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Customer Turnover Is Steady At Cloverleaf Lunch

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Customer turnover is steady at Cloverleaf Lunch



Cloverleaf Lunch is a real period piece — right down to the divided plates for the lunch special. It has knotty pine paneling, red stools at the wrap-around counter, lots of booths and lots of regulars.

Although the location looks dangerously busy, there’s plenty of parking in the lot directly behind the restaurant. It’s surprisingly serene in the morning. The customer turnover is steady, but you can hog a booth in a sunny window for as long as you like. The waitresses never hassle, just keep on refilling your coffee cup. It’s a big contrast to downtown diners and coffee shops where hustle bustle rules.

Breakfast is the most successful meal at the Cloverleaf from a foodlover’s standpoint. The Cloverleaf omelet isn't an omelet at all, but rather eggs scrambled with corned beef and crispy hashed browns, not the nasty frozen grated kind.

French toast is nicely browned, but real maple syrup would make it even better. Coffee is acceptable, if not from “gourmet beans.” Farmer’s omelet was well-done by Julia Child’s standards. Tea, not unexpectedly, is from bags. (The only place in town that serves brewed tea from tea leaves is the Southside Grille. If there are others, I’d love to hear about them.)

Male headgear is near-mandatory for Cloverleaf customers, either cowboy hats or baseball caps. If you can’t wear a hat, find a well-worn leather jacket or a union logo windbreaker. Otherwise, wear something that suggests a uniform, or at least a blue-collar job. Women’s dress regulations are less stringent.

The kitchen has good potential. If it made everything on the spot, it would be a lot better. The homemade selections are superior to the prepared foods all the way down the menu.

“Gyros and beef rib-eye cheese hoagies our specialty,” the menu reads. An inquiry to the waitress yielded the information that the gyros are made from frozen meat. I skipped that and went directly to the Philly-style steak hoagie - melted cheese, lots of beef and onions, all in a large sesame seed bun — not the best in the county, somewhere around medium.

Meat loaf and mashed potatoes, one of the chalkboard specials, was OK, less than top grade despite the good meatloaf because the potatoes came out of a box or more likely, a bag. The product potatoes go perfectly with the product gravy -shades of Franco-American. Vegetable of the day was a vastly overcooked succotash mix of carrots, lima beans and corn. Excellent bread and butter come with the specials, much better than the white squish bread served on the meatloaf sandwich or toasted with breakfast.

Vegetable soup is a familiar blend of beef and garden types with plenty of parsley to perk up the broth. One fussy Crumpet thought the chili was pretty good, loaded with beans, onions and ground beef. It’s got some kick, although it’s nowhere near the heat levels approved by the International Chili Appreciation Society.

Speaking as a former judge at the Saline Chili Cook-off, I’ve had worse — and I’ve tasted plenty for comparison. (Clo-verleaf’s chili, by the way, is not the kind that does double duty as the slithery sauce on Coney Island hot dogs.)

“This is the kind of place where the waitresses know better than to come back and ask ‘Is everything OK?’ ” a Crumpet cracked.

It’s true that they bring your check when they bring your order, but it’s more for the convenience of the quick lunch bunch than fear of failure. The staff likes the Cloverleaf - and demonstrated it this week with funny Halloween decorations and truly inspired pumpkin painting, including a cigar-chomping jack-o-lantern. 

Cloverleaf Lunch

1015 Broadway 761-4341

FOOD                   5 out of 10

SERVICE              9 out of 10

ATMOSPHERE     7 out of 10

HOURS: Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. until 4 p.m., Saturday 7 a.m. until 4 p.m., Sunday 8 a.m. until 4 p.m.



PRICES: Inexpensive. Lunch for two, $9.26 with tax and tip. Breakfast for one, $3.87 with tax and tip.



Cloverleaf Lunch