Almost exactly a year ago, I was researching food places online, as I usually am when I’m not eating, and I came across a mention of a new food truck called Clover Food Lab. The set up shop at Kendall and they tweeted specials and updates. Tweeting? Sounded exciting. I did not want to miss out. Thus, @FreeFoodBoston was born.
Don’t ask me why I followed them for almost a year before I finally visited. The important thing is, I visited yesterday. I pretty much knew for the past few months what I would order: the chickpea fritter sandwich. I’ve been reading about this sandwich since the truck first opened. It consists of 4-5 chickpea fritters, Israeli salad, hummus, carrots, pickled onions, pickles and tahini on a whole wheat pita. How does the chickpea fritter differ from falafel? Only very slightly. It definitely didn’t have as many herbs and spices as falafel does, which was not at all a bad thing, as it allowed more of the nutty chickpea flavor to come through. The fritters, despite their name, were actually less deep-fried and greasy than most falafel I’ve had. The fillings were excellent. They are actually a large part of what attracted me to the sandwich. The sandwich runs the gamut in terms of textures: crunchy israeli salad, pickles, onions and carrots, soft but hearty fritters and pita bread, and rich, creamy tahini and hummus. It’s a very filling sandwich and highly wallet-friendly at $5.
My companions, Becky, Aaron, and Corinne, all ordered the BBQ seitan sandwich, which came with lettuce, tomato, and cheese. The BBQ sauce was sweet and mild. The truck has sides including rosemary fries, fried green tomatoes and salads (chickpea, spicy broccoli, or raw squash). These are just the lunch options. Clover serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and has different offerings for each. They serve a rotating snack at 3pm every day. Right now, the snack is corn fritters made with sweet, local corn. They also have a selection of awesome-sounding drinks including basil lemonade and watermelon soda. Clover chronicles their menu experiments on their blog, the latest of which is the soda.
Clover is very popular, so there is always a long line at lunch time. I was impressed with the way they streamline the ordering process. First, they make the menu highly visible so that you can see the options while you wait online. There are two order-takers who stand outside the truck. They call forth the next customer and take your order and your name on an iPhone, as well as payment. Your order is magically sent to the food makers on board the truck. All you have to do is stand back and wait for one of them to call out your name. I want to give kudos to my order-taker, I believe his name was Peter, for patiently answering my questions. Personally, I would appreciate a brief description on the menu of what the sandwiches are. If you are not picky, most of the sandwich names provide enough of a description. But the last sandwich option on the menu read “Basil.” Really? That’s all you’re going to say? It turns out this sandwich consists of a basil spread with havarti cheese and pickled vegetables on a pita. Sounds pretty good to me. Sometimes it pays to ask.
I’ve only experienced the truck in person once so far, but judging from their blog, I really like Clover’s vibe. They care a lot about making good food, but also having fun with it. They make use of seasonal ingredients and source locally. Clover is in the midst of constructing a stand-alone restaurant in Harvard Square. You can follow their progress on their website. I’m excited to see how the Clover vibe and philosophy translates to a stationary, sit-down venue. And I’ll be especially excited if the new place means even more menu experiments. Until then, I’ll have to get back to the truck if I want to try those corn fritters.
Clover Food Truck