LEOMINSTER – Roots is once again opening its cafe to customers for the second time since the pandemic hit nearly two years ago for three special pop-up events that will feature food, live music and warm winter vibes .
“As omicron passes by and everyone hopes, waits and wishes for an end to these dismal times, Roots is pleased to announce three exciting pop-ups to celebrate the arrival of spring,” said the Roots leader, Kevin Williams.
The events will take place on February 12, March 1 and March 12, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The health-centric company’s first Valentine’s Day pop-up at 100 Crawford St. will feature a Paleo Bowl filled with fresh veggies and protein along with healthy smoothies made to order by the new member from Team Roots, Wellness Beverage Coordinator Kim Reilly.
“For this beautiful day, we’ve chosen a heart-healthy blast from the past, our Paleo Bowl,” Williams said. “This beauty is a blend of garnet yams and Japanese sweet potatoes roasted with our secret organic spice blend, topped with crunchy raw vegetables, Dijon wildflowers and garlicky kale. Expect BBQ pulled pork and jackfruit as protein options, as well as our juicy grilled chicken.
Po’ boy sandwiches will be available during the March 1 event, coinciding with Shrove Tuesday, “the day when Acadians, Cajuns and revelers kick off Mardi Gras,” the chef said. The latest in the trip of pop-ups near St. Patrick’s Day will feature a Reuben sandwich and customers are welcome at BYOS – bring your own shillelagh, a classic Irish wooden walking stick.
“The festivities are complemented by our own Celtic holiday days before St. Patty’s,” Williams said. “We’ll be serving Boston corned beef’s cousin, pastrami. The Rueben is one of our most popular sandwiches with pastrami, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and our Living Island dressing. The vegan option will have smoked tempeh in place of meat, and Stretch’s Pickles, a local pickle maker, throws a pickle spear into every order.
Foot orders as well as take-out, eat-in and vegan options will be available.
“The menus are a mix of classic Roots fare and new stuff,” Williams said. “As always, the vegan options will be so enticing that even meat eaters will take a second bite out of a friend’s bowl while asking again and again, ‘Is that really jackfruit?'”
As for the inspiration behind the pop-ups, he said it “came in many ways”.
“From loyal customers asking in person and online, to strangers walking into Roots for the first time asking what’s there and pointing to the cafe, looking at the many exciting new restaurants opening downtown, all have played a big part in the inspiration but ultimately he was getting COVID on New Years Day,” Williams said. “Sick as a dog with no energy to cook or run errands, it was clear there was no lots of healthy options for getting food in Leominster.
He said that while nutritional foods are one aspect of pop-ups, “the other side is fun.”
Roots DJ Ryan Tapia will “spin groovin’ lovin’ jams” and Sally Cragin will do live tarot card readings this Saturday, and the Leominster High School Marching Band will play a special marching band on 1st of March.
“We are fortunate to have the band LHS, led by Mr. (Robert) Bergeron, who perform great New Orleans-inspired brass numbers during lunch while we serve shrimp and cabbage po’boys -flower fried,” Williams said.
Dave Try will play traditional Irish music during the March 12 pop-up with The Irish Dance Company of Clinton doing a dance performance at 11 a.m. “to finally chase away the COVID blues and welcome in the spring of 2022.”
“After two years of tough times, we hope to reinvigorate the community with good vibes as well as food,” Williams said.
As for the schedule of upcoming events, the chef said the dates were chosen for specific reasons.
“February and March are special to me because February is Black History Month and March is basically Irish Heritage Month with the wonderful mix of people going ‘Irish’ for a day,” Williams said. “Growing up black in Leominster with a single Irish immigrant parent is a very special time of year, and the menus are based on three festive spring events.”
William said the response to the first pop-up Roots did last year “was overwhelming”.
“We learned from our mistakes and hired a few new employees and brought back a star from the pre-COVID era,” he said.
As for when Roots will finally reopen the cafe after struggling with staff and other issues, Williams said the pop-ups will give her and her romantic partner, the second-generation owner of Roots , Marieke Cormier, the “chance to assess the many challenges of reopening without a full-time commitment while we iron out the issues.
“From supply, as many producers have closed, to service, catering is an entirely different animal than it was two years ago,” he said. “We are very grateful for the community support as we try to navigate the new world.”