Cambridge: Clover Food Lab (HSQ)

21st May 2012

[Revised and Updated May 21, 2012]

Following the publishing of this review, the head chef at Clover Food Lab, Rolando Robledo, contacted me about my experience and was very nice. It’s important to know that our experiences are taken to heart. He promised that they don’t/won’t intentionally put mayo on “vegan” sammies and admitted that they are still working on improving their training since vegan orders are rare for them. New employees are sometimes on “autopilot.” I appreciate his kind feedback and support unlike other staff at Clover Food who harassed me online whilst making assumptions about my bad experience at Clover Food, which is not the sole solution. It is never my intention to hurt a business that provides vegan options, we all appreciate having vegan options on the menu. I travel and I eat vegan food, I provide reports on my actual experiences and these might be unique from those of food reviewers or magazines or newspapers. Ultimately I report on my individual experiences, some good and some bad, as a vegan to provide information for customers and businesses alike.

Clover HSQ

What is exactly Clover Food Lab? It used to be a 100% vegetarian fast food truck that caters affordable, quick-to-go meals to MIT community (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) since September 2008, and then later opened as restaurants at several locations in Boston. Since I was on my way visiting Cambridge that day, I’ve decided to check out Clover HSQ.

  • Website: www.cloverfoodlab.com | Facebook: facebook.com/clover-food-lab | Twitter: twitter.com/cloverhsq
  • Address: 7 Holyoke Street, Cambridge, MA 02138 (Clover HSQ) . Few minutes walk from Harvard Square “T” Stop. There are numerous locations. For more locations, click here.
  • Hours: Everyday 7am – Midnight (breakfast 7am-11am, lunch/dinner 11am – midnight)
  • Vegan Notes: It is a 100% vegetarian eatery, so not all menu items are vegan. You need to double check the ingredients, inquire which are VEGAN from the menu. Be wary of mayo and dairy condiments because the staff accidentally served my sandwich with Mayo after requesting vegan. You need to observe and watch the staff with caution as vegans.
  • Special Notes: You need to take your order from the front staff by the door, and wait until your name is called from the counter to pick up your food. (That wasn’t fun, of course, there wasn’t any speaker system: you need to listen carefully!)
  • The front staff who took my order knew which ones were vegan such as the french fries and the soy BLT sandwich to be made with “tahini” rather than “mayo”, except for the soup, which was good. So one excellent point for this guy!

Things that need to be improved at Clover HSQ:

  • Please state “VEGAN” or “GLUTEN-FREE” next to a menu item. That will cease so much confusion among kitchen staff including staff who takes order (they might not know). Having real mayo in my vegan soy BLT sandwich was already a mistake! This is efficient and a quick way without inquiring vegan options, but always keep an eye out.
  • Waiting to have your name called differently (i.e., they named me RICK, rather than RIKA) is kind of stressful. Think clever: create a designated paper for a customer to fill out their name correctly and fill out their order individually. Have you thought about people who are deaf and hard-of hearing, who cannot have their order taken? Think about it. You are making it harder for everyone else. Another vegan fast-food eatery, Falafelito in Mexico City D.F. has done it well, even though they don’t speak English fluently, they still pull a clever method.

Clover Food Lab

Clover Food Lab

Clover Food Lab

Clover Food Lab

Clover Food Lab

Clover Food Lab

Clover Food Lab

Clover Food Lab

City Filtered Water (Free)
It is nice to have a free city filtered water. It is refreshing. I would try some of their beverages probably. They carry cold and hot drinks (guest & local coffee) all day from $2 – $3. All water (sparkling, filtered, etc.) are free.

French Fries with Rosemary ($3)
It was a quick order compared to my soy BLT sandwich. They were narrow, freshly cut french fries topped with rosemary. I thought the fries were too greasy (a bit soggy) because after eating them, my fingers were already oily. The more thin the fries are, the greasier they get sometimes. I finished the fries quickly because I was hungry for my soy BLT sandwich (it took forever until I noticed customers after me already had their sandwiches/wraps).

Soy BLT Sandwich ($5)
Clover Food Lab does not make their tempeh, only packaged tempeh you will see at any ordinary, natural foods groceries. The tempeh was from LightLife: Organic Smoky Tempeh Strips, and I had them before in Oregon everywhere. But I cannot imagine it took long to mess up my order the first time with mayo and redoing it as vegan. I thought the soy BLT sandwich was okay, indeed it was a quick snack to go especially for anyone who don’t have time to cook or have access to kitchen. But I think it needs more veggies such like the chickpea fritter sandwich I saw.

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