There are a lot of reasons to be skeptical of a salad lunch. So many of them are sad cellophane boxes of stern obligation. We know we’re supposed to be eating our veggies, so we subject ourselves to unwieldy hunks of romaine with desiccated chicken breast and a cup of suspiciously viscous dressing on the side.
I’ve done it. You’ve done it. And — dollars to doughnuts — we both go hunting for stray cookies in the office afterward.
And now, every time I find myself staring down at another gloomy pre-boxed salad, I’m going to wish I had remembered Green + The Grain instead. It’s a brand-new food truck, bringing a little bit of summery green stuff to the row of overstuffed meat wagons lining Marquette on workdays.
All Green + The Grain does is salads ($9–10). Big, hearty, flavorful salads with about a dozen ingredients in each, to make every bite interesting. There’s no romaine and no dried-out chicken breast; everything is manageably bite-sized; and they’ll put the dressing on the side if you ask, but then you’ll miss out on the pleasure of a truly well-dressed salad.
You can order your salad in a bowl or in a wrap, but after a few days of observing that nearly everyone in line ordered a bowl, I figured out why: The whole-wheat wraps (like the limited offering Greek Salad Wrap, below) are thin and loose and don’t add much to the portability of your lunch anyway. Go with the fork.
If you like a lot of sweet with your savory, you’ll love the signature Berry Natural Salad, with strawberries, blueberries, and apples, with a little zing from raw onions and bleu cheese.
The Cowboy Salad is like what every taco salad at every fast casual restaurant really should be, bulked up with black beans and tender strips of beef. Love the zippy lime dressing.
For a little heat — a very little heat, to be honest — we love the Buffalo Shrimp Salad. It was positively swimming with fat shrimp dressed in a hearty wing sauce. Seriously, every time we stuck our fork in the bowl, there was another one of those suckers, putting us in the unheard of position of wondering if maybe there were too many shrimp. Not to mention the unheard of position of actually recommending that you seek out a salad for your downtown lunch.
You’ve heard of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it small towns? Flavor Wagon is a little bit like that. A tiny red truck, barely branded — it’s easy to walk past as you elbow your way through the lines on Marquette, even if you’re keeping an eye out for it.
The menu is a bit of a mishmash, but the headliner is the Egyptian koshary ($7). Koshary itself, come to think of it, is a bit of a mishmash. It’s a homey kind of street food that looks like somebody was cleaning out the fridge: a layer of rice and lentils, topped with elbow macaroni and short spaghetti, topped with chickpeas, topped with a thick, sweet, sorta-spicy tomato sauce. It comes through Flavor Wagon’s tiny, low window with a huge welcoming smile and a reminder to mix the tomato sauce so it goes all the way through.
It’s easy to imagine craving this stuff if you grew up with it, like canned spaghetti on toast in New Zealand or macaroni and cheese in the US. It’s filling, carby goodness and probably the cheapest meal on all of food truck row.
A side of lemony tabbouleh will cut through all the carbiness of the koshary. We suspect ours had been made just minutes before we picked it up — it was dry, as if the oil and lemon hadn’t penetrated the parsley yet.
What else goes with koshary? Would you believe burritos ($7) and crab sandwiches ($13)? Burritos must now be the universal world street food; you can wrap anything in a tortilla. Flavor Wagon wraps up lentils and marinated chicken with salad, mild Jack cheese and… is that mayonnaise? I believe it was. Both the burrito and the generous, slightly sloppy crab sandwich will power you through your day — or put you to sleep at your desk.
Flavor Wagon; usually at 8th and Marquette; @Flavor_Wagon