Many years ago I took a cross country road trip. The first leg was down the East Coast to Florida, then across the country to San Diego, making stops along the way to see friends and family. I have family in Alabama and a couple of other southern states. Until then, I had never had southern food. I was a northeast girl who had lived abroad. All I knew of the South was from snow bird flights to Miami.
In those days, living up north meant almost no exposure to southern cooking. It was before Paula Deane or the Nealeys. Two things happened to me on that first leg of my road trip. I discovered grits and I discovered Texan BBQ. And I liked them.
So when I saw grits on the menu at Clover, a food-truck-gone-inside in Cambridge, Massachusetts, I was flooded with memories and anticipation.
I had heard about Clover food trucks being popular in the college town of Cambridge and that they had expanded to more than one truck to meet the demand. My interest perked. A food truck branding itself and creating an empire? I had to see this and taste its fare. I drove to Cambridge in search of one of the food trucks and I found one had moved inside to unstructured space that almost looked temporary.
I stopped outside to read the makeshift menu, and at the bottom I found what I wanted.
I opened the door and walked inside and just stopped to take it all in. It was so cool as a “restaurant” that I didn’t have the normal anchor points to navigate by. Where was the starting point? Where do I order? And where do I pick up my food?
I spied a woman with a money pouch on her hip standing in front of two menu cards. This must be where I start? I walked over and asked. “Yes, just pick what you want and give me your order.” I gave her my Cheesy Grits order. Now, do I pay her or somewhere else? “Yes, you pay me and pick up your order over there when they call out your name.”
I finally got the hang of it and chose a window seat to wait. In only a couple of minutes I heard my name called. A paper coffee cup was placed before me. I cradled it in my hands and went back to my seat by the window. It looked very promising so I took a picture before diving in.
You have no idea how good a warm poached egg is when you pierce the yolk and let it run into warm cheesy grits. It was ambrosia with each and every bite.
I would have never guessed that I would relive the memory of my first dish of southern grits, in Boston, and find it even better than the original memory. Good grits had been elevated to something special. Very special. And I was thrilled.
P.S.—I heard from others from the neighboring table that the corn fritters were to die for, as were the pancakes, served with real Maple Syrup. You could smell them when you walked in so I knew they had to be good. I'm making another road trip south for southern food very soon, south by Cambridge.
Clover, 7 Holyoke Street, Cambridge (near Harvard Square T stop)
Open 7 days, 7 am – 10 pm