The Root has always been one of my favorite lunch spots. Their banh mi and burger are my go-to’s. It took way too long for me to finally get there to try their dinner options, but I finally made it with 5 other friends…well, Drew is more than a friend. It had its ups and downs, and I’m going to be blatantly honest in this review. Here goes:
Description: Rocktown gin, Cappelletti, Dolin sweet, lemon twist
We all started with a drink. The drink menu is vast, with great descriptions of each drink and very well priced. The Negroni I got was strong (no complaints!), but very tasty. I would definitely get this again.
Honey Hard Ginger Lemonade, $7.00
Description: Rocktown bourbon whiskey, fresh ginger and lemon juices, local honey, lemon twist
Drew got the Honey Hard Ginger Lemonade, which was also strong, but he loved it. I, personally, can’t get into whiskey cocktails, but the other flavors were very nice.
The menu has something for everyone: meat-lovers, vegans, whomever. And as fancy as some of the descriptions sound, it was surprisingly fairly-priced.
Veggie Cracklins, $4.00
Our table started with the “Seasonal Veggie Cracklins”, which I would have never ordered on my own, but thanks to my vegetarian friend, I got to try these. They were delicious and so unique! They looked just like pork rinds, but tasted nothing of the sort. Instead, they were spicy, with a little sweetness from the carrot they were made of. I have NO IDEA how they make these, nor can I find a similar recipe online, so they are pretty ingenius.
Purple Hull Pea Hummus w/ Crostini, $5.00
We also ordered this hummus for the table. It was good, but nothing crazy delicious. The crostini was nice and crisp, but there was no additional flavor added. I would have loved a little garlic oil or something on them to give a little extra.
Pork Carnitas, $16.00
Description: Slow braised Rabbit Ridge Farms pork shoulder (Bee Branch) with War Eagle Mill grit cake, homemade tortilla slaw, herb mayo
I ordered the carnitas, and this dish was my personal favorite. Each bite of the pork was perfect: no fatty pieces, very tender with crunchy edges. The herb mayo sauce it was placed on was delicious! The grit cake was a great, smoky addition. The slaw needed salt, but gave a bright balance to the dish. Getting a bite with all four components was very tasty.
Spicy Fried Chicken, $14.00
Description: Delicious Berbere spice glaze, homemade mac & cheese, house fermented sweet pickles
One of our friends said she has only ordered this spicy fried chicken for dinner and can’t seem to order anything else because it is perfect. So, Drew opted for this one, but with the spicy sauce on the side rather than coating the chicken. Also, he requested the braised greens instead of the mac n’ cheese. Picky much? Ha.
The pickles were delicious. The chicken was nice because it was boneless, but still obviously thigh meat and very juicy. While the skin was crispy, there was just no flavor from the chicken. Then, the spicy sauce was just….spicy. The only flavor we got from this was heat. So, if you like “Nashville hot chicken”, you’ll love this. Personally, for $14 and 3 small pieces of chicken with one side, I don’t think it is worth it.
The braised greens. They were terrible. There seemed to be no seasoning, just bitter greens. Drew didn’t even finish them. He definitely should have opted for the fries.
For the rest of the dishes, these were our friends’ and we did not try them, but here are pics and some of their comments:
Homemade Chicken and Dumplings, $13.00
Description: Grass Roots Farmers Cooperative chicken, black pepper and buttermilk dumplings, served with a side salad
Meatloaf and Mashed Potatoes, $13.00
Description: Homemade meatloaf with Simon Farms beef (Conway) and served with a locally sourced side salad
Cristianna said this was very spicy, perhaps because of the curry ketchup? It was also a little dry, due to them slicing it and griddling each slice.
The mashed potatoes were also bland and needed some salt.
The meatloaf probably is the best bang for your buck. For only $13, this plate was the largest. The rest of us left full, but not stuffed (though no leftovers)- which is perfect.
WHERE THINGS WENT WRONG
I NEVER complain about service. I understand waiting tables is a grueling job. However, this dinner was nearly ruined by our waitress, so I have to mention it.
From the second she came to our table, our waitress clearly did not want to be there. Not one smile, not one pleasantry. No, she did not give her name, nor would I give it if I knew it. She answered questions as if we were bothering her. For example, “Instead of the mashed potatoes, can I get fries?” Answer: “I don’t know, but I guess I’ll check”, in exasperation. But, honestly, that is perfectly fine. A waitress not being happy will not ruin my food.
What will ruin it, though, is being rude to customers. First off, the service was very slow. While the tiny restaurant was full, it took almost an hour after our food order to receive our food. At about 45 minutes, one of my friends asked if our waitress could check on our food. Granted, I would have never done this, it will come when its ready. However, she was just curious, she wasn’t being rude in the least.
The waitress came back and said “As expected, they are working on it”, with an attitude. When she moved on to fill water at the next table, we mentioned that she seemed rude and our table agreed most waitresses/ waiters do not speak to customers like that. At that moment, she looked at us (in front of the other customers she was serving) and mouthed “I can hear you”. At that moment, it was decided we don’t like our waitress, and she definitely does not like us.
We saw her only one other time after that, to see how to split our checks, that evening. Of course, she asked “I assume these are all separate?” in annoyance. (Which, by the way, was not true.) Other servers gave us our food, refilled our waters, etc.
With all that being said, the other staff members were beyond pleasant. The guy with the dread-locks was so kind and friendly, as was the new girl refilling water glasses. Everyone else was as nice as could be. Our waitress was the only issue here.
Will I come back? Of course! I love The Root. However, I did miss my banh mi at dinner, so I’ll probably be back for lunch for my next visit. Also, there was a “help wanted” sign on the door, so I may apply for a job next summer. Seriously, that would be pretty fun. More importantly, I can help the wait staff project the true kindness and community The Root is based upon.