WHEN I first moved to Switzerland almost 30 years ago, eating in the streets — other than a Bratwurst at festival time or an ice cream in summer — was not the done thing.
Takeouts for the lunchtime crowd offered uninspiring sandwiches usually comprised of two huge slabs of bread with a thin slice each of meat and cheese atop chunks of butter and a thin wash of mustard.
Foodstuffs considered exotic, such as Mexican, Thai, Chinese and even everyday North American fare could only be found at specialty shops, one-of-a-kind restaurants and possibly on Globus’s gourmet shelves for an astronomical price.
Grab a takeout & head for the park
How times have changed. Many “foreign” ingredients are now widely available, locally produced, and much more affordable. And as far as takeout options go, things have never looked quite so good.
Update: When this post was written in July 2016, the City of Geneva had allocated ten downtown-area spots to food trucks, but post-pandemic, that number has shrunk to 5. Please consult the City’s webpage for the locations of these trucks, although what kinds of food they offer is not described. At present, Elsalad has four storefront outlets (but it seems no food truck) offering take out lunches that can also be ordered online.
Even though they are open for business year-round it’s in summertime, when eating outdoors in one of Geneva’s newly revamped green spaces or at lakeside is almost de rigueur, that food trucks really come into their own.
Original concept and fresh, seasonal produce
Until recently, I’d only appreciated food trucks’ aesthetic appeal: I love how something small and functional can be made to look so appealing — and capture the essence of a specific cuisine — through its design, shape and color.
Now it was time for me to go beyond “skin deep”. Given a brilliantly sunny day and an appetite for something light, fresh and summery, I headed for the Elsalad food truck. I couldn’t have been luckier with my choice.
Among the criteria that the City of Geneva uses to award its four-year food truck contracts are an original concept and the use of fresh, local and seasonal produce. With its focus on offering healthy, tasty, seasonal and as much as possible locally-sourced food, Elsalad perfectly fits the bill.
A young, hardworking team
This small but expanding business is owned and run by two young entrepreneurs, Swiss-born Elsa Eggens and American-born Sebastian Graf, who met at hotel school and together launched their first food truck in Lausanne in May 2014, moving it to Geneva five months later.
In December of that year they opened their takeout/small sit-down restaurant at 9, Rue des Etuves.
“We’re a very young team so it’s lots of fun,” Luis tells me as his colleague Sandra smiles in agreement. “It’s a small company where you learn about dreams and hard work,” he says. Regardless of the weather, they have loyal customers who they get to know by first name as well as by menu preference.
Loyal customers regardless of weather
“We have absolutely amazing customers,” Elsa Eggens concurs when we talk by phone. “The reason we decided to do a food truck is because we change location every day so we can bring our food to the them.
“Our healthy salads show people what can be done with local, seasonal produce,” she explains. “Elsalads are a complete meal that fill you up and keep you going till your next one.”
Although I managed to get the last serving of Elsalads’ refreshing Spring-themed “Thai Chicken Crunch” salad, their Summer specialty salad sounds equally delicious and highlights their use of seasonal produce.
“Peachy Summer” chicken salad includes peaches, sweet potatoes, avocado, goat cheese, chicken, almond flakes and sunflower seeds served with a balsamic reduction.
All meals are prepared — and soups, sauces, dressings are homemade — every morning in Elsalad’s central kitchen so they are fresh and flavorful.
Visit Elsalad to locate its four outlets and order online if you prefer spending your time enjoying one of their generous salads rather than waiting in line to pick it up.