Clover Food Lab

FA Rating: F
Price: $
Fry rating: 6/10

Clover's (Harvard Square in Cambridge, MA) brick and mortar is an adorable two-floored restaurant where two people were standing next to a lit up board that displays their daily menu, typing people's orders into their smart phones and presumably texting them to the kitchen

Sadly, the two things I wanted to order the most would not be served for a while. The parsnip fritters would be ready at 3 PM and the whoopie pies not till about 6. I'd been excited to have one of the whoopies as the girl who told me about Clover had mentioned that a week or two before, the flavor had been avocado lime! The guy who took my order and answered my questions said this week's would've been coffee. It was 2:40 PM. Damn my timing! I actually thought for a minute that I might come back for dinner, until I reflected that the total round trip commute time from the house where I was dog sitting was about an hour and a half, so that this would be insane.

Lavender Lemonade - $2 - Refreshing, flavorful, and light

The lemonade went well with the centerpieces of the tables, which consisted of a rows of herbs growing on the table, pretty cool!

As I waited for my food to be ready (they call your name when each piece is ready for you to come pick it up), I noticed the walls are decorated with customers' random drawings, paper, crayons and tape all available for anyone to utilize.

My entree was ready first.

BBQ Seitan - $5

I probably shouldn't have ordered this dish, as I'm never a big fan of these little meat fakes, preferring vegetarian dishes to focus on delicious vegetables rather than attempt to pose as meat, but I thought maybe this would be particularly good. It wasn't, but neither was it offensive. It was a simple, boring pita with that chewy seitan stuff, coated in an okay bbq sauce, with some lettuce, a couple of tomato slices, and a bit of cheese and mayo. I really wish there'd been more going on here, as it'd be really easy to duplicate this or make something much better after a little trip to Trader Joe's. With some hot chili oil from the condiment bar and, after they came out, some rosemary fries stuffed inside, it was pretty good.

Speaking of the condiment bar, there was chili oil sauce, ketchup and malt vinegar. Thus after I got my fries, I asked after a creamy dipping sauce. The fry guy said, "Hmm, well how about some mayo and bbq sauce?" I accepted his offer and was happy that we were on the same page as he went ahead and layered them in the same cup as obviously I'd be mixing it together:

Bbq mayo, layered, next to the chili oil paste, and of course I'd be mixing that all together as well

A reasonable dipping sauce

The rosemary fries are the thin cut variety, tossed with rosemary and salt in a bowl at the pick up counter.

I wanted to try to convey just how huge the serving size was, so I placed it next to my Lactaid for comparison. It could've easily served three.

I do wish that one could order a reasonably portion of fries at places like this. It's sort of sad that fast food chains are better at equipping me with reasonable portions than a nice vegetarian café in Cambridge. If only so many of my foodie adventures weren't solo ones...

I'm not the biggest fan of thick cut fries, and while the rosemary sprigs are nice, I'd prefer to have fries with a nice rosemary infused dipping sauce (like, say, a rosemary ranch or aioli), so that the flavor could be nice and smooth, instead of having to pick up a couple of fries and a sprig of herb in my fingers and then dip it in mayo sauce and bring it all to my mouth.

There are so many things that pop up on the menu from time to time that I really want to try, and sadly, other than the lavender lemonade, none of them was there when I was. I like this place in theory, it's just sad that I didn't get to have the dishes I'm quite sure would've been awesome.

Things to try:
-Avocado Lime Whoopie Pie
-Parsnip Fritters
-African Peanut Soup
-Honey Dew Agave Fresca
-Fennel Hazelnut Jicama
-Spicy Carrot Soup

Clover on Urbanspoon

When I visited Occupy Boston, I saw that Clover was over there at Dewey Square selling food.  Several occupiers were walking around with falafel wraps.

They currently have a new special:

The Turnip: apple spread, cheddar, roasted turnips, and spinach (sounds pretty fuckin' good to me)

Clover Food Truck (Dewey Square) on Urbanspoon

Finding the place the first time:

The girl who'd told me about the CFL said it was "At Harvard Square."

I said, "Well yeah, but where exactly?"

The look on her face expressed confusion as to what my confusion could possibly be. "You know, Harvard Square!"

I really wasn't sure what all that term encompassed, and I didn't feel like attempting to explain exactly about what I was ignorant, assuming that, considering how she was acting about it, finding this place would be simple. I'd arrive at the Harvard Square stop on the Red Line, and there it would be!  And then of course anyway there's Google Maps and its app on my phone.

Oh sure!  Right in there!.. somewhere...

Apparently, Google Maps is not yet aware of the Clover Food Lab though, displaying only the food truck locations. So when I did arrive at Harvard Square, I looked around, tried to google a bit on my phone, and then started asking people for directions.  Ah I've forgotten to mention that the owner of the dog had called me back and left a voicemail asking me to call her back while I was on the Red Line toward here.  So now my dilemma was, having come this far and being very hungry, do I turn around and go back as fast as I can or try to find this place quickly, get some food and go back?

I called the owner and learned the way the key works (pull it in, jiggle the key, it turns to the right, then push in as you turn a little further right).  She'd be in the airport awaiting her layover flight for 2 more hours, in case I needed to call back if, armed with the knowledge of how it was supposed to work, I still failed.  "Okay," I thought, "I can make this." I obviously would have to skip the gym, but I could get lunch and make it back before her flight.

But, um, hmm, where to go?

I was given directions by this one woman, and I started along the prescribed path, but after about 5 minutes, I started doubting whether she knew what the hell she was talking about, and so I began trying to ask other strangers for directions.  I was wearing my gym clothes, old athletic pants, fairly dirty tennis shoes, a somewhat too large paint-splattered pullover a friend'd given me, and I had on my backpack.  After a couple of strangers neglected to respond to my, "Hi, pardon me, do you know..," walking briskly along without making eye contact, in much the same way one might a bum who's attempting to panhandle, I reflected that perhaps that was the assumption people were making about the request I was going to be making from them.

My tactic to deal with this was to pull out my iPhone and pretend to also be using it, even though it'd proven useless in this quest, I apparently needed to signal some degree of affluence so that strangers could stop in assurance that I'd be asking for directions rather than money.  It worked.

From then on, every stranger stopped and gave me what directions they could or at least took the time to explain that they didn't know and were very sorry but wished me luck. For my part, I was trying to use my schemas for people who looked like that might be vegetarians, vegans or the kind of yuppie who enjoys frequenting vegetarian places from time to time.

After I found the place and ate, I rushed back to the house and got the key to work on just the third try, though I would continue to struggle with this door every single time I tried opening it, at one point coming to tears about it. The dog had peed inside the house, but it wasn't too hard to clean up, and I'd say my adventure was worth it!

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