Our food philosophy is driven by simplicity. I’d rather have you shocked by how delicious our turnip soup tastes than impress you with an exotic ingredient or fancy technique or flowery menu description.

We try to keep everything very simple, but very careful. If you eat with us for breakfast you know that we’re making the soup or salads in the morning and prepping for lunch. We don’t make ketchup. We don’t make Mayonnaise. We make just about everything else every day.

This is Fast Food. We’re obsessed with speed and constantly time ourselves. Our average serve times are around 3.5 minutes, which makes us a little slower than McDonald’s.

Many of you have been asking for more detail about the menu, so for the first time I’m gathering it all here. Enjoy!

Ayr Muir
Founder and CEO of Clover Food Lab


Read on to learn:
– How we think about taste
– Why you might think we’re crazy if you learn how we make food
– Why our menu is tiny, changes, and we run out
– What’s so special about our drinks
– How we source our ingredients
– Who develops our recipes
– How we think about nutrition and food
– What to eat at Clover if you have allergies or dietary restrictions



We taste all day long. This is one of the most important roles our managers and leaders have. We’re not working with frozen, blended, factory-made, or processed ingredients. We don’t use “flavor enhancers,” artificial or natural flavors, additives, preservatives, or anything else you’d need a chemistry degree to understand. We rely on the farmer who grew our parsnip for flavor, the soil that produced our carrot, the chicken that laid our beautiful eggs. This is core to how we make food. Sometimes our carrots are sweeter, sometimes less sweet. We taste, we balance, we taste again. I can’t promise you that anything you have from Clover will taste exactly the same one day to the next. But we all work very very hard to make sure that the quality we achieve, the depth of and cleanliness of flavors is consistently unrivaled.

The other year I noticed we talk a lot about clean flavors. We started using those words without much discussion and didn’t even think twice about it until somebody asked us what we meant. When we talk about clean flavors we mean a whole collection of things. Food that tastes clean is food you want to hold in your mouth and savor. It’s not food you want to scarf down without thought. It’s food that has subtle aftertaste you enjoy. It feels great in your mouth. It smells beautiful.

We’re talking about food that hasn’t been overcooked. Clean flavors come from the first run, not from food that has been reheated or “flashed” right before service. We’re talking about food that hasn’t oxidized (common to food that is aging, think about how an apple slice turns brown). We’re talking about the lack of “off” compounds that come from sloppy cooking methods. Think about a bright yellow yolk that comes from shocking the egg in ice after boiling it for the exact right amount of time, not the grayish yolk and off flavors that come from overcooking and/or slow cooling. We’re talking about the lack of contamination of flavors (our onion cutting boards are never used for anything else). Clean flavors are identifiable. They are complex because the ingredients themselves have wonderful complexity, not because a lot of other ingredients are added on. When we talk about clean flavors we’re talking about flavors absent of chemical or natural additives. One of the reasons we make everything from scratch is that we want to leave out common additives like citric acid, fats we don’t like, and other additives that are in processed food. Not because citric acid is somehow bad, it just doesn’t taste clean. We don’t necessarily have anything against dirty food, but it’s not what we’re working hard every day to make.


If you work at Chipotle, or Panera, or McDonald’s you might think we’re crazy

At Clover we do a lot of things unlike other fast food companies. Why? For taste of course.

It’s hard to overstate how radically different we operate vs. our competitors. The way we operate is unheard of in our industry. I mean unheard of to the point that others don’t believe me until I show them around. No, really, there is no back-of-house, everything we do is visible to our customers. At Clover we:

– Have no freezers. In the entire company. Not one.
– Change our menu day-to-day to stay in sync with the best tasting seasonal ingredients.
– Cut food as close as we can to when you’re going to eat (e.g., tomatoes are cut when you order)
– Keep your money in your region. (40-85% of our ingredients are from the Northeast)
– Use an unheard of amount of organic ingredients (typically 30-60% depending on time of year)
– Don’t EVER use any preservatives, “natural flavors,” “flavor enhancers,” “artificial flavors”*
– Make food that will improve your health (no need to tell the kids, but that food is good for them)
– Allow you to see us making your food. We have no “back of house” anywhere in our company.
– 100% of what we hand you is compostable. OK, nothing to do with taste. But it’s the right thing to do.

*This statement does not apply to the mayonnaise, and the Ketchup, which as I mentioned earlier, we don’t make.



Everything we are today, every single recipe, everything we do, has been developed with help from our customers. We invite you to join those who are helping us improve every day.

Clover’s menu is in constant development. We make mistakes all the time. We work hard to make sure those mistakes are cheap, and that we learn from them. We’d rather share a rough recipe with you and ask you what you think than drive an item to final and tell you how great it is. This core philosophy explains why we got started with a truck in the first place.

To be clear, we never make food we think tastes bad. There are important internal controls. The most senior folks in the company meet weekly to discuss food. We taste, we talk about ideas, and we plan. But just because Chris, or Enzo, or Michael, or I loves the way something tastes isn’t enough. We set our ego aside and find out what you think.

If you have any comments, ideas, etc. the best way to share those with us is through our order takers. They collect all of the feedback they hear in a day and share it up. If you’re not near a location, or not the talking type, you can use Twitter, or comment here on the website.

If you would like to submit a recipe idea to Clover, use this form. We like recipes that come from real places and that have real stories tied to them. Our chickpea fritter was inspired by a falafel Ayr ate in Paris. Our breakfast sandwich was Jeremiah’s idea. Our cinnamon lemonade came from a customer who thought it might be a good idea. The Enzo Sandwich came from a salad Vincenzo’s family makes in Calabria, Italy.


Always changing menu and run outs

Since we don’t have freezers we work day-to-day with ingredients that have just come out of the ground, just been laid by a chicken, or just been picked. This fact defines our menu.

We have a small menu. Because we’re making everything from scratch we have to limit how much we do.

Our menu changes day-to-day. Because what is in season changes day to day, not every 3 months or 3 years.

We run out of items. We know this can mean we disappoint, but since we’re not working with shelf-stable or frozen foods we only have 2 choices: a lot of waste because we always have an oversupply or running out because we’re keeping the food fresh. We choose to run out.

So our menu is tiny, changes day-to-day, and we run out of stuff. That’s why we write it on a whiteboard, because it changes so often. It’s also why we can experiment so much with our food.



We’re developing a reputation for our drinks. You may have had our cinnamon lemonade, mulled cider, a blackberry switchel, maple soda, hibiscus iced tea, Barrington Coffee, or Pretty Things Jack D’Or beer. For most fast food beverages are an afterthought, a Coke or Pepsi fountain that earns high margins. We think of drinks a little differently.

Early on Rolando (who was our Chef) and I wanted to make drinks a part of our culinary conversation. So we started asking questions. Shouldn’t a great chef know as much about the coffee she’s serving as she does the sauce on the plate? Why should our sodas be made with who-knows-what? Why shouldn’t beverages be made daily? Why shouldn’t they change with the availability of ingredients? The most important question: how amazing can this drink taste?

So we started developing drink recipes right alongside our sandwich, salad, and soup recipes. We started visiting coffee roasters around the country, watching them roast, asking questions, and tasting and tasting and tasting. We started visiting New England breweries, and tasting and tasting.

I think one of the amazing things about our beverages is that while we’re not making anywhere near the beverage profit margin others expect, we’re still able to make money. We can make money selling you some of the most amazing tasting liquids. It’s a beautiful thing. I don’t think I’d call it greed, but most other food operators, fast food as well as fine dining, just don’t focus on what their beverages taste like as much as they focus on what they’re making from selling those beverages.



We put a ton of energy and thought into what we source and from whom. We showcase the best items we can buy. And if something is out of season or not available at the quality we love we just don’t use it, selecting instead something that makes better sense for that time of year.

When we started we bought almost everything from Russo’s, a regional mid-sized produce distributor. I went to meet Tony Russo, told him what I was up to, and we went from there. I’d known of Tony for a long time. His produce is the best in Boston markets. He’s been around for a long time (dig up an old Julia Child book and you’ll see she thanks Russo’s for their amazing produce). Tony understood what we were up to and would call me to tell me he had amazing shitake from Williamstown, MA, or potatoes from Hadley, MA. He knows all of the commercial growers in the Northeast. He could tell us when we just couldn’t get stuff locally which was as important as knowing what we could get locally.

We still buy from Tony, and now our volumes are much larger and growing. We’ve recently started to develop some direct relationships with suppliers. We had the pleasure of serving amazing tomatoes from Lindentree farm this past season. And coming into 2013 Lindentree, one of the best organic growers in my opinion, is planting for us. This is a dream. We’d always hoped to get to this point and it’s happening sooner than we expected. We’re buying a huge amount of beautiful roots this winter from Winter Moon Roots of Hadley, VT. All of our honey is bought directly, as is our maple syrup. We expect to develop more direct relationships as we grow. I’ll admit, we’ve used items from my garden (e.g., mint for lemonade) but this isn’t common. I only harvest 3 times a year : ) Eddie who runs our kitchen has brought us some delicious things as well.

Some of our supply relationships are something of a hybrid between distributor and direct sourcing. For example, we love Chip-N-Farm eggs. We have Chip-N-Farm pack our eggs in special boxes that are labeled just for Clover. Tony picks them up in Bedford, MA 3 times a week, and delivers them to us directly. We do something like this with other high-volume critical ingredients (e.g., our potatoes, yogurt, cheese etc.).

Rolando brought an organization called Farm Fresh Rhode Island/ Market Mobile to Massachusetts. He knew of them from living down there and really wanted them to expand to Mass. They weren’t sure it would make sense. So Rolando went around to a bunch of local chefs in Boston, convinced many of them to take Farm Fresh as a distributor, and now they make the trip to Boston. Market Mobile is a Farm-To-Business delivery service. Sort of like a regional distributor, but with better technology and a more direct model, and only local. We love what they’re doing.

We buy spices from Raymond at Christina’s Spices (they also have a retail presence). There are a few  other items we buy from smaller scale regional suppliers.

We buy shelf stable organic products from UNFI. This includes flour, chickpeas, etc. UNFI is an enormous organic distributor who primarily supplies Whole Foods. We buy fry oil from large national mainline suppliers (US Foods currently).

Beer, coffee, and tea are products we sell that we have very little hand in making. So we do our best to know those who are doing the making. In the case of beer we don’t feature a brewer unless we’ve had a chance to visit the brewery, meet the brewer, and understand their philosophy. We’ve handpicked all of the beers we sell and know our brewers very well. Coffee is a similar process. We feature some of the best roasters in the world. We’ve developed relationships with any roaster we feature before brining them in to Clover. We see them roast, get to know the owner, ask questions about their approach and philosophy. I don’t believe there is anyone who has visited more brewers or roasters than those of us at Clover. It’s been a unique and really fun journey.

Similar efforts apply to our tea (herbals are grown and mixed by Mary Blue of Farmacy Herbs, green and oolong are from Asha Teas and Tea Trekker). It took me almost 3 years to find tea of the quality we wanted. We couldn’t be happier with what we’re now offering.


We’re a small company but we think it’s important you know what you’re eating and part of that transparency extends to nutritional content. We’re working to create a database of the nutritional content of all of our menu items, but we’re not there yet. We have an entire page devoted to this topic.


Gluten-free, allergies, sensitivities, dietary restrictions, vegan, etc.

Please ask. We work hard to make sure our order takers are well armed to answer your questions. We’re honest about the fact that we may have cross-contamination in our kitchens. We do our best to provide options for a range of eating habits, preferences, and restrictions.

We hear a lot of questions about gluten-free options. Our kitchens are not gluten free. The falafel recipe does not have any wheat flour (unlike most falafel), instead we use GF corn flour. At the restaurants we have platters available without bread. At the trucks we have “boats” which is a sandwich without the bread. We are exploring a GF bread option.

We can modify most items to make them vegan upon request. This includes two of our most popular sandwiches, the Soy BLT and the BBQ Seitan.

First Four Barrel Coffee at Clover: Ethiopia, Bulga


We don’t serve a coffee until we’ve visited the roastery and assure that they know what they’re doing. Ayr traveled cross-country in August with his family (in a retrofitted Clover resupply van!) and had the opportunity to visit the beautiful Four Barrel roastery in San Francisco.

Even before he returned, we got a package from Four Barrel and an excited note with lots of samples.I recognized Four Barrel – I had first tasted it last April when Anna took me to the Mill in San Francisco.

We’re starting our Four Barrel partnership with a really adventurous coffee: Bulga from Ethiopia. It was grown and milled by a co-op of growers and was produced despite an extremely rainy season in West Arsi. We’re going to set up a coffee and donuts event at Harvard Square where you can meet the roasters and hear a bit more about their really strong relationship with the growers in Ethiopia. Right now you can try it at Clover Kendall Square, and it will be at other locations in the coming days. Welcome a taste of Cali to Clover!

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Japanese Sweet Potato is back!


This picture is from last year. I need to replace it with one from this year. Enzo thought of this sandwich after Ray from Next Barn Over harvested 5000 pounds of organic sweet potatoes.

The sandwich has a miso mayo, roasted-then-fried sweet potatoes, a fresh cabbage-daikon slaw, and tempura sesame seeds.

It’s definitely in the running for Top 3 Seasonal Sandwiches on most peoples’ lists. Taste it at locations starting today and this weekend at lunch. Check your location’s Twitter feed to see if it’s hit.


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Organic beluga lentils from Timeless Seeds


We’ve been experimenting with beluga lentils. Dave calls them baby belugas. They’re smaller and rounder than flat lentils. Some call them the caviar of the lentil world.

Timeless Foods got their start growing lentils. They were basically the first people to grow lentils in the United States. If you’re interested, there’s a book on the subject. We’re selling it at HFI.

Lentils are magical because they create their own fertilizer. They don’t need chemical fertilizer. We’ve been making a salad with cranberries and pistachios. We’ll be featuring it at Whole Foods and in our restaurants for the next few weeks. Let us know what you think!

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New salad testing: Cauliflower, pepita, chard pesto

Ayr brought a new salad to Food Dev last week. It’s something he cooked for his family the other night when they were having Mexican food. Hence the pepitos (toasted pumpkin seeds).

Pesto is a fun vehicle for greens. This one was made with chard, and it has no nuts, just a bit of olive oil. The cauliflower gets roasted at a high temperature. There are some pickled red onions, too.

You’ll see it on the menu today and this weekend. We’re trying to get the turnaround time fast, so that if we like an item at our Food Dev Meeting, you’ll be able to see it on the menu the week after.


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Pumpkin beer and pumpkin carving last night


Thanks all who joined for the launch of Jack’s Abby Beer. If you didn’t get a chance to join, you can taste the beer on tap at CloverHSQ and CloverKND starting tonight.

This beer is a Pumpkin Lager brewed using pumpkins from Valente Farm and malt from Valley Malt. Sam from Jack’s Abby had an idea to give every customer a pumpkin to carve.

It was really fun to see people hard at work in the restaurant. It got us thinking that maybe all our events should have a make-your-own component. What do you think?

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We picked Concord grapes this morning


Chris took us on a field trip to harvest Concord Grapes this morning.

Expect to see these hitting the menu tomorrow and Friday.  Concord grape lemonade. Concord grape whoopie pies. Concord grape soda.

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“Ayr, there’s no bread”


A couple of weeks ago, right after I’d come back from vacation, Dave left me a message at 6:30am. I didn’t get it until 7:30am. I was on my way to NYC to meet with a candidate to lead Finance at Clover. Dave’s message sounded urgent and said “call me.”

So I found out that we had no bread. None. Chris had left for paternity leave over the weekend, the team baking the bread had an issue turning the oven on the night before and unable to reach Chris had left. So we had no bread going into the day. None. And all of the people who knew how to bake were asleep.

I canceled my meeting in NYC, turned around, and headed to the HUB. There I faced a bunch of equipment I’d never used. I didn’t have a recipe. I didn’t know how to use the equipment. I didn’t have a team. Jermyn, who was running the Kitchen production that day lent me two of his staff. I called in a few other folks. And we started figuring out how to bake.

We got bread out to all of the locations in time for lunch service. Sort of a miracle. But that first day was pretty back breaking. I think I was at it for 14+ hours. And baking is muscle work, something I hadn’t appreciated. Our pita were OK but not great. By the end of the week they were something special. We’ve been tweaking the process since and our cost is coming in line with expectations, the bread is better and better, and we’re starting to develop stable systems and processes that will support some of the ideas we have for the future. And nobody is running out of bread.

You can come by the HUB to see us baking daily. We start around 2pm and finish up between 8pm and 11pm depending on how many batches we bake.

And if you have baking experience and want to be a part of helping Massachusetts grow grain, and making the best pita in the country, please let us know. We have 2 more lead baking positions we’re looking to fill.

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Nixtamalization in Massachusetts? Taste it today at food dev.

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I’m playing with a form of northern grits called sampe. Kim Vanwormer, miller at Plimoth Grist Mill, a working grist mill, left us some samples a couple of months ago. I got around to cooking some up last month and was stunned. I’d never had grits or polenta like this. The corn was pretty course, so after a ton of cooking it still had a nice texture. It gets smooth and creamy but with distinct pieces of corn that have a bit of bite.

I WANT TO TASTE SAMPE: Sign up for Food Dev today (free, open to all)

So now I’m playing with this to see if it could work at Clover. It might be an operational nightmare. It requires soaking and long slow cooking. But I’m going to see if I could find a way to work with it. Kim is trying to get farmers in Massachusetts to grow heirloom corn and I’d love to support that. It’s a really special product that I’d love to bring attention to and share. And I think it could help broaden our breakfast menu. It’s delicious sweet (cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, and brown sugar or fruit and honey) and it’s beautiful savory (think cheese, soft cooked egg, and pepper).

There are a full 3 written works from the 1600s mentioning Sampe. Amazing, right? When you think about how littered our world is with recordings of selfies, etc. An entire society, Native Americans in the Northeast, figured out how to use corn as a staple of their diet, and we have a total of 3 European written observations to rely on.

So I’m puzzled, because it appears from these writings that Sampe (which may come from a Wampanoag word that may have meant something like “to soak”) may have originally been corn processed by nixtamalization, a process where corn is soaked (boiled) in Alkaline water to make it more digestible and nutritious. Specifically, this process creates a vitamin we call B3 (Niacin) which is really important for nutrition. Nixtamazliation is THE technology that was responsible for the development of societies in the mesoamericas.

But the Sampe I have from Plimoth is not treated. So I’ve been looking into it, and while I haven’t really found an answer, I have discovered that nixtamalization was definitely known and used in the Northeast United States. That’s amazing! I never knew that. Think Hominey, think Masa. Well native cultures here in New England used the same stuff! They used ash from burning wood. I wonder why that food is absent from our diet? In the South there is a little, at least they know the word Hominy. And down in Mexico, central, and South America there is a ton (masa and derivatives).

Any food historians out there that know more about this?

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Clover electrified


This cord is going to mean fresher food for you.

Any food that can’t be prepped with a knife or a blender gets made back at the HUB. We make the food, pack it, then store it in our walk-in fridge until the resupply van is ready to head out to our locations. Ayr and Chris were thinking of ways to cut down the time between when food is prepped and when it is eaten.

Soon we’re going to be plugging in our resupply van at night, fully packed with food. This means it is forever a refrigerator. And it means we can push prep to later in the day, pack it directly into the truck, and skip the walk-in fridge altogether. We’re using something called FreshTemp, which means we can monitor the temperature of the van from anywhere.


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Kuma La Soledad lands


Verve is out for now. Kuma landing. A customer told me Kuma means “bear” in Japanese. I haven’t looked it up yet to confirm. They make great coffee. Roasting in Seattle. We visited them way back in 2012 when Rolando was out there for a Chef’s Collaborative meeting.

Grown on a family farm in Guatemala that has been around since 1895.

See the pumpkin sticker on the cup? That’s promoting our upcoming pumpkin carving event at Harvard Square. Wednesday. 8pm. We’re carving pumpkins and welcoming Jack’s Abby to launch their pumpkin beer at Clover.

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