Founder and owner of Common Roots Cafe
For four years after finishing college, Danny Schwartzman worked as a community organizer and harbored ideas of founding a restaurant serving local and organic foods.
Ideas become reality in the summer of 2007. That summer, Schwartzman opened Common Roots Café, 2258 Lyndale Ave. S., which quickly became a smash hit and is now firmly established as one of the signature businesses in Southwest’s local food scene.
More than four years later, Schwartzman said Common Roots’ convictions remain the same as on opening day.
“Since we started its been an ongoing commitment — making everything we can from scratch using the highest levels of local and organic we can,” he said.
Though the commitments remain the same, some things have evolved. For one, 2010 was the first year Common Roots featured an on-site garden tucked behind the restaurant.
Herbs, arugula, garlic, peppers, tomatoes, eggplants and celery now grow just feet away from the restaurant, serving as a reminder of the connection between the land and food.
Though Common Roots sources all of its herbs from the garden, Schwartzman said growing food on-site is mostly of symbolic value.
“A big part of the garden is to give people a space to walk through and see food growing, not primarily to source the café,” he said.
On its website, Common Roots provides a month-by-month breakdown of where all of its food comes from.
According to that breakdown, in July, more than 88 percent of the food and drink served at Common Roots was local, organic, fair trade and/or sustainably produced. More than 46 percent was either local or locally processed.
Of course, when it comes to items like salmon, cooking oils and spices, finding local sources can be difficult if not impossible.
But Schwartzman said the abundance of fertile farmland surrounding the Twin Cities makes running a local and organic restaurant in Minneapolis easier than it would be in many other metropolitan areas.
“I think the amount of local foods we use is representative of a very mature local food system,” he said.