Mark Hinkle has been preparing to open his second restaurant for months. He’d secured the perfect location, right next to his runaway hit Olive + Oak. He’d nailed down the concept. But what to call it?
“Everything fell into place so easily at Olive + Oak, including the name,” the 37-year-old says. “It was so personal and meaningful—to my wife, to my partners [Becky and Greg Ortyl], to everybody—we knew we couldn’t touch it in that sense. We looked all over for a personal meaning, something that tied into the history of the building or the bookstore that was in the space for 50+ years.”
That lead them to a short, uncomplicated, follow-your-dreams poem by 19th-century poet Emily Dickinson, “To Make A Prairie”:
To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee.
One clover, and a bee,
The revery alone will do,
If bees are few.
“The idea of two seemingly simple things, with a dream, being able to create something big and beautiful resonated with us,” Hinkle says. “The Clover and the Bee was born.”
The new restaurant will differ from Olive + Oak in several ways: it will open initially for breakfast and lunch only, with dinner rolling out a month or two later, according to Hinkle. (Olive + Oak is only open for dinner.) The service model for all three dayparts at Clover + the Bee will be fast-casual (Olive + Oak is table service), which will set it apart from the competition “and everyone else,” Hinkle notes. “Many of the nearby restaurants are longer, full service, 45-minute to an hour commitments,” he explains. “Today, people want things faster and less complicated, and that includes lunch. Our goal at Clover is to provide Olive + Oak-quality food in a quick, easy format.”
At breakfast, that means fewer à la minute dishes and more plate-and-go items. Examples include what Hinkle describes as “an amazing biscuit and killer breakfast sandwich,” plus baked eggs and quiche, English muffins, croissants, and other pastries.
At lunch, Hinkle says to expect “a few fun salads and sandwiches plus dishes like braised lamb, on polenta with salsa verde and a poached egg.”
Dinner service, expected to follow in early 2018, will be an extrapolation of the lunch menu, with more substantial fare and side options. For all shifts, tablet-wielding staffers will cruise the space to supplement initial orders, “several steps above having one lone busboy on the floor,” Hinkle says.
Upon entry, diners will be wowed by the massive, marble-topped counter, anchored by a La Marzocco espresso machine and illuminated by coffeepot-esque pendants. Coffee beans will be provided by multiple roasters, a few at a time, producing a coffee program that will be “exciting and different,” Hinkle promises. “There are several great roasters locally plus a few from the West Coast we have relationships with that are not well known in this area.” Cold brew on draft will be available, as well as bottled beers and small format wines, “beverages you can either drink here or take home in a pinch,” Hinkle says.
There’s also a sidewalk-facing pick-up window for grab-and-go coffee, pastries, and call-ahead orders.
The intended effect at Clover was to create “a true sister restaurant,” something different yet similar, with more delicate finishes than the bold statements at Olive + Oak.
Construction is in its final stages, but Hinkle, wise to the vagaries of opening a restaurant, is reluctant to commit to an opening date. “It would be nice to be open by Thanksgiving weekend, when a lot of people are in town visiting” he reasons, “but if it’s a week or so later, that’s OK, too.”
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