August 1, 2011

Clover at SoWa

I was at SoWa the other Sunday for the first time this season. The truck is there every single Sunday, I just hadn’t worked it myself until now. Met a ton of great people, helped deal with running out of bread, and did my best to keep the line down. Sandy, who’s been running this truck, was handling everything with a cool head.

Have you been to SoWa market? I’ll admit, I hadn’t been before we started operating there end of last summer. This was back when the city of Boston was first starting to promote the idea of food trucks. We’ve enjoyed being a part of the market since. Some of our best customers there are other vendors, and it’s great to meet so many people. My only complaint is that Chris Masci, the guy who runs the market, insists on moving the location of our truck every single weekend. It’s suppose to be for fairness or something. I’d rather take the “worst” spot and hold it consistently than move around.

This get’s to a recurring issue we’re having this year. The City opened up these public parking spots. We applied for a couple we loved and didn’t get any of what we’d asked for. But the reason is because they wanted us to move around. Different spot every single meal every single day. So say, breakfast on Monday spot#1, lunch on Monday spot#2, dinner on Monday spot#3, breakfast on Tuesday spot#4 and so on. I’m not sure I understand exactly, something about the way the folks that are developing all of this stuff for the city think of food trucks. Maybe informed by the media, TV?

When we first opened as a food development platform I was thinking along the same lines. I thought: what if we could park in one place, then another place, people could follow us by Twitter, it’s a whole new world. This was pre-Kogi, back in 2009 and it seemed like an exciting idea. Then Cambridge told me that they have a moratorium on food trucks. Boston wouldn’t let me get licensed. And quickly that idea evaporated.

But I also learned more about this business. There really aren’t any examples of trucks moving all over the place that have found long term success other than ice cream trucks. All of the real truck operators, falafel trucks in NYC, taco trucks on the west coast, carts in Phily, the trucks at MIT. All of those operators have set locations that they return to every day. And it’s not a mistake.

Twitter is fun and all, but do you really want to go hunting for your meal every time you’re hungry? Nope. You really don’t. And that’s why the multi-location thing will never work very well in the long term.

It works fine as an impulse buy (e.g., ice cream trucks, or newer concepts like Dessert Truck, Treats Truck). It also works well right now because of the media hype around trucks. People are really excited to find a truck of any kind. Of course, Clover is the opposite of an impulse buy. Nobody sees our truck for the first time and says “oh, let’s grab an Egg and Egg!” Most of our customers have to look at us with skeptical curiosity a few times, chat with us, etc. before they warm up to the idea of trying our food.

Long term I think food trucks do better with consistency of service. They’re still mobile. You could be one place on week days, another place on Friday nights, and another place on weekends. But I’m very skeptical that the musical chairs is going to work well for anybody long term.

Recent Posts

July 15, 2024
I recently took a Soup Box on a family vacation and we were all blown away by the clean, clear flavors and the freshness of the produce. (It was a potato leek soup with arugula salad and cider chive vinaigrette, French bread, local cucumbers, local radishes, and 2 different types of compound butters.) If you haven’t had a meal box in a while, this time of year might be the perfect time to try one…
July 11, 2024
As a born-and-bred Yankee, I’m particularly pumped for our Cape Cod Box. We’re using mushrooms and veggies to recreate classic Clam Shack fare— clam strips, chowder, and fish and chips! Plus, Chris and the kitchen team are righting the eternal wrong that Veggie Lovers never get to experience the rich luscious buttery joy of an overstuffed Lobster Roll with a perfectly toasted bun.
June 28, 2024
Emily just sent me a picture of this giant lettuce we just got from Verrill Farm. We’re going to be putting it in Monday’s Salad Meal Box along with eggplant, carrot-feta spread, Lebanese white bean salad, and a bunch of other yummy things. If you’re subscribed, you’re probably already in for this delivery; if you’d like to try it a-la-carte click here. Because these greens are grown in real soil, you’ll need to give them a good rinse using a…
June 26, 2024
Yellow and green summer squash. Basil. Beets. Scapes and scallions and spinach. Summer produce is starting to appear in our kitchen in abundance! Which means our Weekly Meal Boxes are getting even more vibrant and exciting. Here’s what we’re cooking up for next week: 6/30-7/6.
June 26, 2024
Don’t let the next 7 days go by before stopping in for a Nashville Hot Mushroom. Corn mayo, a pile of beautiful Rhode Island Mushrooms we batter and fry, our sizzlingly hot Nashville oil, leaf lettuce, and some VERY necessary cooling pickle slices. If you aren’t on our email list, we occasionally send out little gifts there. Last night we sent out $5 off a Nashville Hot Mushroom sandwich or platter, and now I’m sharing it here…
May 14, 2024
About a year and a half ago, at an open-to-the-public food development meeting at Clover, we blind taste-tested a new plant-based pulled pork. This wasn’t a totally new thing for us to do—as a company with a climate mission, we tend to get a lot of samples of plant-based everything, and we love trying all of them. We’ve tried mycelium-based mushroom meats, wheat-and-soy nuggets, and burgers made from kelp. One bite in, and it was clear this pulled pork was special.
May 8, 2024
Squeaky paneer, mint cilantro chutney, chaat, and our first-ever collab with a local chef. Remember when Pushpir came into the kitchen and schooled us on Northern Indian food? That was 2013. A different CloverHSQ than the one you visit today (back then we were at 7 Holyoke St, across the street from where Kevin and his team now serve you). I still remember the smell of the cilantro, mint, jalapeños, and orange juice Pushpir was blending in the Vitamix. We hadn’t smelled that exact combo before…
April 16, 2024
This week has been a flurry of preparations as we kick off the 2024 food truck season. We did an event at Tufts over the weekend, in a few days we’ll be selling breakfast and lunch at a conference at the Media Lab at MIT, and this weekend we’ll be pulling up to a private party with sandwiches and appetizers.
March 27, 2024
Every year, just after Valentine’s Day, we start getting the same question in from customers: Will there be a Passover Box this year? Sometimes the pleas are more direct, sometimes more colorful. The glories of the vegetarian Chopped Liver are a common theme. This year, Sarah, an NYC-based friend of mine said she’s spent so much time thinking about the emails describing last year’s box that she’s DRIVING UP TO BOSTON to claim one!
February 15, 2024
We have a new sandwich out everywhere today. It’s a take on a Buffalo Chicken sandwich. We use celery root, aka celeriac, this nobbly, gnarled joy of a winter vegetable. We cut it into planks, batter it with panko, and fry it. We’re getting ours from Norwich Meadows Farm, a farm in NY state that’s known for creating really flavorful organic veggies using a cool irrigation system. 
February 7, 2024
For the week of Valentine’s Day, we’ll be delivering these Making Whoopie (Pie) Kits 😉. They have everything you need to make whoopie pies — more specifically, Chris’ favorite oatmeal cakes with beet buttercream frosting. You’ll also get a scoop for making the perfect size pie, and a roll of sugar cookie dough for more sweet fun.
January 18, 2024
Pull out your plaid and cue up the bagpipes because it’s Clover’s third-ever celebration of Burns Night, an introduction to Scottish food/drink/music/poetry and a reason to raise a glass during this dark and cold month! You may be asking yourself, what is Burns Night?