Tractor Everyday Healthy Foods rolls in to Kitsilano with fresh, creative salads

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      The fare at Tractor Everyday Healthy Foods is perfect for a scorching summer afternoon or eve: light, flavourful, and, as the name makes clear, good for you. Add organic, local, and seasonal ingredients to the mix and, in a city of health-conscious foodies, Tractor’s on track to thrive. The cafeteria-style setup at the new Kits eatery needs a little adjusting to make the whole experience superlative, though.

      Wholesome vegetable dishes and salads star here, but there are some “proteins” (lean ones such as albacore tuna steak and chicken breast) as well as a few stews, soups, and sandwiches to choose from. If the menu sounds simple, don’t underestimate the creativity behind it. The executive chef is Ryan Mah, whose résumé includes positions at Chinois, Goldfish, Wild Rice, and Joe Fortes, among other spots.

      It’s owned by Meghan and Steve Clarke, parents who fled the corporate world after finding over and over again that healthy “fast food” is ridiculously hard to come by in this town, aside from certain grocery-store deli counters. (As a health-conscious food lover and parent, I couldn’t agree more and would be thrilled to see Tractor roll into more neighbourhoods.) The bright space is small but comfortable, with lots of wood, crisp white accents, and ever-elegant orchids as décor. The open-concept kitchen includes staples like spices, vinegars, and tubs of organic red quinoa on display, giving diners a full view of Chef Mah’s pantry.

      A dozen salads are also visible behind a glass case. None disappoint, but there are a few standouts. Cilantro and golden raisins give lovely bursts of flavour to an organic quinoa dish with Portobello mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, goat cheese, and parsley in a white balsamic-and-honey dressing. Edamame, pea shoots, sugar snap peas, and mint with a lemon-dill vinaigrette make for a lively celebration of green. You can’t go wrong with roasted red and yellow beets mingling with goat-milk feta; throw in bright-green beans and pistachios and this plate is as pretty as it is palatable.

      And if you’re looking for a seductive spud dish to kick poutine’s butt, go for a side order of Yukon Gold smashed potatoes with a little bit of kale and a bit more goat cheese—wow.

      The little people with us each had one of the two kids’ offerings: juicy Rossdown Farms chicken with brown rice, and an overly dry grilled provolone-cheese sandwich on white bread. Both come with raw broccoli, carrots, and celery and a house-made yogurt dip.

      The proteins are grilled to order, and here’s where the system fell apart. We got our salads—eight of them—right away, but there seemed to be some confusion as to where we were supposed to order the hot stuff: with the person behind the counter serving said salads or at the cash register? We did both.

      I watched one of the cooks place our tuna steak on the grill—right before he took two steps to his left to punch in our entire order on the computer. No one wants to see a cook with a set of tongs in one hand while the other works the till. This was especially bizarre given that there certainly was no shortage of other staff members available to help out. As the cook dutifully rang in our long list of items, that poor tuna steak sat on the grill for far too long. No wonder it was overdone when it was finally brought to our table. The broiled half lemon that came with it kicked up the flavour a notch but couldn’t save it.

      And if some people in your group are mixing and matching salads while others are going for grilled items, not everyone will have their food in front of them at the same time. But that’s a quibble, especially given the prices. Salads are just $3.25 each; two would make for a nice, light lunch. The most expensive items are that aforementioned tuna steak, as well as the sandwiches, at $9 each.

      There’s a simple selection of beverages: house-made iced tea and lemonade, as well as loose-leaf tea. Stanley Park Pilsner is on tap, as are three wines: a white blend and a red blend from Blasted Church and a Roaring Twenties Malbec. Loaded with long, curly strips of cucumber peel, the self-serve glass water containers at the back of the room look like something you’d see at the Vancouver Aquarium.

      For dessert, there’s just one item: yummy, chewy, gluten-free double-chocolate and pistachio cookies. Surely, you can justify those little treats after eating such a healthful meal. They’re probably even good for you.

      An abundant dinner for three adults and two children, with two glasses of wine and a beer, came to $93 before taxes and tip.