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Beneath a mural depicting smiling cornbread, potatoes, and black-eyed peas, locavore hotspot The Root Cafe held a community pot-luck dinner on Saturday to celebrate their one year anniversary. The festive scene was standing room only when we arrived, and the cafe’s small dining room was almost groaning under the weight of food provided by owners Jack and Corri Bristow Sundell and the residents of the SoMa neighborhood who turned out to support the popular restaurant. The Root’s mission has always been to utilize locally grown and produced ingredients whenever possible, and judging by the food available on Saturday, our local growers are doing their jobs well.

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I’ve always admired the Root Cafe’s use of their limited green space to help supplement their menu. Instead of the usual decorative (and largely useless) shrubberies that surround most restaurants, the Root’s landscaping consists of rosemary, sage, and other edible herbs and plants. It’s a great idea that seems so simple that I’ve always been amazed that more places don’t try to do it — in addition to providing an attractive stand of plants, the ability to go out and cut fresh herbs for whatever’s cooking that day adds a level of flavor and quality that just can’t be duplicated any other way. It’s this concept of utilizing every available space in an urban area to grow food for the community that impresses me the most, because walking across the parking lot to cut a sprig of rosemary seems a lot more friendly to the environment than trucking it in from points unknown. I spent a good deal of my time walking around the place trying to identify the plants, which seemed to be thriving despite the brutal heat.