Not long after opening in January 2016, Mark Hinkle and Greg Ortyl’s Olive + Oak in Webster Groves, Missouri, had a months-long reservation list. Led by executive chef Jesse Mendica, the team serves up comfort-food classics made with fresh, local ingredients. That ethos carries over to Olive + Oak’s new fast-casual sister café, The Clover & The Bee, which formerly housed a bookstore for 50 years.
Conveniently located next door to Olive + Oak, it debuted breakfast and lunch in December, followed by dinner service last month. Hinkle says the menu was a collaboration between himself, Mendica and chef Mike Risk; look for items like a roasted chicken hand-pie with root vegetables and tarragon gravy, or a burrata sandwich with lemon, pine nuts and charred broccoli pesto on a ciabatta roll. Risk runs the kitchen on a day-to-day basis; he’s been with Olive + Oak since the beginning, and The Clover & The Bee features the same attention to detail and thoughtful hospitality.
Why did you decide to open a fast-casual restaurant? You know, it was more about the space opening up and figuring out what the neighborhood needed. We knew when we moved [into the Olive + Oak space] that the bookstore space could potentially open itself up. It happened more quickly than we expected it to, but it was too good to pass up. I’d call it a fast-casual café: just good, fresh food, affordable, fast. It’s a similar kind of approach that we have at Olive + Oak – great quality, ingredient-driven, just trying to put out tasty food.
Did any menu items carry over? No, really not a single item. You can tell it’s our approach to food and our style, but very different. So, no burger here – at least not currently. You’ll still have to come to Olive + Oak for that. We were trying to make a place that we would want to go to – everything we do is super collaborative. I think the end product turned out to be something pretty cool.
Where does the name come from? It’s from an Emily Dickinson poem called “To Make a Prairie.” We were looking at a lot of literary references for inspiration due to the bookstore being in this space, and came across this poem about two seemingly simple things building something amazing.
Did you expect Olive + Oak to be so successful? No – never in a million years. You try really hard and you hope for success, and we really love what we do. We try to put something together that we’re going enjoy coming to and being a part of every day. We think that shows in the end product; we certainly hope it does.
What does The Clover & The Bee bring to the area? I think it’s a fun addition to the neighborhood. It offers really good food that you can get quickly. We’re doing stuff like breakfast sandwiches: You can grab one and a coffee and be in and out in a minute, and spend less than $10. We have some fun beverage options, both on the coffee side and on the booze side. Overall, I think it’ll be a cool addition to the neighborhood and St. Louis as a whole.
The Clover & The Bee, 100 W. Lockwood Ave., Webster Groves, Missouri, 314.942.1216, facebook.com/cloverstl