Today’s culinary landscape proves that we’ve learned a few things about our greens and glutens. There’s more than one way to toss a kale salad. There is a vegan option (no, it’s not tofu). And grilled avocado can be a side dish. But when all is packed up or plated, menus that brand themselves “nutritious” aren’t always truthful. Enter Vancouver-based Tractor Everyday Healthy Foods, which hits that Venn diagram sweet spot where health-conscious nourishment and good taste overlap—and they don’t shy away from the odd flank steak or albacore tuna fillet in the process.
“We have two kids [aged six and eight], so we understand the need for fast meals that keep nutrition in mind, and taste great,” says co-founder Meghan Clarke, one half of the husband-and-wife duo (the other is Steve) who first opened Tractor Foods on West Fourth in June of 2013. This February they unveiled a second location in downtown’s historic Marine Building, with food also served in a contemporary cafeteria setting.
To meet their specifications, the Clarkes call upon nutritionist Haley Barton about three times per year for menu consultation, and also to direct them on health and food trends. “[It’s] to ensure Tractor is current in its approach to healthy food—and our menu is, in fact, genuinely ‘everyday healthy’,” says Meghan. That includes entrée salads like grilled flank steak with sheep’s milk feta and cilantro yogurt dressing; pastas such as rich wild mushroom ditalini with silky truffled ricotta cheese; creative sandwiches; and stews like Moroccan chicken and chickpea.
“We opened the Kits location with 1,400 square feet, and there’s over 2,000 in here,” says Steve, waving his hand through the high-ceilinged space. The Clarkes consulted with design company Marrimor on the minimalist interiors—more New Nordic than Great Canadian North—and balance old with new by incorporating small art deco accents from the Marine Building’s original interior such as decorative cornices and stained-glass windows. (Originally constructed in 1930, it was the tallest building in the British Empire at one point in time.) “Our intention was to retain as much of the historic character of the space as possible,” says Meghan of working within the confines of a heritage building. “We didn’t run into any major issues with the interior.”
Striking a balance is something the menu does well, too. The grilled avocado stands out boldly, its flesh lightly doused in olive oil, salt, and pepper before a 45-second grilling. “[We’re] big fans of stuffing a grilled avocado in one of our sandwiches,” says Meghan, “or adding to salads with tuna or chicken.” And, even though kale salad can be found all over the city these days, Tractor’s version—tossed with radicchio, borlotti beans, toasted pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, asiago cheese, and creamy lemon dressing—is simply one of the best.
Photos by Joann Pai.