With smiling waitstaff, soft rhythmic tunes, and eye-catching art displays, the vibe at Clementine can woo just about any crowd. And the food isn’t half bad, either. From bruschetta to wraps to salads to burgers to risotto to tacos, their menu offers a little bit of everything. I even spotted chicken liver mousse on the specials list, if you are feeling gutsy.
The restaurant has two main spaces for dining: indoor, with tall, glossy tables, a view of local artwork swapped monthly, and proximity to the stage where they often host live music; or outdoor, with climbing ivy, metal patio furniture, and a bright orange concrete floor for all your appetite- inducing-color-scheme needs. Both areas fall under the same roof and offer the same options, but their auras cater to different crowds and times of day. I can imagine the patio would be extravagant on a warm summer night, with all those lanterns and candles glowing.
If you decide to pop in for lunch, especially on a nice 80-degree day like this past Tuesday, I would suggest snagging a spot on that back patio. The natural lighting makes one feel connected to life, the universe, and everything. With the breeze rustling the redbuds nearby, summer hangs and bobs in the air like the paper lanterns above your head.
The chairs and tables outside are of that thick metal mesh design, so you can stare at each other’s feet through the table and drip sauce on your dress if you are not careful with a large seat bottom, the backrests slope backwards at just the right angle to make sitting in those chairs an awkward and slouchy ordeal.
In order to be comfortable, you have to sit with a pin-straight spine, all proper-like on the front edge of your seat. However, do not let the chairs keep you away. You would be coming for the food and atmosphere, I bet, and those aspects do not disappoint.
You can reach the back patio by way of a bridge leading away from the parking deck downtown, sneaking by the Shenandoah Biking Company. You will have to walk either through or around the main restaurant to find a host to seat you, but that way you can easily check to see how many tables are open beforehand. Or, if you get lost trying to find the back way in, you can park in the lot off Route 11 — one way street, so the lot is on your left — right across from the Explore More Discovery Museum.
Like the broke college student I am, I ordered water, so I cannot offer any commentary on the quality of their blueberry iced tea, strawberry lemonade, ginger beer, or anything on their expansive wine list. I can, however, vouch for the flavor and texture of their roasted mushroom wrap, which rings in at $9.85 and comes with a choice of sides. The portabella mushrooms were indeed roasted, then wrapped in a warm flour tortilla with cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes, goat cheese, and balsamic vinaigrette.
My wrap came skewered with a long blue-cellophane-tufted toothpick, nestled next to a bowl of sliced oranges. Eating the wrap turned out to be quite the adventure. With each bite, some brave piece of vegetable decided to leap out, until, by the end, I had a pile of mushrooms and lettuce splattered on my plate and hands that dripped rivulets of vinaigrette and olive oil. The mushrooms were what made the wrap as good as it was; just firm enough to avoid sliminess, just flavorful enough to make up for the iceberg lettuce, and just plump enough to feel like I was eating something substantial. The oranges added a bite of sweet to complement the zap of balsamic — a nice touch.
If you decide to sit on the patio during a customer lull on a Tuesday afternoon, do not be surprised if the service is a little slow. It is easy for servers to slip into lethargy after the lunch rush ends, and Clementine waitstaff are just as human as servers elsewhere. We waited twenty minutes after our plates were cleared before the whole ritual of paying for food was over. Three servers tag-teamed our table, though, so there might have been confusion as to who had done which service for us already.
I have dined at Clementine before, and I will do it again for sure. There is just something special, snazzy, and fun that keeps me coming back. Maybe it’s those chairs.