Common Roots, Common Ground

An Uptown cafe makes eco-chic look easy

The cafe's eco-friendly ethic pervades beyond what's on the plate to include the space it's served in, the people who serve it, and the leftover waste. From the reclaimed barn wood on the floor to the salvaged light fixtures on the ceiling, resource use was a primary concern when Schwartzman remodeled the building. Employees are paid a living wage (at least $11.40 an hour), and if they work at least 20 hours a week they're eligible for health insurance. With the help of Eureka Recycling, Common Roots composts all leftover food and plant-based materials, and the cafe offers biodegradable to-go containers and utensils.

But one of Common Roots' biggest successes is the way it's been able to make its mindful business ethic feel comfortably mainstream. Alongside legumes and tofu, the kitchen also turns out a hazelnut cake elegant enough for a wedding reception. This summer, when beekeeper Brian Frederickson of Ames Farm Honey held a discussion about colony collapse disorder, the cafe's private meeting room was standing-room-only: A farmer-as-rock-star was in the house.

Common Roots shares similarities with other counter-service cafes, certainly, but to me, it seems to have created a stronger sense of neighborhood ownership than most. Those who live nearby can hardly set foot through the door without running into someone they know. Sometimes it makes me feel as though Uptown is a dormitory and Common Roots is its lounge/cafeteria/computer cluster. (During warm weather you'll see more bike helmets than at a grad student mixer.) But it also attracts a broader clientele, ranging from a white-haired couple sharing a salad to a shirtless toddler crawling under a table, toting a squirt gun.

And a decaf for the baby: Inside Common Roots
Jana Freiband
And a decaf for the baby: Inside Common Roots

Location Info


Common Roots Cafe

2558 Lyndale Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55405

Category: Restaurant > Cafe

Region: Uptown/ Eat Street


2558 Lyndale Ave. S, Minneapolis
612.871.2360; Web site
appetizers $4-$7;
entrées $9-$12

Part of Common Roots' attraction is its versatility: It's open seven days a week, early to late, transitioning between coffee shop, cafe, and bar—and often feeling like all three at once. But the cafe's other major draw is affordability. Most dishes cost less than $10, and even the dinner entrées typically cost no more than $12—the price of an appetizer at many local-food-focused restaurants. When Winona LaDuke hosted a fundraising dinner for the White Earth Indian Reservation at Common Roots, tickets cost $20, which opened the event to a much broader audience than those who typically parade through the charity circuit pictured in the local glossies.

For many, the idea of eating local, artisan foods sounds great—until the co-op cashier informs them that the jar of handmade sauerkraut they brought to the register costs more than two tanks of gas. Surely there are many more people who'd like to buy organic food than can afford it. Which is why the Cities could use more places like Common Roots—to prove that mindful eating need not be elitist. 

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