Root – Allston, Massachusetts

First Taste: Take Root

There’s an interesting culture in Allston’s Union Square. When Peace o’ Pie disappeared over the winter, there was an opportunity to alter the character of the corner that’s become known for its veg-friendly businesses. Deena Jalal and Hin Tang, owners of alternative ice cream shop FoMu and the forthcoming Root, weren’t ready for that landscape to change.

“Maintaining the integrity of the veg-centric legacy that is Union Square, that was really a lot of our rationale for taking over that space,” Jalal says. “It was becoming that corner, and we hated seeing that go.” This month, Root, a plant-based restaurant and juice bar, joins the lineup where Brighton Avenue and Cambridge Street meet. But don’t call it a vegan restaurant.

“I’m not interested in how people define the way they eat,” Jalal says. “Everyone has their own food philosophy. It’s more about showcasing the natural deliciousness and simplicity that earth-sourced food can [have].”

At Root, everything but the bread (which comes from Iggy’s) will be made from scratch. There are almost as many sauces as there are items on the menu, and each, including the ketchup variations, is made in-house. Small bites include sweet corn–and-jalapeno hush puppies and a sweet potato, kale and caramelized onion quesadilla, sans processed cheese. Kraft singles aren’t part of the Root food philosophy. But curried quinoa and chickpea or roasted beet and fennel salads? Those fit right in. The burger has a black bean and quinoa base (“It’s really more of a vegetable medley,” Jalal says) topped with butter lettuce, tomato, crispy onions and house aioli and ketchup.

On weekends, the 20-seat space transforms into a sit-down restaurant for brunch, which includes flaky biscuits topped with portobello mushroom gravy, Liège waffles (with a crunch and chewiness derived from the yeast-raised batter) and pancakes, fruit compotes and vegan donuts.

To wash it down, there are made-to-order juices that follow the traditional model (beet, sweet potato, orange, etc.) and also branch off into more unusual variations, such as a blend of green apple, cucumber, agave and water—served in a Mason jar, of course.

“I’m trying to be deliberate in not defining the food or defining the customer, because I hate when people do that to me,” Jalal says. “At the end of the day, delicious food is delicious food, and we’re really just trying to showcase how naturally delicious it can be. And that’s it.”

Root 487 Cambridge St., Allston (617-208-6091)

This article originally appeared in the July 3, 2013, issue of The Improper Bostonian.