When the owners of Roots Bakery, Bistro & Bar say “our roots run deep” on the restaurant’s website, they’re not just referring to their philosophy of supporting local farmers and food artisans.
Turtle Harrison and his partners, brothers Rolando Ordonez Ramos and Juan Jose Ordonez Ramos, are also talking about their decades of combined experience working in Chapel Hill restaurants. That experience includes local institutions Spanky’s, Squid’s and Nantucket Grill, where Juan Jose alone worked for 17 years, and Turtle Harrison seven. The partners celebrated the grand opening of their joint venture on March 14 in the former Top This! space on Franklin Street.
In addition to pooling their talents (all have earned their kitchen chops, and Harrison has logged considerable time in the front of the house as well), the partners have dug into their cultural roots to create a menu. The result is an eclectic offering that offers a fresh take on regional American classics (Cajun-style pan-roasted snapper, skillet fried chicken with a California avocado cream sauce) alongside Central American fare (shrimp ceviche, Guatemalan style tamales). They occasionally venture into fusion territory, as well, for the likes of flank steak with almond-cilantro pesto, and potato and black bean cakes topped with seasonal vegetables and pineapple salsa.
The menus for breakfast and weekend brunch (pork and grits, cornmeal pancakes, fried plantains with sweet cream) and lunch (mahi mahi salad, Southwestern Cobb, sandwiches on house-baked breads) follow a similarly adventurous path.
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A full bar offers a dozen draft beers (mostly local), a modest wine list and an intriguing selection of house specialty cocktails such as the Grape Ape (Ciroc vodka, white grape juice and Prosecco, served up and garnished with frozen grapes) and Rosemary Rocket (arugula, egg whites, sweet white wine “and other secrets, shaken to make a superb fizz”).
Roots Bakery, Bistro & Bar (161 E. Franklin St., Chapel Hill; 919-240-7160; rootschapelhill.com) serves breakfast Monday-Friday, brunch on Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and dinner every night but Sunday.