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Greens Restaurant

I searched the board but didn't find much definitive on Greens, the vegetarian restaurant on the SF Chronicle's 100 list. I've enjoyed the Moosewood in Ithaca and can't make it to Napa this trip for Ubuntu. Is this vegetarian restaurant worth the trip? I'm not vegetarian but enjoy all kinds of experiences and would be interested to see if they can do high-end vegetarian really well. Thoughts?

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  1. Definitely worth a visit says this avowed meatatarian. Haven't eaten in the restaurant proper in the last year or so but had 2 lunches from G-To-Go during the recent SF Public Library sale. I had a hearty carrot ginger soup and a wonderful, bracing mixed vegetable salad dressed with just the right amount of olive oil, lemon and basil. Their chocolate desserts are always great. The few times a year I am at Fort Mason, I always plan to go to the restaurant or get food to go.

    1 Reply
    1. re: chocolatetartguy

      It used to be my go-to brunch spot for out of town visitors -- it's got the view, it's got the free parking. Alas, it doesn't have the bacon. But I've not had a complaint yet.

    2. It's not "high end" in the sense of technical precision/high wire. It's high end in the sense of zen. Clean. Pretty. Pleasing.

      1. I'm going to have to dissent. Maybe it's because I spent 3 years living in various SF Zen Center temples -- quite a few of the recipes the kitchen used were old Greens hand-me-downs; I've probably made the carrot ginger soup mentioned above a few dozen times -- and I grew tired of the style, but I find Greens to be wholly uninteresting.

        The main dishes rarely stray from a 1970s-style add-fat-to-make-it-taste-good vegetarian mold, and when they do the results are often lacking. I was there about a month ago for brunch, using the last of my free meal cards, and had uninspired vegetable brochettes with some kind of mesquite sauce that I seriously hope was bottled (I'd like to think that kitchen would not knowingly turn out something so bland) while my date had a Mexican/Southwestern scramble of some sort which was, honestly, quite fine -- again, Greens does okay with cheese and eggs -- but they curiously put the tortilla under the eggs which after many many breakfasts in the Mission just seems Wrong. Additionaly we had some mediocre pastries, which were inoffensive. Maybe if I'd been paying I would've felt more irked. I don't know.

        The interior is also pretty shabby. The view is gosh-wow amazing, but the carpet and tables and place settings have all seen better days.

        I've never been to the Moosewood restaurant, but I think if you're a fan of the original cookbook and don't mind paying a premium for food that is from that era of American vegetarian cooking, then you'll probably be pretty fond of Greens. If you're looking for something more modern, I would suggest you go elsewhere.

        4 Replies
        1. re: jpancake

          Thanks. I was hoping for something more like Thomas Keller's tasting of vegetables that he offers at Per Se and I assume at the French Laundry. His former sous chef Eric Ziebold who now runs CityZen out here in DC also does and awesome tasting menu for vegetarians. Sounds like maybe Greens is solid and tasty but not worth passing up a visit to Ame or Yank Sing or many other places.

          1. re: JRinDC

            Coi may be more up your alley...

          2. re: jpancake

            This is an excellent roundup. I think the last time I was there was maybe 5 years ago now, just stopped going because the rest of the world evolved far past where Greens is. Bland is no longer synonymous with vegetarian. When I think Moosewood, I think of precise and interesting flavor balances that I stopped finding at Greens.

            As jpancake says, worth a trip if you're interested in that time and place of food and on that side of town.

            1. re: jpancake

              I'm with you! I think you hit the nail on the head with the 1970s comment. Everything about the food there is just SO dated. I'm all for institutions, but Greens always seems to me to be resting on its laurels. Ho-hum.

            2. The to-go counter is pretty darn good for fast food, but the restaurant has been disappointing for quite some time; at least in terms of food. The view and locale are lovely. I still go occasionally when I'm entertaining vegetarian friends from out-of-town, but otherwise I usually just pop in for take-out at lunch.

              1. I strongly agree with JPancake. I've had the worst dining experience there. The food was uninspiring and cold. And the service was not great.

                I believe Masa's or Fleur de Lys has a vegetarian tasting menu. You might want to check them out.