That Coffee Shop on the Corner and Other Bests of the Twin Cities

Everyone has their favorite haunt: that coffee shop they spend practically as much time nestled away in as their bed, a hole-in-the-wall eatery with food you’re not embarrassed to have dreamt of, that dirty dive bar with the stoic bouncer whom you’ve finally managed to make smile. It’s almost a right of passage in a way, to even have a go-to place where your drink of choice is known (dark roast coffee with a little soy milk) and innumerous countertop convos constantly cut short by the needs of the queue have permitted, over time, a surprising quantity of life confabulation. It’s a sign that you’re a part of the neighborhood, that you’re an Uptowner, a Minneapolitan. My coffee shop on the corner is gradually becoming Common Roots Cafe.

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It’s 8:45am on a Tuesday morning, and I’ve nabbed a favorite spot near the tall, Lyndale Ave-facing windows. Sunlight warms the nape of my neck and the tops of my cold-cracked hands as I type away and savor a dark roast ground from Peace Coffee beans delivered on two wheels. It’s an aesthetically beautiful cafe, rich in manifold textures and colors from walls tangelo-orange to robins-egg-blue and brick. My feet rest upon dark, lacquered wood floors scuffed raw by chair legs. The walls are artfully decorated with the vibrant paintings of local artists and fair trade coffee bean sacks analogous to their menu of locally-sourced organic fare, reborn and reinvented with the coming of each month. Their staff is as warm and inviting as is their space.


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Without fail, regardless of how busy Roots can be, the majority of their workers will make direct eye contact with you and ask how your day is going, what your plans are. Questions inherently trite in nature hold a surprising degree of potential when asked in a sincere manner, eschewing the scripted banter of small talk role playing for something as hearty as their falafel pita. It is that neighborhood cafe on the corner whose staff invite a relationship as sacred as the one with your local coiffure whom you entrust with more than just the duty of keeping you lookin’ fine.

Just a few of the employees at Roots:

Jack, a handsome, gregarious gent will shake your hand as if you had been war buddies and went in together on BFF ass cheek tattoos. When he says, “One coffee? Sure thing,” his body language and eagerness to help is really saying, “Hey man, I’ve got your back, just like in Nam.” If you happened to forget your wallet, he seems the type of guy that would entrust you to hit him back next time you came in, if not buy you a cup himself. Benjamin is a bespectacled fellow who wears altruism on his sleeves. He helps coordinate a homeless shelter in Minneapolis, and one can sense that the care he brings to Roots is the same care he offers Minneapolis’ destitute. Finally, there is a man by the name of Perry whose passion for Roots’ mission of a low carbon footprint, laudable food, and creating a sense of community is conveyed modestly through his honest candor and soft spoken voice.

It is now 9:51am and time to take on the day, à l’attaque, coffee-bellied and fully recharged of Vitamin D. In this hurly burly (sweet word, right?) whirlwind of a vie, it gives to have that corner coffee shop, hole-in-the-wall eatery, dirty dive bar to anchor you to a sense of place. A beautiful space, an intentional menu, good coffee, and personable staff, Common Roots is the place to be, making the Incomplete Best of Minneapolis/St. Paul list compiled by a 10-month Twin Cities transplant.

The Best of Minneapolis/St. Paul

Cookie: The Wedge Co-op’s Black Angus Cookie ($1.5) is so good you’ll be willing to face a 12-block roundtrip walk in a Minnesota blizzard. | 2105 Lyndale Ave S. Minneapolis


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Turkey Burger: French Meadow Bakery and Cafe’s Wild Acres Turkey Burger ($14) – gouda, guacamole, bacon, garlic-chive aoli, sprouted bun, I have definitely eaten this for dinner three consecutive nights in a row. No need consulting the rest of the menu.| 2610 Lyndale Ave S. Minneapolis


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Café: Common Roots Café | 2558 Lyndale Ave S. Minneapolis


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Bar/Pub: Aster – Happy Hour 3-6pm, delicious flatbreads, decent selection of tap beer and wine, good coffee, frequent live music/events, and a beautiful location on the east bank of the Mississippi River, a relaxing stroll away from the Stone Arch Bridge. | 125 SE Main St. Minneapolis


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French Pastries: Chez Arnaud makes a fierce pain au chocolat, a flaky croissant-like pastry filled with two pieces of dark chocolat in the centre, and pain aux raisinsa custard-filled pastry in the shape of a wheel covered in raisins and sugar crystals. Dip it in your latté, and profitez! When it comes to gastronomic pleasure, the French know what they’re doing. The staff there are also the shiznit, the coolest crew you’re bound to find anywhere. Michael Fassbender and Jesse from Breaking Bad are a surefire conversation starter for at least two of the employees there.| 1085 Grand Ave, St. Paul


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Pad Thai: Amazing Thailand will be sure to serve you a mountain of the best pad thai you’ve ever eaten, unless of course you’ve gotten it fresh from The Orient; that, I have no comment on. It is also conveniently located in the heart of Uptown’s Calhoun Square. Catch a movie at the historic Uptown Theatre (1913) afterwards otherwise a calm jaunt around Lake Calhoun will serve you well. | 3024 Hennepin Ave Minneapolis


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