by Swetha Amaresan
It’s 1:36 am. You just left Club Cafe or the Tam -- depending on how your Saturday night went. You’re desperate for some late-night munchies, so you’re deciding between Tasty Burger, New York Pizza, and Dumpling Cafe. As usual.
As much as you love the post-midnight culinary offerings of downtown Boston, you have to admit they sometimes get tiring. There’s nothing like a juicy cheeseburger, a gooey slice of pepperoni ‘za, or a heaping plate of greasy pork lo mein to close your night. However, there’s also nothing like the next-morning stomach pain from overconsumption of oil, fat, and meat.
Enter: Clover Food Labs.
Danielle Finelli, a third-year Marketing Communications student, believes that “...pizza, wings, and burgers are basic because I can get them anywhere. I know that every menu option at Clover is available late at night and will be more exciting and diet-friendly. The nutrition information is available, so you don’t feel unhealthy.”
Let’s backtrack. Clover Food Labs was founded in 2008 by Ayr Muir, an MIT alum. In 2007, Muir learned that the meat industry is the third-highest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Horrified, he went on a mission to build a sustainable food future that wouldn’t contribute to global warming. The “lab” concept was borne from Muir’s desire to test new recipes and invent an environmentally-conscious approach to good food.
Starting as a food truck in 2008, Clover has grown to 12 locations in the Greater Boston and Cambridge area. It’s a popular spot for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. However, its Central Square location -- a.k.a. my local restaurant -- is open 24 hours, Wednesday through Sunday, making it an ideal spot for those going out in Central or residing in this lively, Cambridge neighborhood.
Finelli says, “I eat Clover because of their ingredients. They’re always new, exciting, and local. I like the blend of food cuisines from all around the world, which you can't find anywhere else.”
As a Clover fanatic, myself, I can attest to the excitement of consuming fresh, locally-sourced ingredients. My current favorite sandwich, the Brussel Sprout Sandwich, includes, “[s]our cream dijon spread, smoked Grafton cheddar, fried MA [B]russels tossed with zaatar, pickled red cabbage, toasted hazelnuts.” The description is almost as mouth-watering as the sandwich, itself. Clover always selects the best, in-season, and local foods. That’s what sets your taste buds exploding like firecrackers.
Muir created Clover as an alternative to meaty, fast-casual options. Clover makes vegetables, legumes, and vegan proteins sound attractive: juicy beets, fluffy delicata squash, and crispy falafel balls, to name a few.
Jade Hebling, a fourth-year Marketing Communications student, believes Clover can be enjoyed by anyone, “[a]s long as they’re open to eating a meatless meal.”
With the introduction of Impossible™ Foods, Clover found a way for carnivores and herbivores to rejoice: providing an alternative that looks and tastes like meat but is actually made of plant proteins.
Finelli adds that “...people are more conscious about health than ever before...especially when it comes to drinking. There’s a growing popularity of spiked seltzer brands that have only 100 calories per can. Although traditional unhealthy drunk food will always be popular, Clover is marking a new trend by giving consumers options they never had before in terms of health factor and taste.”
Clover’s late-night options are just as filling and hefty as any other post-midnight grub hub but may be considered more upscale or health-conscious.
Hebling describes Clover’s brand persona as, “Healthy, Vegetarian, Tasty, Minimalist, Compassionate, Eco-Friendly.”
These aren’t adjectives you would associate with a late-night restaurant, but that’s what makes Clover unique. It’s working to achieve both a hearty meal -- at any time of day -- and a sustainable, vegetarian lifestyle.