Friday, July 12, 2013

Root - Inspired Food & Juicery Restaurant Review

No frills, but plenty of flavor

Root487 Cambridge Street ∙Allston, MA

Opening their doors on July 9 in the space previously occupied by the much beloved Peace o’ Pie, Root has big shoes to fill. Yet based on my visit just 48 hours after the grand opening, I suspect Root is going to do more than hold its own – with fantastic food, friendly staff and an inspired space, Root is poised for success. Like FoMu, a nearby vegan ice-cream shop by Deena Jalal, Allston’s top vegan visionary, Root has veggie-friendly food service on lockdown. 

The food:

Root offers a fully vegan menu of down-to-earth café fare. Sandwiches, salads, juices and to-die-for fries are reasonably priced and served in generous portions. Where the menu lacks in length, it makes up for in fresh flavor and downright deliciousness. And be sure to come hungry, because the portions are impressive.

The Roasted Root salad, served on a bed of arugula and dressed with fresh fennel and balsamic, is surprisingly filling – even the half size portion. This salad is a perfect balance of subtly sweet red beets and a citrus smack of diced orange. At $5, it’s a steal.

Root's 5-star Sweet Potato Quesadilla
Then there’s the Sweet Potato Quesadilla ($7), boasting a blend of sweet potato, kale and sautéed onion. Here again, Root doesn’t skimp on size. The quesadilla was cut into four large slices, each delicately crisped and veggie-packed with an ever-so-slight layer of cheeze hugging it together. A side of thyme dipping sauce added a touch of creaminess where the cheeze left off. Comfort food incarnate, you've been looking for this quesadilla for your entire vegan life, promise.

The scene & service:

Here’s where it may get tricky. Root can seat about 25 people, and on my Thursday night visit, it was packed to capacity. Seating seems iffy, especially at peak hours. Since the space is cozy, there’s nowhere to wait for a table without lurking over the shoulder of at least two diners.

Root also offers fresh juices
made to order. The Veg Blend (pictured)
contains carrot, kale,beet and lemon.
The staff, however, seems on top of their game – well trained, pleasant and altogether into providing a satisfying experience. After placing my order at the counter - there are no servers, per se – the Roasted Root salad was almost immediately upon me. The quesadilla arrived shortly thereafter, allowing just enough time to enjoy most of the salad without the entrée competing for my attention.

Silverware, water and napkins are self-service, and bussing, too, is each patron’s obligation. Root appears to compost food scraps and napkins, providing two bins and friendly disposal directions.
The upsides of this DIY arrangement: no tipping, quick table turnarounds, and a nod toward urban composting.

The verdict:

Where growing pains can consume a start-up restaurant like Root for months on end, no such spasms were apparent during my visit. As an unpretentious vegan eatery, Root’s laid-back, inclusive ethos is one to aspire toward – and reason to recommend it to your friends, vegans and meat-eaters alike. 

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