Monday, February 25, 2013

Restaurant Review: Root Cafe & Local Dining

I am constantly amazed by the amount of people who wait 45+ minutes for a table at chain restaurants. It amazes me. On our way to a cool, local spot we see the parking lots of Golden Corral, Outback, Chili's, etc. slammed full. A few Saturdays ago, we actually decided to have our date night at Olive Garden. I had a $40 gift card that a coworker had given me for Christmas, and since we're trying to curb our spending a bit, we decided to go there for dinner. We got there just at 6:00, and the wait was already 45 minutes long. We left, and headed to Tokyo House for sushi instead.

And while it's more noticeable at dinner time, it's the same for breakfast. The few times we decide not to worry about calories and head to IHOP, there is always a wait. So, we tend to eat breakfast at home, or at a diner near our house.

There are so many fabulous local restaurants that are worth trying. My favorite meals (ever) have not been at Chili's or Outback. They've been at So (Little Rock), Union Bistro (Little Rock), Shakers (Orlando, FL), The Cowfish (Charlotte, NC), and so many other places that are unique to whatever city I happen to be in. Not every local restaurant is going to be amazing (I've been to my fair share of horrible ones), but you need to step out of your box and try new restaurants and new dishes when you get the chance.

Anyways, all of this rambling is leading up to me telling you about this place we tried over the we tried over the weekend: Root Cafe.

Root Cafe on Urbanspoon

This place takes local to a whole new level. Not only is it locally owned and operated, but what you're eating is locally grown & produced. They source everything from local farms (meat products and vegetables). Instead of giving out numbers while we waited for our food, they gave us a little card with information about one of the local farms.

Their bread & buns are local as well. Those come from Boulevard Bread, which has multiple locations in the city, including one right across the street. The inside is very cool. It's small, and tight, and the decor is anything but fancy. It just feels cozy. They serve water out of mason jars, and coffee from an assortment of mix matched coffee cups. Seating is minimal inside, but there are some seats on the screened in porch, and a little garden area with a few tables. I was getting claustrophobic inside, so since it was a pretty day, we ate in the garden.

We went for lunch on Saturday, and they were busy the whole time we were there. Their selection isn't that big, but everything sounded delicious, so we both quickly decided what we wanted. I ordered the spicy bahn mi, and Graham ordered the meatloaf sandwich. I had heard great things about their fries, so we ordered a basket to share.

It felt like FOREVER before the food came out, but it was worth the wait. Both of our sandwiches were huge and everything looked amazing. Graham's meatloaf sandwich was one of the daily specials, and when it was brought to him, the employee told him that ordering this was "the best decision you'll make all week". And it was perfect. The meatloaf had so much flavor itself and the fact that it was topped with mashed potatoes just pushed it over the top. The sandwich was messy, but he devoured it.

"Homemade meatloaf (beef-Simon Farms, Conway), garlic mashed potatoes and turnips (turnips-Barnhill Orchard, Lonoke), and fresh arugula (ANP, Malvern), on a Boulevard challah bun."

My spicy bahn mi wasn't as good, but it was still delicious. I'm trying to like tofu, but it's definitely a work in progress. The sandwich had excellent flavor, but was messy. The sauce was too sweet (I couldn't taste the sriracha), but the jalapenos gave it serious kick. The baguette was absolutely amazing.

"Fried tofu, house pickled carrot and daikon radish, fresh cilantro, jalapenos seeded & thinly sliced, hoisin sauce, sriracha, and house garlic mayo on Boulevard baguette."

Both sandwiches came with a salad on the side. The salad was good, but the side dish that I couldn't stop eating was the basket of fries. Oh my God, these were good. Definitely hand cut, which you could tell by the variety in shapes and size, perfectly crispy on the outside and soft of the inside. They were perfectly seasoned, and quite possibly the best fries I've ever had. Ever.

I absolutely could not recommend this place more. The food was fresh, delicious and inexpensive. Our meal (including two cans of Diet Coke) cost about $23.00, and was worth every single cent. I'd definitely like to make it there for breakfast one weekend... they had a few breakfast dishes that look phenomenal.

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  1. I used to live in Charlotte and Cowfish was one of my favorite restaurants! Their bento box is amazing.

    1. Never had a bento box from there, I always just order more sushi than I should. But I love it. I think it's my favorite sushi place ever, and one of the places I miss most about living in Charlotte.


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