The Cloverleaf Tavern: Come For The Beer, Fall In Love With The Food

The Cloverleaf

Most Blue Collar Foodies would rather have a cool refreshing craft beer paired with their meal rather than a hoity-toity glass of wine. Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place for wine, and I do enjoy a goblet of grapes every now and again, but my heart belongs to the hops and barley that can be found in every mug, pint, or stein of carbonated class in a glass. There are only a few spots in the North Jersey area that stimulate craft beer enthusiasts better than a pill of Viagra at the Bunny Ranch, and there are even fewer that not only have a remarkable beer menu, but also a food menu that is worthy of praise. It is my goal as The Blue Collar Foodie to find these institutions of higher inebriation and shout their accolades from high atop my soap-box, known as the interwebs.

Welcome To The Clover

Welcome To The Clover

One such location is The Cloverleaf Tavern, located at 395 Bloomfield Ave., in Caldwell, NJ. Considering that The Cloverleaf Tavern has been continuously operating for over 75 years, this extraordinary establishment should not be a secret to any craft beer connoisseur that rests his or her rump within the Tri-State area. What these pint professors may not realize, and neither did I at first, is that The Cloverleaf Tavern, or The Clover, as it is known by the regulars, not only offers an awe-inspiring beer menu, but also serves up some serious eats as well.

First off, I feel that in order to properly discuss The Clover’s true appeal I will need to approach their exuberance for craft beer and their epicurean prowess separately. This way I can guarantee I will devote enough verbiage to each of these astonishing contributions that the Clover is making to the foodie community on a daily basis.

Mmmm Beer

Mmmmmmmmmm Beer

The Clover doesn’t just serve craft beer; they embrace the very notion of its very existence and attempt to house as much variety as they can possibly fit within their beer centric structure. Their ever changing beer menu reads like the phone book of Hop City, USA and is constantly updated via their website. The Clover is one of the first beer lists that I peruse as soon as the interwebs get all twitterpated about a specialty beer that has a limited release, because odds are not only will they have it but they will be throwing an event in its honor.

Lots of Beer!

Lots of Beer!

Furthermore, they have a free to join program known as the Masters of Beer Appreciation, MBA that now has over 1550 Alumni whose names adorn the walls on plagues that are updated with each new graduating class. This beer aficionado’s dream come true, escorts the participant in a veritable world tour of some of the best brews that can be procured on a regular basis by the Clover. To add to the charm of this intoxicating self-guided tour, after you earn 15 and 30 credits, you receive a $15 clover gift card. After you earn 45 credits your name will be added to the wall as an M.B.A. graduate and you will be entitled to a 20oz pour instead of the standard 16oz pour the common folk receive. There are also accolades for completing multiple MBA programs, like receiving your Doctorate, but don’t get ahead of yourself sparky, one degree at a time.

Masters of Beer Appreciation

You know you want it!

As for the Cloverleaf’s culinary prowess, I have to say I was initially surprised with the caliber of food that I was served the first time I ordered one of their insanely good burgers. Not to say that pubs serving decent food are unheard of but, the food that the Clover is offering to its patron is not just good, it is “shiv your best friend for looking at the last bite of your food” good. I am not just talking about the burgers either; I have thoroughly explored their menu and have not been able to find one thing on it that was not excellent. On top of their regular tasty menu, the Clover offers a weekly specials menu that allows even the regulars to indulge in something different.

Pulled Pork Sandwich

Pulled, straight from the heavens, Pork Sandwich

On my most recent visit to the Cloverleaf, I was in the mood for some good old fashioned American Barbecue, and since it was lunchtime, I decided to go with the Pulled Pork Sandwich served with homemade coleslaw, a pickle, and I opted to swap the fried for their jaw-dropping beer battered Onion Rings all for $10.99. One of the best things about The Clover is that even though they serve prodigious food and astounding beers they consistently keep their meals affordable for us Blue Collar folks that still want great tasting grub.

Onion Rings

Crispity Crunchity

When it arrived, the smell was utterly divine, and the pulled pork was blended with a BBQ sauce that was unearthly. Each bite of this sandwich sent shock waves of flavor from my mouth to my stomach, which in turn sent hate mail to my brain for only ordering one. After forcing myself to put down a sandwich that could only be described by using a made up word such as, amazeballs, I tasted one of the Onion Rings that were recommended by our awesome waiter, whose name I can’t remember because I am a horrible person, and I was in love… With the Onion Rings, not my waiter, I don’t think Kat would have been amused if it was the other way around. To add to these crispy and tangy fried rings of yummy, I dipped one into the Maker’s Mark Gourmet Sauce that the Clover places on each and every table, and I thought I had died and went to Texas, which as everyone knows is what BBQ heaven is called.

Maker's Mark Gourmet Sauce

Saucey Sauce Sauce

The moral of this article is that if you like food and/or beer and have not entered the hallowed walls of The Cloverleaf Tavern then you should be removed from the foodie guild immediately. Luckily, as a card carrying member of both the Clover and the Foodie Guild of America, or the FGA, which I just made up and am imposing an instant trademark on, I have talked both organizations into an amnesty program. They both agree that if you take it upon yourself to get your ass to the Cloverleaf before the summer is over; you will still be allowed to be a member of the FGA. Seriously though, all it will take is one visit to the Cloverleaf Tavern, and you will be sending angry emoticons to all of your Facebook friends and Twitter followers, for not alerting you to this food and beer sanctuary earlier.

Cloverleaf Tavern on Urbanspoon

The Blue Collar Foodie Rocks out with Rony in Glen Rock , New Jersey

As most of you know my blog is published on the Patch.com, and since I live in Bergen County I also subscribe to most of the area’s Patch.com sites to keep up to date on the Über local news that is provided by the Patch. While I was perusing the Ridgewood-Glen Rock Patch,  I noticed an article about a relatively new Hamburger shop in Glen Rock that needed some community support to get off the ground.  After reading the article, I decided it was not only my civic duty but my foodie duty to give Rony’s Rock Burger, located at 192 Rock Road, Glen Rock, NJ, a whirl and see if he was making some Blue Collar Foodie worthy Burgers.

Kat and I invited a special guest foodie with us; we will call her Ms. Pupin, to partake in Rony’s Rock Burger.  Since this was the first time that any of us had been to Rony’s Burger place, as I drove down Rock Road I asked Ms. Pupin and Kat to keep an eye out for the restaurant so we did not miss it.  Kat and Ms. Pupin failed at this game so I turned around and tried once again, this time around they spotted our destination and then the parking spot pursuit began.

As a former Glen Rockian, I know that parking on Rock Road is about as much fun as listening to Ben Stein read the phone book, but such is life and Rony’s Rock Burger cannot be blamed for the lack of parking in the down town district of Glen Rock.  Once a parking spot was procured we ventured inside Mr.  Rony Alvarado’s burger joint, and right off the bat I was impressed.  The walls are full of rock memorabilia that comes from a time when rock, well rocked.  Pictures and records of Elvis, Hendrix, Morrison, not Van but Jim, Rolling Stones, Guns and Roses, and a plethora of other Hall of Famers decorate Rony’s Rock Burger and give it the ambiance that a true burger joint should have.

Now, this is not an interior design blog, so honestly if the walls looked pretty but the food tasted like New Jersey smells, I would not be writing this blog post.  The truth is, after one bite of Rony’s Rock Burger I was transported to Paradise City via a Crystal Ship, where I was All Shook Up with Satisfaction.

The Menu at Rony’s Rock Burger reads like a who’s who list of American Rock and Roll, using the rock stars name and personality as the inspiration for each item. For Example, I ordered the Bob Marley which is described as a burger with Cajun spices, topped with grilled onions, bacon and cheddar cheese to which I also added avocado.  I, of course, opted to make it a combo and added the upgraded curly fries and a drink, for the reasonable price of $10.75.

Kat chose the Stevie, after Stevie Nicks I would presume, which is described as a burger topped with American cheese, pineapple, bacon, lettuce, tomato and Rony’s signature Terriyaki-Based Waka Sauce.  Kat also opted to make her meal a combo, and chose to upgrade her side dish to the onion rings.  Kat’s burger also set us back a sensible $10.75.  Kat also decided to add the avocado, which, she asked me to add, was freshly sliced, and just ripe enough.

Ms. Pupin went off the reservation and opted for a black board special called the Rage Against the Burger which was described as a burger topped with Bacon, crumbled Blue Cheese, and buffalo sauce.  Ms. Putin decided to try the original Rony’s fries, so her meal only came to an economical $8.75.

After ordering our food from Rony himself, who was apparently acting as owner, host, waiter, and cook, which is why I love mom and pop eateries, we took our seats and waited for our food to grace our table.  Within minutes, Rony brought our food out and I swear I heard the angelic chorus of cherubs in the distance, alright so I was hungry, sue me.  Once the food touched our lips there was a moment of silence as the flavors collided with our taste buds and then we began to discuss our orders with one another.

The Bob Marley that I ordered was fantastic, the Cajun seasoning was not just dashed on top of the burger like some other Cajun burgers that I have had in the past, it was actually mixed into the chopped meat allowing the flavor to be evenly dispersed.  The Bacon was freshly cooked and crisp, and you could easily tell was not made by Oscar Meyers.  The burger was so damn good, I did not have to put any condiments on it at all, which really says something, because I literally have an entire shelf for condiments in my refrigerator at home.  As for the curly fries, they were seasoned to perfection and not overly salty like so many of the curly fries that are served at the foodie hamburger joints that are popping up throughout New Jersey these days.

Kat’s Stevie was unlike any other burger I have ever had before.  The pineapple combined with the Bacon and the Waka Sauce, an all-purpose tropical pepper sauce native to the Philippines, made for an interesting party in my mouth.  Even though the burger was great, the real star of Kat’s meal was the onion rings that were deep fried and crispy, surrounded by just the right amount of flavorful batter.  These onion rings would make other inferior onion rings leap off the table to their own demise, due to the shame of not being a Rony’s ring.  They were so yummy; she was forced to share them with the table.

Ms. Pupin’s Rage Against the Burger was equally as tasty all thanks to what appeared to be the fresh blue cheese that overflowed from the bun.  The Buffalo sauce was not too tangy but had a slight kick which complemented the burger instead of overpowering it, which was a welcomed surprise for a sauce that tends to be a bully.  Ms. Pupin’s regular Rony fries were equally as impressive as my curly fries and if you are low on funds when you give Rony’s a whirl, I would suggest skipping the upgrade and sticking with these classically good shoe string potatoes.

While we were eating our meal, Rony himself came over to chat with us, and supply us with a free sample of Rock Sauce, which I highly recommend as a dipping sauce for your fries by the way.  He asked if we were locals and discussed his food with us, and as you can see I like to talk about food, so I was in all my glory, with a burger in one hand and a fellow foodie to converse with.  Rony explained that all his food was made fresh to order and that the meat he serves is not only homemade, like damn near everything else that he serves, but high quality as well.  While speaking to Rony, I could tell he has a passion for not only preparing the food he sells, but preparing it properly and with the best ingredients he can find.   Rony is truly a diehard foodie at heart and he happens to be serving some of the best hamburgers in the area.

So the next time you have a hankering for a hamburger, don’t go to SmashBurger, BoomBurger, or any of the other dozen or so chains that are bursting onto the foodie scene, support a local business man like Rony Alvarado, not just because you want his business to survive but because his Burgers are the real deal!

Judgment

Overall:                  4 out of 5

Taste:                     5 out of 5

Presentation:        4 out of 5

Value:                     3 out of 5