A few months ago I started hearing about a new place to eat, quite close to where I work. There are many great restaurants in Fort Point, but most of them are sit down affairs, with pretty expensive food – $8 sandwiches and $10 salads. This new place is different, with no items that cost over $5, and, far from encouraging a leisurely lunch, it doesn’t even have seats. That’s because it’s a truck.
Unlike most big cities, Boston doesn’t have that many roach coaches or food carts. There are a few lemonade stands in the Public Garden, some spots to get a pretzel or glazed nuts. And of course there are the standouts – M&M Ribs, Boston Speed Dogs, and the infamous Sausage Guy. But compared to New York, where you can grab a $2 hotdog or cheap falafel on nearly every corner, our trucks are few and far between. So I was quite excited to find one near to me, and even more so when I learned more about it.
Clover Food Labs, the truck that now parks right outside of South Station, is not your average roach coach. With 2 locations, in Dewey and Kendall Squares, Clover has a mission to bring locally sourced, seasonal, vegetarian food to the office workers of Boston. Eventually they’re hoping to bring a brick and mortar store to Harvard Square, but starting with the trucks has allowed them to earn both capital and word of mouth while getting that going.
The first time I visited I tried the barbeque seitan sandwich. For those of you who don’t know what seitan is, it’s just wheat gluten – the chewy proteins that give bread its resistance when you bite into it. Made by washing all of the starch out of wheat flour dough, seitan is commonly used as a meat substitute in Japan and China, particularly subbing in for duck. It makes a good stand-in for meat because its texture has the right springiness and resistance, and because it’s a protein (two, in fact). Here’s what Clover does with it:
There’s no doubt about it – this is a really good sandwich. The barbecue sauce is slightly spicy and plays off of the Swiss cheese and fresh vegetables beautifully. To be fair, I really LIKE seitan – I don’t think of it as a meat substitute so much as enjoy it for what it is – a nutty, chewy protein – but I think even someone unused to chowing down on gluten could enjoy this sandwich. Besides, look how pretty it is!
After that first encounter with Clover I found out they had a Twitter feed and decided to follow it – mostly it keeps folks up to date with the specials they’re offering on any given day. This turned out to be a wise decision on my part because Clover offers a 3pm snack – some special that they start serving at three o’clock up until it runs out. This tends to be whatever they have in abundance – and a few weeks ago it was one of my favorite things in the world – fried plantains! I hurried on over and snagged them before they were gone:
Oh my lord these things are heaven. Deep fried to a beautiful bronze color, these bad boys are so sweet and tasty, lightly sprinkled with spiced salt and hopelessly addictive. Too bad they’re not a regular menu item!
Another snack, however, is – the rosemary french fries. These are fries the way I like them – thin to take advantage of as much crispy goodness as possible, and flavored with sea salt and a bit of rosemary.
Mine were served as a little fry “bouquet,” a technique I heard the counter guy telling one of co-workers he’d made up that day. I hope he kept it up – it was very convenient and easy to travel with (as you can see by my T shot).
I’ve also tried the chick-pea fritter, which is what Clover calls falafel.
As you can see, it was loaded with fresh vegetables and a tasty yogurt sauce, and overall tasted very herbal and cool, not at all greasy in the way that falafel can be.
In addition to the tasty lunches, the Clover staff has so far proven to be friendly and helpful, willing to explain menu items to the curious and always smiling when I’ve ordered. I’ve yet to try their breakfasts, and they’ve been serving a fried green tomato snack that I’m hoping to try before it’s gone…if you’re in the Boston area, be sure to check them out!