Above: The view while enjoying the outdoor patio – Photo by Amy Vischio
Let’s discuss the name. For a vegetarian restaurant, the inclusion of the word blood could be jarring for those who follow a plant-based diet. It might be reassuring to know that bloodroot is actually a plant—one of the first flowers to appear in spring. Found in wooded areas, it produces white, solitary flowers with eight to twelve petals and no leaves on its stem. Its name comes from the dark red sap found in the stems and roots. And, by the way, it’s poisonous and, reportedly, nearing extinction in some parts on the country. In short, it’s rare, off the beaten path, and uniquely beautiful in its purity and lack of adornment—and the red stuff is plant stuff.
The name now makes sense for Bloodroot, a feminist restaurant. Averse to showiness, it embraces authenticity. For forty years, the place has been exactly what it wants to be, never bending to trends, especially food-related ones. The chefs steadfastly serve organic, vegetarian food that is crafted of the best produce available at market—and at the inspiration/creative whims of the chefs. Such solid roots have planted Bloodroot smack dab in the middle of today’s biggest craving: real, healthy, organic food.
KEEPING IT REAL
Forget about crisp white linens and imported French wine. Save that for another night. At this restaurant, come as you truly are and expect to find seasonal ingredients transformed into soul-satisfying dishes. And while you’re rolling up your sleeves, take note that you are expected to bus your own plate (no servers), and you’ll be served whenever it’s ready. Things are done differently, and, to its most loyal customers, that is just one secret to Bloodroot’s appeal. First-timers will see it immediately. For example, the dining tables and chairs are mismatched, like a hastily thrown together dinner party that had more guests show up than expected—and that’s just fine; pull in an extra table and put on some more food. Fun is found in cooking, talking, making friends—and sharing a bottle of wine from their wine list.
Your hosts are Selma Miriam and Noel Furie, two of the original collective members. Their hair has grayed, but the women remain true to their culinary and ideological roots. Selma, eighty-two, is a passionate weaver, so you can find the loom tucked into a corner alongside comfy chairs, curled up cats and the roughly arranged book shelves (this place is part bookstore). Yes, you can take weaving classes here; just ask. Self-professed Luddites, Selma and Noel do have a touch-tone phone, but only because it was necessary to place certain orders; otherwise, they preferred the rotary phone. You’ll know you’re acclimating when you turn off your cell phone and recall what’s it’s like to relax, socialize face to face, and pay attention to what you’re eating.
Bloodroot’s menu changes, but here’s a mouth-watering taste from a recent listing: black bean chili with butternut squash with rice and cornbread; Jamaican jerk “chicken,” tofu, and seitan with coconut rice; spicy Thai “chicken” with basmati rice, avocado and pineapple; Halushkin—bow tie pasta with cabbage and sauerkraut, applesauce, cucumber salad; three-grain pilaf, fried kale, pureed parsnips.
PICK A FAVORITE SPOT
On a recent visit, my guest and I chose a small table that overlooked the whole open-space restaurant. It was against one of the walls, which is lined “organically” with framed photographs and artwork, mostly of women. Cumulatively, the images, taken through the ages, make a tacit statement about the shared story of female roles: mothers, daughters, philanthropists, matriarchs, civic leaders and so on—far more empowering than such terms of endearment as peach, honey, hot tomato, sweetie pie and sugar plum.
The dishes we ordered so fill the table that we naturally stab into each other’s meals. We tried a crisp salad with julienne carrots, beets, radishes and potent red onion tossed in a dressing that enhanced, not dominated. We also sampled the French onion soup with the optional shot of brandy and returned repeatedly to the collard greens, which were piled high and dripping in a light, flavorful broth. A piece of brown bread banked on the lip of the plate soaks in the juices and crumbled like a sand castle to our touch.
“Feminism is not a part-time attitude for us; it is how we live all day, every day,” notes their first cookbook, The Political Palate, which clarifies the soil in which the restaurant is rooted. “Our choices in furniture, pictures, the music we play, the books we sell, and the food we cook all reflect and express our feminism.” (Bloodroot has two other cookbooks—want to guess?—Volume 1: Vegetarian. Volume 2: Vegan.) The creaky chairs, disheveled bookshelves, open kitchen, vintage posters—even Selma stopping by the table—build bonds to our past and one another. Vegetarianism, too, sees the interconnections of all things, including animals and plants. Countless guests placing orders and chatting at the counter have worn its edge. Imperfection has its comforts and beauty, and good food is part of the celebration.
A SAMPLING OF THE MENU
Black bean with avocado • Peanut mustard green • Porcini mushroom and potato • Split pea and carrot • Tomato with fennel
Endive, avocado and watercress • Marinated tofu, Chinese cabbage • Shredded beets, carrot and turnip • Roasted brussels sprouts with pecans and avocado • Organic tossed salad
Jamaican jerk “chicken,” tofu and seitan with coconut rice • Vegan macaroni & cheese with small red cabbage salad • Spicy Thai “chicken” and basmati rice, avocado and pineapple • Greens-stuffed tofu pockets with rice noodles
Banoffee (banana toffee) pie • Brown rice pudding with apricots and pistachios • Chocolate silk pudding with toasted almonds • Chocolate “devastation” cake • Bourbon vanilla ice cream • Vegan hot fudge sundae
85 Ferris St., Bridgeport
Vegan and vegetarian options
Tues. & Thurs. 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m.; 6-9 p.m.
Wed. 6–9 p.m.
Fri. 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m.; 6–9 p.m.
Sat. 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m.; 6–10 p.m.
Sun. 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m.