It's noon in downtown Miami, and there's a line of business professionals at Clove Mediterranean Kitchen (195 SE Third Ave.). But don't worry — the folks behind this month-old fast-casual spot are experienced, and in no time you'll be at the counter ordering your custom bowl, salad, or pita wrap (starting at $7.95). All of the food is prominently displayed, and there are plenty of meat, seafood, vegetarian, and vegan options to choose from. Spicy and gluten-free items are indicated as such.
After noticing a lack of healthful, flavorful, and affordable Mediterranean eateries in the States, the partners behind Clove decided to launch their fast-casual concept.
Many of the partners are based in Miami and chose to open their first location in the city's financial center to get high brand exposure. Originally from Greece, Alex Revinthis is the company's co-CEO and the former CFO of Costa Coffee in Greece — the world's second-largest coffeehouse chain, after Starbucks. He says Clove's ultimate goal is to expand throughout South Florida, but right now his team is concentrating on perfecting its first restaurant.
The Mediterranean diet is known the world over for its health benefits and rich flavors, thus it was important for the partners to hire the right chef to translate their vision. Greek celebrity chef Andreas Lagos is Clove's corporate toque, and Revinthis says he and the team couldn't be happier with his work and energy. Lagos is known for incorporating ingredients from Greece, Turkey, Egypt, and southern Italy into his cooking, which is right in line with Miami's growing interest in "Middleterranean" cuisine.
The fast-casual restaurant joins Zuuk Mediterranean Kitchen in the local healthy-fast-casual market. Zuuk, which opened about six months ago, is owned by My Ceviche's Sam Gorenstein and Roger Duarte; chef Daniel Ganem helms the kitchen.
During a recent visit, I created a bowl with basmati rice, beluga lentils, and Greek navy beans as the base. I then added spiced tahini hummus and feta tzatziki from the dips and spreads selection. And because I couldn't decide, I got herbed sesame falafel and braised beef as dual proteins and topped those off with pepperoncini, cauliflower, and sliced radishes. Finally, a little Greek vinaigrette completed the nutritious and colorful meal. The $11 bowl was more than filling, and the best parts were the braised beef and feta tzatziki.
"Our previous experience helps us put together a flavorful and rich menu at affordable prices without cutting corners on quality. It requires more effort, but it can be done," Revinthis says.
In addition to offering pita wraps, bowls, and salads, Clove also sells soups, craft beer, house-made teas and juices, and organic sugarcane sodas. With its healthful fare, reasonable prices, and expedited service, it's obvious why the sleek spot is bustling.
Clove Mediterranean Kitchen is open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and will soon offer online ordering and delivery in the area.