Roll model

Common Roots owner Danny Schwartzman knows what it takes to make a great bagel

There are bagels for the masses — those fluffy circlets favored by those who like their coffee pale as their wintry skin — and then there are Danny’s bagels. Danny Schwartzman’s are the culinary Loreleis of the trade, luring innocent patrons of the chain establishments into the deep weeds of New York-style bageldom. They’re celebrated at his Lyn-Lake café-cum-community center called Common Roots. These burly babes, my friends, work magic on your diet. They provide calorie counts in minus numbers if you consider the dental aerobics and marathon of palate sensations every workout provides. They’re the kind an existential poet would ponder — if we had any such deep thinkers in South Minneapolis: beautiful in their bumpy, irregular, lightly browned surface and a physical pleasure to bite into with a firm, sturdy, stiff-upper-lip-type crust that yields to a soft and pliant — dare we say voluptuous? — interior.

That’s the kind of New York bagel Danny grew up with on the East Coast. “My everyday breakfast,” he says. After graduating from Macalester College, where he was a grass-roots organizer, he was faced, he says, with the customary dilemma of “What do I do with my life? Time to get serious.”  

Or not. Why not put those collegiate, ivory-tower ideals into practice and have fun at the same time? Why not open a café that proffers what’s good for one’s body, for local farmers, and for the environment, while serving as a gathering place for community groups? The place is also a sounding board for some of those loco-vendors to host sampling events, such as Organic Valley Co-op, which supplies the cream cheese that flows from those bagel slices.

The rounds are fabricated the time-blessed, traditional way — boiled, then baked (and that’s baked daily, from scratch), utilizing Swany White Flour Mills’ product from Freeport, Minn., a pinch of malt from Wisconsin, our own terrific local water and Ames honey. Only the salt and yeast make a longer journey.

Why are these beauts the best around? Says Danny, “The biggest thing is, they’re made fresh every day, with no preservatives or additives — no long words on the ingredient list. Beyond that, it’s not very complicated. I had our bakers work on the recipe and technique to get it the way I like it: hard crust, soft inside; good, solid bread flavor, not bland. And we stick with the basic flavors” (read: no basil-sun-dried tomato) — plain, onion, poppy seed and sesame (sesame’s the most popular and Danny’s particular favorite).

Sure, he knows about that fabled place in Montreal where they paddle the bagels into a wood-fired oven, and he’s scoured New York’s Lower East Side. Conclusion: There’s no single model of perfection. “There are lots of New York styles. These are made the traditional way, from scratch, with good, local, organic ingredients.” That’s the secret to success, and once it got out, so did the word. Take a number.

Common Roots Cafe
2558 Lyndale Ave. S.