for all of us food lovers who try to survive on matzah for a whole week. But they’re still more a cafe than a Jewish deli. As long as they keep churning out delicious food, though, we don’t mind.