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Local Hero, Tender Greens

We just returned from an eating trip to Brooklyn NY. The minute the plane touched down, we raced to Tender Greens. After all that hip winter food, we craved fresh and green. What Pete Balestieri and his crew do is equal to, but of course different than, anything we tasted in Brooklyn. Every ingredient in the salad we had-- kumquat, orange, candied pecans, chicken, romaine, goat cheese-- was perfection. Even the chicken was stand alone. LOVE the great leaves of lettuce and the size of their entree salads. Yes, Honkman. This is man salad, and god, we're lucky to have it.

Can't wait for UTC, and I hear rumors of the airport.

Tender Greens
2400 Historic Decatur Rd, San Diego, CA 92106

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  1. Agree. Consistently excellent. We happened upon the Hollywood outpost a couple months back and lunch was just as good as Liberty Station.

    1. Not only outstanding ingredients and preparation, at about $11.00 for a complete dinner, the price is hard to beat.

      1. "Yes, Honkman. This is man salad, and god, we're lucky to have " - I didn't comment on this before in the other discussion and it is not meant as a personal attack but I think that differentiating any food as "man" or "woman" food is BS.

        3 Replies
        1. re: honkman

          You couldn't see me wink as I wrote it.

          1. re: pickypicky

            Internet unfortunately is only a flat medium and sometimes it's hard to see how "serious" some comment are. On the other side I know a lot of people who believe in this differentiation of food.

            1. re: honkman

              How is it BS if you don't know what it is? ;)
              (there's your wink)

              Thanks for the Tender Greens reminder picky, need to go there very soon

        2. eagerly waiting their arrival in UTC....wish they had landed in the Del Mar Highlands instead of Urban Plates....

          8 Replies
          1. re: daantaat

            "eagerly waiting their arrival in UTC....wish they had landed in the Del Mar Highlands instead of Urban Plates..."

            Funny you mention that. We tried out Urban Plates a few months ago, not knowing what it was, and I couldn't stop thinking "This place is sure a lot like Tender Greens"...the difference being that Urban Plates has slightly modified the Tender Greens formula, adding individual "stations" for the types of food, and more options for sides, including soups, flatbread and braised dishes (this is pretty much what TG does with their specials of the day). Otherwise, it seems to be a pretty straightforward riff off of the TG business model (albeit super-sized a little), right down to the slice of grilled bread that comes with the meal. That's capitalism for you.

            1. re: cookieshoes

              TG is not as an original business model as you'd like to think. Several places have done the same concept well before tg was ever thought up. Im sure anyone who has visited Silver Greens in Santa Barbara has thought that TG has outright ripped off their concept, even down to the similar sounding name. The place has been doing business since the late 90's up there. I think the take away here is that restauranteurs have seen that people are willing to pay a little extra for food with quality ingredients, which is why you see a lot of the same type of places opening up.

              1. re: mjill

                There is also Jack's Urban Eats in Sacto and the more downscale Pluto's in the same general area. Both offer similar - though not identical - ideas.

                I think the salad + protein model is more reflective of the changes in eating habits that have occured over the last 10-15 years with a growing section of consumers looking for lighter and cleaner meals. There are a lot of ways that can be accomplished and everyone has their own little spin on it.

                1. re: DiningDiva

                  Pluto's on Irving in SF! I still maintain they do the best tofu for a salad add-in next to the Whole Earth cafe from back in my UC Santa Cruz days.

                2. re: mjill

                  "TG is not as an original business model as you'd like to think. Several places have done the same concept well before tg was ever thought up. Im sure anyone who has visited Silver Greens in Santa Barbara has thought that TG has outright ripped off their concept..."

                  I don't agree. The comparison between Silver Greens and Tender Greens isn't the same. Silver Greens is a restaurant that's in the same vein as several types of specifically health-food conscious places, just like you can find in the bay area. Sandwiches, salads, burgers, pastas, shakes...all done with a low calorie or healthy/organic angle. The menu items are not at all as specific as Tender Greens, nor is the food presentation, types of menu items, or even the feel of the restaurant at all the same. Whereas Urban Plates is a very specific mirroring of Tender Greens, down to that side of grilled bread, the carving stations, and the housemade desserts in a case next to the register. The only difference is that there are a few more things on the menu at Urban Plates.

                  I have no problem with competition, or seeing more places like this pop up around the country. Just observing the similarities when a business opens up, clearly modeled after another one in town, and doesn't really do much to change things up.

                  Remember the Eddie Murphy movie Coming to America? "Look... me and the McDonald's people got this little misunderstanding. See, they're McDonald's, I'm McDowell's. They got the Golden Arches, mine is the Golden Arcs..."

                  1. re: cookieshoes

                    I don't know. I remember in college getting all the time half sandwiches of grilled chicken and a side of mixed greens salad that if you put it on a plate would be essentially what you'd get at TG if you ordered a salad with grilled chicken. TG has taken it up a notch, no doubt but to say they are have invented something not seen before or have done anything super original to be comparing other places as ripping them off is quite a streach.

                    1. re: mjill

                      Think of Chipotle. One could say that they're just a healthier version of Mexican Fast Food. So, nothing too original there. To some, they might even think of Chipotle as just having improved on the Roberto's and Alberto's formula, doing Mexican fast food, just done a little more refined, with better ingredients, in a sit-down environment. When the reality is that Chipotle didn't use that business model at all. The business model Chipotle used was to copy the taquerias of the Mission District in San Francisco, where diners walk in the door, form a line, and have individuals behind the counter assemble each ingredient of their burrito in an assembly line, as the customer watches and requests items. The similarities lie in the way the restaurants are set up, the specific types of plates they make, and the style of service. The same applies to UP and TG, which are the same in nearly every regard, right down to the overall look of the restaurant. Comparing TG to Silver Greens (which isn't the same type of service and features burgers/pasta/shakes), is difficult, because it starts becoming a comparison about restaurants that are only linked by the fact that they serve sandwiches and salads.

                      Walking into UP and seeing signs of Tender Greens is the same type of thing as walking into Five Guys and seeing traces of In-N-Out, imo. In-N-Out wasn't the first burger joint by any measure, but there is a unique signature to the restaurant which is very easy to see copied by Five Guys.

                3. re: cookieshoes

                  The issue I have w/ Urban Plates is that the food looks good but tastes blah. No depth or complexity of flavor. Even a hit of salt and pepper can't wake up their food. Tender Greens looks good AND tastes good. If I'm in the Del Mar area and had to pick between UP and Souplantation, I'd go to Souplantation.

              2. Major props to Rian and Pete...great guys with food that is off the chain good!
                Hope to see them at SAN airport.

                1. The food I've had at TG's is good, but not memorable. It's nothing I'd seek out... if I worked around there maybe I'd eat more of their salads. Just can't say the flavors struck me enough to return for a particular dish. It's a good concept, though, and nice for that part of town and shopping center.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Granite

                    TG's Salade Nicoise is the best I've ever had. My first five trips there, I couldn't order anything else. To do something iconic in an exceptional manner is, for me, memorable-- dependable, and delicious.