- [Photos: Meg Jones Wall]
- "There's a lot more wood in Burlington," said Muir. "Our architects thought, and I think they’re right, that there’s maybe too much. So here we were trying to make the only wood these big slabs; maybe they get a little more attention, and they don’t compe
- On the far end, there will be a "living wall" of plants. The "community table" on the left is meant to be "big enough that you wouldn’t feel awkward sitting with someone you didn’t know," said Muir. "Almost as big as a bar. Because sometimes groups gather
- The blue path on the floor is meant to be "sort of a connection between the street and Google," said Muir. Google is one of the main tenants sharing the building.
- "One of the things I’m most excited about and I think is most unusual about this is that here’s no back of house," said Muir. "Literally none. You’ll see the dish sink is over there. And we brought the level down on everything, which may seem sort of simp
- The counters and tables are made of a smooth, shiny wood with natural-looking uneven edges. "We had this wood with the very first truck," said Muir. There’s a coffee shop in Northampton that I like that had wood like this, and they told me where they got
- Customers can enter from the street or through a recently-built lobby that also leads to the rest of the building. Up until a few months ago, this was an alleyway.
The newest outpost of the Clover empire opens today at 11am, and it's right back near where it all began. When founder and CEO Ayr Muir first wanted to open a Clover restaurant, he figured he'd set up a truck temporarily to test the menu first, realizing that it was going to take awhile to get a restaurant up and running. That first truck was right in Kendall Square, virtually across the street from the new restaurant opening today.
"We shut the truck down after two months," Muir told Eater. "We were done with it, and we thought it was time to move onto the restaurant. Then it was clear to me that opening a restaurant was going to take a long time, and a lot of customers were writing me emails and text messages with pictures of where the truck should still be, like, 'You should be here right now!'"
Muir reopened the truck in winter 2009, "trying to run it more as a business" this time around, and then, three years ago, he opened the first brick-and-mortar Clover in Harvard Square. It was meant to be "a place to figure this all out," said Muir. "We wanted to figure out what our restaurant should be like. We had no idea. We made it super flexible and wide open; things were a lot bigger than we needed them to be. We kept playing and learning. This [Kendall] is more our new direction for designing the restaurant. There are some things we've taken from Harvard, but there are a lot of things that are really different."
Like the new Burlington location, this one will be designated a "test kitchen" within the company. "It'll be one of the places to be the first people to try out things we're playing around with."
Even as this new Clover is opening, more are in various planning stages. "I've got two more in the works," said Muir. "We're going to focus on exploring a new region, but there is one here that I can talk about. It has a lease signed; it's just hung up in permitting. It's a space on Newbury St. that we're renting from the MBTA. They wanted, and we wanted, to put a container there, like a semi-portable restaurant." (Picture Churn2, the ice cream container at Harvard.)
"It's just been a nightmare. First we had to go through the state for permitting; we spent almost a year. Like, three different applications after they rejected some. Basically, then the state said that we had to go to the city, so now we've been working with the city, but it's just been a really tough process. We're thinking maybe in March we might be getting something actually open, which is exciting. So that one's happening." Muir is also in the middle of negotiating a lease for another mystery location.
The timeline for the next few days: Clover Kendall is open today from 11am to 2pm, and everything is "pay what you want," with all proceeds benefitting local food rescue organization Lovin' Spoonfuls. Tomorrow is more like an open house with a limited menu (coffee and whatnot)—"We're mostly going to be recuperating and figuring out what went wrong," said Muir. "And we didn't want to open on Friday because it's Friday the 13th," he added with a laugh. On Saturday, it's all systems go. Normal hours are 7am-11pm six days a week and 10am-4pm on Sundays.
The original truck, stationed nearby at 20 Carleton St., will continue to operate as well. It shuts down for the winter but will return in the spring. "We're hoping people will eat at both, but we'll see what happens."
· All coverage of Clover on Eater [~EBOS~]