The Root Cafe looks and feels local because it is local. Every detail is thoughtful and feels homey, from the irregularly shaped space to mismatched pillows and chairs. No napkin matches the other, but they’re all neatly organized in pretty pails on each table. Instead of getting a number after you order at the front, you get a card that showcases a local farm that sources some of the cafe’s ingredients.
The menu is one of those that elicits generous orders, but we try to keep it reasonable. We start with hand-cut sweet potato fries that are huge and slightly sweet. We think perhaps cinnamon is baked right in. They’re served with spicy “Hickory Chip” mayo.
The charmingly named “Chicken salad salad” features a huge plate of fresh spring mix topped with a scoop of toasted curry chicken salad. It’s finished with crunchy apples cut into matchsticks and served with a creamy buttermilk dill dressing.
A spicy bahn mi arrives on a baguette hoagie from Arkansas Fresh Bakery. It is layered with homemade mayo, organic fried tofu, house-pickled carrot and daikon radish, fresh cilantro, and thinly-sliced jalapeños. Hoisin sauce and Sriracha are drizzled on top. It’s sweet and spicy, crunchy and creamy. Very messy: all good things.
House-made bratwursts use local, small-farmed and pasture-raised pork. We get ours “Old World-Style” with homemade sauerkraut, Dijon mustard, and house mayo. It’s pretty sizable, has that characteristic snap, and tons of flavor. The sauerkraut isn’t too tangy and is dotted with caraway seeds.
Both the bahn mi and brat are served with a side of fresh greens and house vinaigrette.
Portions are huge, and we eat about half of everything before we realize we forgot the mini blueberry muffins, which are 70% blueberries and 20% crumble: delicious two-bite treats.
The space is lovely and lively, with all different sorts of people coming in and out. Bonus: the Esse Purse Museum is just next door (they actually share a mural with Root Cafe); I highly recommend spending an hour there before or after your meal, which could be breakfast, lunch or dinner.
There’s a heated outdoor area as well as a little picnic/patio for warmer months. The walls are covered with charming knick knacks and Arkansas paraphernalia. The café hosts a range of activities: classes, speakers, music events, hot pepper-eating contests, and beard-growing contests. The goal is to make Little Rock better. Mission accomplished.