November 27, 2010


View from our table at Clover
If this is the future of fast food, that's OK with me.

Today I ate lunch at Clover Food Lab in Harvard Square. This eating "concept," started by an MIT student 2 years ago, began as food truck serving fresh, locally sourced sandwiches, soups, salads and drinks. After opening a second food truck, they opened a retail location in Harvard Square. The converted office space is very trendy - minimalist white decor, communal wooden tables, ivy on the walls. They even place your order on an iPhone. The menu is written a whiteboard on the ground with a talkative employee (wielding an iPhone, of course) there to greet you and place your order.  The menu consists mostly of sandwiches (all served in whole wheat pita pockets), soups, salads, breakfast items, and designer drinks (we sampled the vanilla bean soda).

The food is pretty good, especially given the price. For $5, I got a filling sandwich with roasted butternut squash, white bean spread, roasted red onion and swiss chard. The food is served fast, and while not the best sandwich you've ever had, is a great deal for the price. The vegetables are fresh and tasty, if a little under seasoned. The sandwich concepts overall are well designed, including "egg and eggplant" and "chickpea fritter" (falafel), all loaded with fresh veggies.  I was very satisfied.

The setting is trendy but not overly so - they are not trying to be anything they are not. On one of the large white walls is painted writing which reads: “This is a prototype. We will screw something up. We’ll screw many things up. Tell us when that happens.’’ 

And they did screw some things up. The rosemary french fries were terrible. They were oily, soggy, mixed with oversized pieces of fried rosemary. They were really awful. But this place has only been open for a month, so some missteps can be assumed. 

But besides some imperfections, Clover is a great concept and I hope to see it continue to grow. The food was overall tasty, the people friendly, the setting fun. It's not perfect, but at least they're willing to admit it.