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Jul 4, 2008 08:01 AM

New, unique in San Diego

The place is Tender Greens in Liberty Station. I'd been told by my date that it was a salad place. Well, yuk, to that. I'm a Texas girl and need a real meal-- but ooooooooooo! What manly salads! What dewy fresh greens! What mouth-singing harmony of flavor and beauty! The first bite transported me to San Francisco. To Sonoma. My Tuna Nicoise Salad -- a mundane name for something so sublime-- was a thoughtful, exciting mixture including a hint of mint. The tuna was impeccable. Fresh, and grilled to perfection. The outdoor dining area is what I've been waiting for in SD: lovely, quiet and beautifully designed. This is an offshoot of an LA restaurant, I learned, opened here by a local chef. The LA sophistication shows: menu, design, quality of ingredients, and damn fine looking men cooking for you. Excellent beer and wine selection. You'll find it behind Trader Joe's in Liberty Station, Pt. Loma. Lots of parking and a lovely place for a stroll or a skateboard ride before or after eating. AND that rarity of all: open all day, 11 - 9 pm, so it's perfect for that late afternoon lunch tryst. My date scored.

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  1. Is this a sit down, order off a menu, restaurant, or casual, fast dining? The reason I ask is because there is a growing trend toward build your own salad places similar to Subway where you tell the server what you want and they build it for you as you walk down the line choosing ingredients. Other than an outlet in Montezuma Center at SDSU and the salad place downtown, I haven't seen many of this style of casual dining and SD could really use a couple more. I was in Denver in May and there were multiple salad concepts that were fresh, good and well patronized.

    These places also usually have signature salads, or specific menu combinations - such as Salad Nicoise - that the servers can whip up pretty quickly and that are more economical than a build-your-own.

    4 Replies
    1. re: DiningDiva

      Fine, Casual,Green, Fast. We ordered from the menu board, and the chefs built it as we watched. However, we were there right as they opened, so I don't know how it normally works -- whether it's brought to your table or not. The LA website shows off menu and food well, but you need FLASH downloaded for it to play. <>

      1. re: pickypicky

        Picky, thanks for the URL. I'm not sure this is similar to the concepts I'm thinking of, but it certainly does bear some investigation. I think I know where I'm having lunch tomorrow :-)

        1. re: DiningDiva

          I'll look for your update. I did gush after just one visit -- but it's hope as much as pleasure that this will deliver!

          1. re: pickypicky

            Thank you for the heads-up. It was every bit as good as you say and fills a big gap in our weekly rotation. I cant tell you how many times DH has said 'lets go out for a nice salad'. But where?! Now we know.

    2. Second visit, I asked that tuna be added to the menu item, "Grilled Veggies." No problem. The delicious raspberry tart is made on premises by the chef's mother. (how sweet!) And dog guests are welcome outside on the patio. Two thumbs up.

      1 Reply
      1. re: pickypicky

        If you were there yesterday evening around 6, I was in line right behind you. I noticed a grilled veg plate with tuna.

      2. So glad you posted about this place! My husband works nearby and saw that it was opening, tried it out, and we've been back many times. What a great concept: locally grown produce, such care put into what they make, local beers, etc. Great music, great atmosphere. I love that in the time between ordering and paying, you get to walk by all of the wonderful (and beautifully displayed) veggies and meats and watch your salad being "built" by the staff who care about presentation and will greet you with a smile. It's about time "fast" food is healthy, too! =)

        I wish the owners all the best. By the looks of the place at dinner last night, they're doing very well. It was packed (on a Thursday evening).

        1. Finally made it over there a few days ago - good recc! We did one flank steak salad - great beats and radishes and the lettuces are perfect - and one Cobb. The way their line is set up is not optimal - we might have ordered differently if we had been able to see the wonderful grilled veggies and the rest of the makeup station *before* we ordered, instead of between the order station and the cash register. Their house-made peach cobbler was to die for, too. You can really taste the difference in the ingredients these folks are using:farm fresh and just wonderful.

          1. Unlike most times before I try out a new place, I hadn't checked out this restaurant on CH before trying it. My friend and I were soooo pleased with our salads that we're already planning a trip back out there next week!

            The pricing is simple, the salads are creative but not overly dressed or cluttered, the protein that you pick is absolutely cooked perfectly! I ordered the Barbecue Chicken Chitpotle Salad made with hearts of Romaine, avocado, cilantro lime dressing and Queso Fresco. My friend had the Grilled Flatiron Steak salad with horseradish dressing which had the most awesome tasting Red and Gold Beets. (I had to go down to Whole Foods the next day and pick up some gold beets to roast. Wow, what flavor!)

            We split the awesomely prepared Peach Cobbler that had to be made from scratch from Freestone Peaches. Little touches like the whipped cream being placed on top in a nice quenelle shape and the chairs being so smooth and comfortable showed me they really care about our experience there... I love the fact that the serving trays are cookie sheets - how fun! Listen to the music on the website and you'll get a feel for the vibe of this place. I love it!!!

            I'd peered through the windows of this space over and over again when it was a raw shell and dreamed of owning my own restaurant in there. That makes it even more special for me to visit it and approve where they took it.