Mom always told me not to talk religion and politics in public. Mike and Carol McLean, owners of the Grass Roots Café, would respectfully disagree. "We've tried to create an environment that people can view this as a town hall where people can discuss their views in a civil manner."
And all over good food at good prices.
Opened in July 2009, Mike and Carol had no previous restaurant experience. Just the fact that they are still open in light of that makes this a success story. "It's American cuisine, but eclectic," says Carol. "We have everything from burgers to BBQ, something for everybody."
A firm believer in the FairTax movement, Mike was getting set to retire from thirty years in the printing industry. A passionate biker, he was organizing the Grass Roots Freedom Ride to promote awareness of the FairTax ideology and wanted to start generating interest locally. What better way to do it than a restaurant where people could congregate over dinner?
The décor is interesting, to say the least. Walls are adorned with flags, there are notices of upcoming appearances by local and regional candidates and the menu prices have the taxes broken out so that diners know exactly where their dollars are going.
A friend and I enjoyed a late lunch mid-week. Our congenial server helped me navigate the very large menu (Carol says, "We keep trying to simplify, but we can't seem to take any of our favorites off."). We started with Curly Curls, which was a massive tangle of crispy fried carrot curls that had been tossed with butter and Parmesan and served with ranch dressing for dipping. A great starter to share, we dove in with abandon.
My friend has often lamented that she loves Reubens — but not the Sauerkraut. So she gave a little yelp of glee (that's why she's my friend. I love people who love food) at the "Rachel," a take on the traditional reuben but with slaw. We both agreed that it was one of the best sandwiches we'd had in a long time. After consulting again with my server (an idea I highly recommend), I ordered the Pork Wings, three tender-to-the-bone meaty pork shanks in a delicious BBQ sauce. With fries, slaw, BBQ beans and garlic bread at $14 (the price was inclusive of tax), this was a meal that was big enough for two, but I had a hard time sharing. The table next to us was devouring a mountain of "Onion Bunions" which are paper-thin crispy onion rings. She happily pronounced them to be "addictive."
Starting at the end of April, the café will be instituting Saturday "Bike Night." Reminiscent of the 1950's drive-ins, Mike and Carol want to carry on the tradition of a community gathering place. Mike says, "People come in just to look at the bikes they'd like to have." Having painted his own Heritage Springer (that's a Harley Davidson, not a dog) to promote FairTax, Mike is a fan of the customized bike and enjoys the camaraderie that bikers bring when they gather. He assures me that non-bikers are welcome, too, and that there will be an outdoor menu of burgers and dogs adding to the fun.
Back to the menu There are more than a dozen ways to get a burger done to your liking, a large appetizer selection (remember boiled peanuts? They've got 'em for under $5), vegetarian selections, lots of sandwiches and full-blown dinners. Most prices are under $14 and you can bring your own beer or wine for a very modest $2 corkage fee per person. Even the menu itself is fun to read; lots of creativity and humor throughout. These folks are playing with their food!
Mike sums it up by saying, "Freedom of expression is important to all of us." If you want to be heard and have a good meal at the same time, The Grass Roots Café is for you.