The burger: It's a question that isn't asked with nearly enough frequency. "And how do you like your burger?" inquired the friendly guy behind the counter at Common Roots Cafe. Remaining true to my irritating nature, I answered his question with a question, and asked how the kitchen preferred to prepare it. "Probably medium-rare," he said. Done.
When it arrived, all of six minutes later, it had nailed medium-rare to the wall. The 5-ounce patty was prodigiously -- some might even say absurdly juicy -- its velvety interior a rosy pink, no surprise since the premium beef hails from Thousand Hills Cattle Co., the locally owned network of pasture-centric family farms. Salt and pepper, used judiciously, are the only enhancements required.
An electric charbroiler is the cooking vehicle of choice (it's an energy-efficient appliance, naturally, seeing as how Common Roots is one of Minnesota's most environmentally conscious food-and-drink purveyors). Instead of evenly imbuing the patty with a crusty char, the broiler leaves cross-hatch grill marks across the surface of the meat, coaxing the rest into a caramelized, mouth-melting sheen.
Chef Tony Tushar (a Brasa, Restaurant Alma and Bachelor Farmer vet) switches up the garnishes each month, relying upon seasonal availability. Through October he's taking advantage of the tomato crop's final trickle, ramping up the burger's already high juice factor by slipping a few luscious, ruby-red slices under the patty. Lettuce consists of a handful of feathery field greens, and a dill pickle aioli adds a dash of tanginess. The California-style burger is in very good hands.
As for the bun, it ranks right up there on the local burger bun scale, a house-baked, poppy seed-studded soft pretzel, split and swiped with a generous amount of butter before getting a light toast (the all-important burger-bun ratio is right on the money, too). It's the kind of bun that can cover a multitude of burger sins. Fortunately, it doesn't need to, because this is one outstanding burger.
Fries: None. Instead, divert your attention to the bar's short but well-chosen list of local craft beers, including brews from HammerHeart in Lino Lakes, 612 in northeast Minneapolis and Lucid in Minnetonka. The price drops to $4 per glass during happy hour, held 3 to 6 p.m. daily and 9 to 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 9 to 10 p.m. Sunday.
Don't miss: Five bakers feed the restaurant's insatiable demand for bagels (which remain -- in my mind, anyway -- the city's best), breads and a wide variety of sweets. Chief among them are chewy, crinkled and marvelously buttery chocolate chip cookies, their tops twinkling with salt. They're fantastic.
Good neighbor: Common Roots has many admirable traits, not the least of which is its genuine commitment to the surrounding community. One current effort is its participation in the True Food Chef Council, a restaurant-driven initiative to provide fresh, healthy food to students in Minneapolis Public Schools. For its part of the project, Common Roots is working to fund a salad bar at nearby Jefferson Community School, where the vast majority of the student body receives free or reduced-price lunch. During the month of October, owner Danny Schwartzman will donate $1 towards Operation Salad Bar with the purchase of any salad off the Common Roots menu. And on Tuesday, Oct. 22, Schwartzman is donating 100 percent of all post-3 p.m. sales to the project. What better time to enjoy a burger and a beer? Want to learn more? School staffers will be on hand to share information about the program.
Address book: 2558 Lyndale Av. S., Mpls., 612-871-2360. Open 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. weekdays, 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.
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