Root Cellar Cafe and Gallery– Breakfast & Lunch 7am-4pm; Happy Hour 4-6pm; Dinner 5:30-10pm; Closed on Mondays
When we walked down into the Root Cellar Cafe on Saturday evening, the restaurant was a buzz with conversation and soft playing music. I say walk “down” into the Root Cellar because, as the name indicates, this restaurant was built in a cellar, but it does not have a musty dark feel one might associate with cellars. The floors are a light wood and the white walls are decorated with bright paintings from local artists. When I have visited early in the day, sunlight falls through the windows in large slants across the tables and floor, which only adds to the picturesque European Cafe type setting.
When the Root Cellar opened in 2005, my sister and I frequented it often because it was unlike other places in San Marcos. The Root Cellar and Cool Mint Cafe were two of the first restaurants in San Marcos to serve food that was not focused on high fat, instant gratification food. The fruits of their labor seem to have paid off. Saturday evening it was apparent that the place had grown in popularity since it first opened. There was about a fifteen minute wait for us to sit down, and I noticed they had added a back room on since I had last been there, which, like the main dining area, was full. The wait went by quickly as my father and I admired the paintings hung on the walls of the cafe.
We sat down at one of the wooden tables and began to look over the menu. It’s a little thing, but I love that the music was not so loud everyone had to shout to hear one another. We discussed the menu in normal pitch tones and then ordered drinks and an order of the cellar bruchetta with pesto, tomato, onion, and provolone cheese. They were good, but I would have appreciated more emphasis on the tomato and a little less cheese.
For the main course, I ordered the Peach and Asparagus salad from the seasonal menu. It was wonderful. The peaches were fresh and I loved the originality of the peaches with the asparagus. I also loved that most of the salad was kale and spinach, but perhaps the best part of the meal was the vinaigrette dressing. It really pulled the salad together.
My sister ordered the basil Swiss burger on Texas toast with lemon basil aioli, grilled onions, mushrooms, and Swiss cheese. She said it was very good, but you couldn’t taste the lemon basil very well. Also, I appreciate creativity with food very much, but I think there are some things that are better left alone: a burger in a bun is one of those. Texas toast for sandwiches is great.
Both my husband and my father had the citrus pork medallions. Pork is one of my husband’s favorite meals, but he often doesn’t order it at restaurants because it is often overcooked. Pork should be just a little pink in the center because it dries out quickly, but chefs often cook it all the way through. So it was a big plus that this pork was not dry at all. It was cooked perfectly. Both my father and husband said there was no real citrus taste in the pork, however.
Root Cellar is one of my favorite restaurants in San Marcos, if not my favorite. Root Cellar is one of the first restaurants to take food in San Marcos to a new level and the atmosphere is wonderful. However, I think the restaurant could go even further by ensuring that when it says “citrus,” there is some citrus flavor in it. And I think they need to trust the customer and not sometimes rely on large amounts of cheese as a safe way to ensure customers enjoy their food. The Root Cellar knows good food, as is demonstrated in many of its menu items;if they would just trust their instincts and customers a little bit more, I think this could be a restaurant that people specifically come to town to frequent.