Category Archives: Harvard Sq

Giulia, Harvard / Porter Sq

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Where: Giulia- 1682 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138

After reading about Giulia on one of those “hot new restaurant” lists, I quickly made a reservation to go with OZT. Excellent. I had a week to pine over the menu and figure out a tactic to convince her to share a few different items with me, which it turned out was just waiting for her to make the suggestion. Great minds think alike.

Giulia is conveniently (for me) located between Porter and Harvard Squares in the old space where Rafiki briefly lived. The layout is similar but with an additional built up seating area (watch your step), open kitchen, large pasta / dining table at the back and more rustic charm. Our server told us that if you walk by Giulia during the day around 3:30 you can peek in and see the chef making all the pasta from scratch on this big table. Not sure I could resist joining if I ever caught that.

We were quickly seated and greeted by our server. He poured over the menu describing half of the menu items in great detail while we stifled our giggles at explanations of fairly well known items like “lardo”.

I still don’t understand this trend in restaurants to have the server describe each item on the menu in flowery detail. One or two items to point out fine, but if you don’t want me to read the menu for myself don’t give me one! I could have taken a nap in the time he took to finish!” – OZT.

After we were left to look over the menu, he came back and told us that he “didn’t want to previously tell us about this other item but is now ready to…”. Um, why didn’t he want to tell us before?! Did he think we weren’t worthy of knowing? Was he watching us to make sure we were sophisticated enough? Why was it some big secret?

We started with the Bruschetta with tuscan kale with house made ricotta and chilies. The bruschetta looked gorgeous with the deep green kale and bright white ricotta with little specks of chili oil. Sadly, the Bruschetta didn’t taste as vibrant as it looked – it was pretty bland. We couldn’t taste any heat, zing, or seasoning from the chilies. Nada. Salt helped a little but the Bruschetta were definitely missing something.

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We then shared two pasta plates – the lobster agnolotti (umbrian truffles, chives and lobster brodetto) and pappardelle with wild boar (black trumpet, juniper and aged parmigiano), the latter being highly recommended by our server.

The lobster agnolotti, which were like little tortellinis, came out in a delicate broth and looked divine. I couldn’t wait to get in there so I started with this one before we did the midway swap. I was pretty disappointed to find that the lobster flavor was very, very mild. I likely wouldn’t have been able to distinguish the lobster in the pasta at all had it not been for the small pieces (2) of shell I came across.

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We did the midway swap, and as soon my OZT took a bite of the lobster agnolotti she said that what she had started with, the pappardelle with wild boar, was definitely better. I couldn’t agree more. The pappardelle with wild boar was phenomenal. The pasta was perfect, the sauce rich but not heavy and boar salty and a touch gamey. Delicious. I would like another whole plate of that, please. I polished that off and then dug into the bread to get the rest of the sauce off the plate. This dish made up for the first two.

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I wasn’t too bothered with getting dessert but why not? Boy am I glad we did. We split the Panna Cotta with madagascar vanilla bean, and poached quince and it was well worth the calories. The panna cotta was nice and firm and the vanilla tickled my senses before I could even take a bite. The quince, which I realize I know far too little about, was light and a perfect contrast to the dessert.

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Overall, I’d go back to Giulia for a drink at the bar but I don’t think I would go back for dinner, at least not until they settle in and for a few months and work out a few of their kinks. Half of our meal was fantastic but the other half was lacking in flavor. The wait staff were a little too attentive which may just be growing pains, but you really don’t have to reach in front of us mid conversation to fill up our water glasses after each sip. I really wanted to love you, Giulia, but you didn’t give me much of a chance.

How did Giulia measure up? 2.5 Spoons

Rialto, Harvard Sq

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Where: Rialto, One Bennett Street, Cambridge, MA
When: September, 2012

During my summertime love affair with oysters I was looking to get them any way possible. I didn’t care where or who they came from. I didn’t care if they were local or foreign. I just wanted as many as I could as quickly as possible.

During my quest to eat as many oyster as possible I came across Riato’s Monday night $1 oyster special. TMM! (Tell me more!).

On my next free Monday evening I dragged a friend of mine to Rialto to check this steal out. The bar, expectedly, was jam packed but we found a little table still considered in the bar area (a much nicer spot if you ask me). Let me walk you through my journey…

We started with a dozen oysters. Then got another dozen oysters. Then considered getting another dozen oysters but thought we should try something else. I couldn’t tell you what kind of oysters these were honestly. I know they weren’t wellfleets or kumamotos, two of my favorites, but any good $1 oyster makes a close second favorite.

Two drinks in we decided we needed something more substantial. We ordered the Crispy friend calamari with pickled pepper, lemon and evoo. These were lightly friend and not too greasy and the aoili it was served with was worthy just on its own. I’d get the calamari again but they weren’t anything particularly special. Maybe that’s a good thing though, somethings you don’t want to get too fancy with.

Next, hold your breath, we got the Parmesan fries. I just accidentally wrote friend and, yes, they are my friends and will be yours too. These are the most delicious fries I have had in years. I was doing that thing where I would grab three at a time but try to pretend there was just one as I didn’t want to look like I was taking more than my share, which I totally was. I was hoping my dinner date would go use the bathroom so that I could inhale them without the guilt. No such luck. I did, proudly, polish off this plate with little help.


Overall, you can’t beat $1 oysters. The bar was packed so I felt lucky to get a seat but otherwise its a risk. The calamari was good enough but they were blown out of the water by the fries. What really topped off the evening for me was when Jody Adams, the head chef, sat behind me to say hello to some friends. I was starstuck and just sat there with a silly grin on my face, which you can see here. I must get back for a full dinner sometime soon.

How did Rialto measure up? 4.5 Spoons!

Cambridge Common, Harvard Sq

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Where: Cambridge Common- 1667 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge MA 02138
When: September 2012

I used to be a brunch person going almost every weekend -t was my Sunday equivalent of church. I would roll out of bed, put on my Sunday worst (sweatshirt, sneaks, ponytail) and head down to Sound Bites around the corner for something delicious and typically greasy. This would usually be followed by a few hours on the sofa watching mind numbing tv as I was too full to do anything else. Why did I stop, right?

Well, I moved to a different part of town but I still jump at the chance to go out for brunch so was thrilled when a friend was in town at the last minute and suggested meeting up on Sunday morning. In shorts, tees and ponytails we headed to Cambridge Common to check out their brunch menu. We sat outside in the sunshine which was just perfect. They had me at Breakfast B.L.T.

The Breakfast B.L.T. comes with applewood smoked bacon, fried egg, avocado, baby spinach, and tomato with chipotle mayo on multi-grain toast and is served with home fries and fresh fruit. The combination of the salty bacon and egg with the buttery avocado and spicy mayo is out of this world. It’s a good sized sandwich but doesn’t leave you feeling like you just ate a whole cow. The home fries were good as well – nice and crispy.

Overall, service was good and we got plenty of coffee refills (perhaps too many even). We were happy to able to sit outside as its a little dark indoors (great for nighttime though). Food was crave worthy. I’ll be back, as I always am.

How did Cambridge Common measure up? 3.75 Spoons!

The Hong Kong, Harvard Sq

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Where: Hong Kong – 1238 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA
When: May, 2012

One would think after stopping for waffles the night would start wrapping up. But no, not with us. After a long day of being super outdoorsy (drinking on patios and decks) and eating our way down the red line we decided, naturally, to get Chinese food at the Hong Kong, after waffles. For those of you who don’t know, the Hong Kong is a famous Boston spot known for its scorpion bowls, underage drinking, fights, and random drunken shenanigans. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen someone throwing up outside the Hong Kong after 1am. Most of this takes place on the top two levels where the bar and comedy /dance club are, so we were fairly safe on the first floor, which is a restaurant.

We were seated quickly although the waitstaff seemed a little annoyed that we were even there. We didn’t get friendlier service once seated but the food came out quickly, which is all we really wanted.

We ordered Crab Rangoons, Scallion Pancakes, and Fried Rice. The crab rangoons were your average deep fried greasy variety that tastes phenomenal at 3am but would likely make you nauseous any other time of day. The fried rice was unmemorable. The scallion pancakes, on the other hand, were quite delightful. They were fried, obvi, but not too heavy or oniony. The sauce served with them was tangy and gave it a nice bite.

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Overall, the Hong Kong is what it is. Its a place that’s open late when you want greasy Chinese food and can’t get down to Chinatown. Personally, I wouldn’t go back unless under this circumstance, which I shouldn’t make a habit of.

I did find a fortune in my pocket the next day which was a pleasant surprise. It said: Seeing your smile always brings smiles upon others”. Aw, shucks.

How did the Hong Kong measure up? 1.5 Spoons!

Zinneken’s, Harvard Sq

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Where: Zinneken’s – 1154 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge 02138
When: May, 2012

Twas the day before Memorial day and I was drunk. It was an accident.

The day started at 11am with manicures at a little place in Porter Square. I was grateful that they had Miami Beat, the color I had already on my toes. After that we walked down to Harvard Square and sat outside at the Legal Seafood’s for oysters, salads, and gin and tonics. It was absolutely gorgeous out and one round quickly turned into three rounds. We eventually headed to Dorchester for a friend’s BBQ. There we ate some more, listened to some piano and singing, met lots of new people, and shared some wine. During the BBQ, waffles was brought up consistently so, as the sun went down, we decided we needed to head back to Harvard Sq on a search for waffles.

We waltzed into Zinneken’s and excited looked over the menu, finally settling on the Dame Blanche. The Dame Blanche is a waffle with whipped cream and Belgian chocolate. I eagerly cut the waffle in half before I got to take a photo so you will just need to imagine it as a whole. The waffle was hot and fresh; chocolate warm and gooey; cream light and sweet. It was just as I remembered them from my short visit to Belgium a few years ago.

This waffle was the perfect end to the night. Except we didn’t stop there…

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Overall, from what I remember, the staff were very nice, decor simple and clean, and waffles amazing. I’ll have to go back and take my time enjoying my waffle instead of just inhaling it.

How did Zinneken’s measure up? 4 Spoons!

Otto Pizza, Harvard Sq

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Where: Otto Pizza – 1432 Mass Ave. Cambridge MA 02139
When: May, 2012

A couple of weeks ago I signed up with Boston Cares, a volunteer organization here in Boston. The day after I did my orientation I was so eager to pick up an opportunity that I signed up for a Books for Prisoners program in Quincy. I spent the evening reading through letters from prisoners and helping choose books for them based on what their interests and requests were. All were polite and friendly, a few heartbreaking. I didn’t finish up until about 9pm so by the time I got back to Harvard Sq it was almost 10 and I was starving.

Pizza isn’t my usual go-to quick and easy meal but it was a chilly rainy night and that’s just what was on my mind.

I got two slices from Otto Pizza thinking, foolishly, that I would eat one and save the other for work the next day. Instead, I inhaled them both the moment I got home.

The slice on the left is the Chicken, Mushroom and Fontina Pizza and the one on the right in the Chicken and Basil Pizza. Both were delicious, especially after having been out in the rain (as you can see the raindrops that I couldn’t protect my pizza from on the bag below) and so hungry, but the Chicken, Mushroom, and Fontina was just to die for. And here I thought I wasn’t a fan of Fontina… It was creamy and salty and just plain good. The Chicken Basil one was as well but there was something a little more indulgent about the one on the left.

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Overall, I’d definitely get pizza from Otto Pizza again. The place is tiny so I wouldn’t t recommend going their to eat in but they were friendly and quick quick a few slices to go and their slices were mighty tasty.

How would Otto Pizza measure up? 4 Spoons!

Otto Pizza on Urbanspoon

First Printer, Harvard Sq

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Where: First Printer – 15 Dunster St. Cambridge, MA 02138
When: April 2012

The name “First Printer” still sounds a little odd too me as a restaurant name but I suppose it makes sense as this new restaurant is on Dunster Street which is apparently where the first printer was ever housed.

We walked in and waited to be seated while the somewhat frazzled hostess tried to find someone to help the gentleman waiting ahead of us. The atmosphere is pretty cool with a “printer” theme, booths (my fav), and large bar.

We both started with the Sparking Sauvignon Blanc, Colombard, Chardonnay – Veuve du Vernay Brut which was different (sparkling!) and refreshing. A perfect summer drink even though its not quite summer.

For starters I got the raw Cape Cod Oysters with Caves de Pomerol Mignonette. The oysters, although small, were very good as was the mignonette. I am always surprised by how expensive oysters are though – I need to seek out some cheap but good oyster bars in Boston (note to self).

Alyssa got the Brie en Croute which came with apricot brown sugar jam, toasted almonds, house made pickles, and baguette crisps. I had a piece of the brie which was really good – I loved the apricot brown sugar jam. Alyssa liked it as well and said the little jar of pickles was good too although I couldn’t bring myself to try them (I’m not a cheese and pickle person). Another time.

For our meals we both got soups and shared a side of Braised Baby Spinach, Rainbow Swiss Chard and Broccoli Rabe. I got the First Printer Clam Chowder and Alyssa got the Guinness Beef Stew. The greens were fine although pretty watery and nothing to write home about. Both soups were really disappointing though. They tasted as though they were made a couple days earlier and had just been sitting in big pots over a water bath. The texture of the clam chowder was really unappealing and it wasn’t particularly flavorful. Alyssa didn’t get halfway through her stew saying she wouldn’t have ordered it if she had known it would be like this. Sad.

Overall, I was disappointed with dinner but enjoyed the atmosphere and would go back for drinks. I’d like to try a couple other things on their menu as perhaps soups were a mistake.

How did First Printer measure up? 2 Spoons!

First Printer Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Chez Henri, Harvard Sq, Revisited

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Where: Chez Henri – One Shepard Street Cambridge, MA
When: March, 2012

After raving about Chez Henri for so long my dad insisted we go there the next time he visit. He didn’t have to ask me twice.

I made a reservation for a Friday night and were promptly seated when we arrived. We were greeted by our waitress who was very knowledgeable and very sweet, if that’s appropriate to say.

We ordered a drink before dinner with my dad going with a martini and I getting my all time favorite cocktail, the 75 Rue Germain, a play on the French 75. The 75 Rue Germain is Cava, Plymouth Gin, St. Germain, and lemon juice. This fresh bubbly cocktail was perfect for a rainy Friday night so I can’t wait to see how it tastes on a hot summer evening.

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We then ordered a bottle of wine and our appetizers. I was surprised that my dad didn’t get the oysters as he loves them more than I do but he started with the PEI mussels, which were a special, that came cooked in a white wine, butter, tomato and basil. The mussels came with two big crusty pieces of toasted bread, perfect for mopping up some of that mussel liquor.

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I did, however, get the Island Creek Oysters on the 1/2 shells with Champagne Mignonette which were as fantastic as I remembered. I had been dreaming about them for weeks so couldn’t wait to dig in. I actually heard my dad snicker at my exclamations of joy after each oyster. They are absolutely delicious.

For our entrees, dad went with another special, the Wood Grilled Onglet with Herbed Potatoes, Brussel Sprouts, and Foie Gras Bordelaise. It looked delicious and how decadent to do a foie gras bordelaise. I think my dad slept well this evening.

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I considered getting the Cod Loin again as I was still thinking about since my last visit but I decided I should try something new. I got the Steak Frites which is a Grilled N.Y. Sirloin with Crispy Fries and Smoked Tomato & Toasted Garlic Bordelaise. The portion was generous (I, shockingly, could not finish it) and the steak just melted in your mouth. Also, those fries are some of the best I have had in a while and even better with some of that toasted garlic bordelaise on them.

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For dessert we split* the Cardamom and Orange Scented Creme Brûlée with Pistachio Biscotti. The cardamon and orange were easy to find in the dish but subtle enough that it didn’t overwhelm the gentle flavors of the creme Brûlée. The biscotti had a nice crunch to it which was a nice contrast.

*I say split but we all know what really happened, right?

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While finishing up dessert I took a photo of the dessert menu so that I could remember what was in it. Our waitress noticed so I excused myself saying I keep a blog. She asked which one so I told her and next thing I know the general manager, Beth (if I remember correctly?),  is standing by our table asking “Are you SmallnFeisty“? I almost fell out of my seat! “Yes, yes I am!” I excited responded as my dad looked on a little confused. Julie recognized the name of my blog and knew me from twitter so had come over to say hello. She was as lovely and charming as everyone else I’ve interacted with at Chez Henri and so nice to come over and say hello. She made me feel like a bit of a celebrity!

Overall, I wish I could shake things up a little and revise my last rating to keep you all on your toes but the service, atmosphere and food were nothing short of stellar. I’m grateful to have Chez Henri in my back yard and hope to be recognized there again many, many times.

How did Chez Henri measure up? 5 Spoons!

Chez Henri on Urbanspoon

Upstairs on the Square, Harvard Sq, Revisited

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Where: Upstairs on the Square – 91 Winthrop Street Cambridge, MA 02138
When: March, 2012

I was flattered and honored to have been invited to join Libby and her family at Upstairs on the Square for her birthday dinner. This night would wrap up three days of celebrating, which is exactly how I think birthdays should be done. It was really nice to not only be able to celebrate Libby with her family but also to feel a part of a big family like hers. How fun sitting around a big bustling table like that!20120310-230006.jpg

Our table for 12 was ready for us when we arrived for our reservation and we were promptly greeted by our very friendly (and patient as we all said our hellos and took our spots) server.

Libby and I split the Grilled Escarole salad which came with lemon, carrot top pesto, and Parmesan cracklings. I really liked this salad – the escarole had a touch of bitter which paired well with the zestyness of the lemon and saltiness of the Parmesan. I love these little Parmesan cracklings, btw, they are really easy to make at home and look impressive on the plate (you can even shape them into little bowls while they are warm).

Margaret got the Butter Lettuce Salad which came with pippins (a kind of apple), sunchoke, sunflower sprouts, and toasted hazelnuts that she was happy to share with us around her. The butter lettuce salad was very different from the escarole one. It was creamy and much lighter, more of a summer salad (if escarole was winter-like, which I would say it is). I thought both were very good.

For my entree I couldn’t resist ordering the Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese which came with English Farmhouse Cheddar. Nothing beats the comfort of a good bowl of tomato soup and a buttery cheesy grilled sandwich and this one was no exception. It was exactly as you would expect mom would make it, assuming your mom’s comfort food isn’t cuisses de grenouille and foie gras (aucune plainte, maman). My entree looks a little messy from the soup but it was warm and 20120311-174216.jpgcomforting and I’d definitely get it again. Look at that grilled cheese crisp from spilling out of the sandwich – yes! The only other entree I tried, although they all looked great, was Libby’s. She got the Strozzapreti which is a homemade pasta similar to cavatelli that came with roasted cauliflower flowerettes and toasted crumbs. I’m not sure how she felt about it but I didn’t really love it honestly. It tasted a lot like a quick weeknight meal I’ve made before which didn’t feel “special” (which I expect everything at Upstairs on the Square to taste like). It was very earthy and one tone.

For dessert we ordered numerous plates for the table but the two that we picked were the Zebra Cake and the One Perfect Formaggio Kitchen Cheese plate. The Zebra Cake was a chocolate layer cake with dulce de leche and buttercream served with malted chocolate ice cream. I love all the components so really expected to love this cake but it fell a little short. It was on the dry side and was very cold. I can’t really blame them for serving it cold as I appreciate them not serving me ill-stored food but it seemed to make it a little too firm and dry. The Cheese Plate was a little disappointing as well. The cheese was fine but the bread it was served with was very dry and not crunchy or crisp, like a cracker or toast. Almost stale tasting, like it had been sitting in a a warm oven for too long. I would suggest a different type of bread for this one for sure. Or perhaps toasted differently? We did try some of the Signature Milk Chocolate Pecan Turtles which someone else had ordered and those were delicious, as they have been in the past. I could have had another three of those instead of the cheese plate and Zebra Cake.

The service had been phenomenal during dinner. Our server was very attention, prompt, and friendly. Once the bill was paid some of us (the “kids”) decided that we wanted another round of drinks and had the toughest time getting anyone to notice us so we could place an order. We eventually flagged our server down and got our round of drinks, thank goodness.

Overall, well, you know I love Upstairs on the Square and I couldn’t ask for a better atmosphere (up there with the Beehive and Cuchi Cuchi) and, although I had a blast with this group, I wasn’t as wowed by the food as I have been in the past. I loved my entree, which was simple but delicious, and the salads were great but the desserts fell flat. The service was great until the end when we caught him off guard wanting another round but in a place like this I think the close of the meal is when we get our coats and leave, not when we pay the bill.

How did Upstairs on the Square measure up? 3.75 Spoons!

Upstairs on the Square on Urbanspoon

Clover Food Lab, Harvard Sq

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Where: Clover Food Lab – 7 Holyoke St., Cambridge MA 02138
When: March, 2012

Who hasn’t heard of Clover Food Lab? Their food trucks have been popping up everywhere in Boston and Cambridge. I’d been wanting to try their food since participating in their 5k in December (on one of the coldest days of the year, might I add).

Reading the reviews on Yelp everyone raved about the Chickpea Fritters, Egg and Eggplant Sandwich, and French Fries with Rosemary so I knew where I had to start.

Libby and I went to Clover Food Lab in Harvard Square before heading to The Hawthorne for drinks on Friday night. We were looking for cheap and cheerful and we got it. We ordered the same thing – the Chickpea Fritter Sandwich – and then split an order of French Fries with Rosemary.

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The Chickpea Fritter Sandwich was much bigger than I expected for a mere $5. Check out this long list of delicious ingredients: homemade hummus, israeli salad (tomato and cucumber salad with Za’atar and fresh lemon juice), sliced pickles, homemade chickpea fritters, pickled veggies (carrots, red cabbage, and red onions), all topped with tahini mixed with lemon juice and served in a who,e wheat pita.

Whoa, did you guys get all that? Holy delicious list of healthy stuff I want to feed my body. When I got the sandwich I had a moment of panic as I really hate tahini and saw it on top but it was actually really mild as it was diluted with lemon juice – thank goodness. I really loved the sandwich, everything worked really well together. I loved the layers of flavor – well done!

We split the French Fries with Rosemary which had the right favors but were almost soggy tasting.  They were made then and there (I know as I had to wait for them) but they were soft and borderline stale tasting. Not sure what was up with that as they had gotten rave reviews. Sad.

20120310-105450.jpgThey had some great looking whoopie pies that we planned on getting for dessert but we were too full after those big ol’ sandwiches, which was a very good thing.

Overall, Clover Food Lab is casual and a great place to go for a quick bite with friends. They only have counter service which is fine but I sort of felt as though I was being yelled at or in trouble as it was hard to hear them calling my name which was a little anxiety provoking. The sandwiches were delicious but I’ll have to pass on the fries in the future. Maybe I’ll get a whoopie pie instead. I’d definitely go back for the sandwich alone.

How did Clover Food Lab measure up? 3.75 Spoons!

Clover on Urbanspoon