Dish List: Tender Greens

If you’re one of those students who constantly tells themselves that you should start to eat healthy, now is the time to do it. With or without denial, the school year is quickly approaching.

When I first heard that Tender Greens, a new eco-friendly and healthy restaurant, recently opened I was curious to take a look.

Tender Greens is a casual, cafeteria-style dining experience. The inside decor is painted with vibrant green walls and assembled with wooden tables, which gives a clean and natural feel that other green restaurants opt for. Customers order at the counter, find a spot to sit and make their way to the other end of the counter once the food is ready.

The assembly line offers a colorful display of assorted vegetables as well as various meats that are pre-cut and placed in separate bowls. At the end of the line, customers will find a unique array of decadent desserts and something quite interesting –– preserved jars of jam –– which are, of course, naturally made.

Other than that, there is a plethora of seating options that makes sure your view won’t disappoint. The customer service is welcoming and the songs are upbeat yet relaxing enough to open up a good book or bring along your laptop to write a few passages.
All things set aside, the waiting period is brief.

The hardest part, as Chef Peter Hoff says, is figuring out how to best bring out the natural flavors of some of the locally sourced vegetables, such as the lettuces.

Hoff couldn’t have said it any better. The natural flavors of the freshly picked lettuces are definitely distinct in their dishes and you might just find some rare vegetables. Yet, the salads and protein make up for most of the signature menu items.

What’s the catch? Customers have the option to choose from two menus, one of which offers the original selection of items and the other consists of the special menu that boasts the daily specials.

I had a sample size of five dishes, consisting of the Chipotle Barbeque Chicken, Chinese Chicken, Southern Fried Chicken, the Harvest Salad and the Simple Salad. To wash it all down, I had a glass of their Honeydew Tea.

A bite into the warm Chipotle Chicken, cut into bite sized pieces, offered the right balance of flavors of queso fresco, avocado and green onion with romaine hearts drizzled with a cilantro lime dressing.

The Chinese Chicken definitely had its unique taste, yet it was a tad salty for my liking. That doesn’t mean this salad wouldn’t be a hit on a hot day.

Other chicken dishes such as the Southern Fried Chicken, though well suited for its crispy texture, could have had a helping of salt or other spice that would help bring out its flavor. Other than that, the chicken was fried to utter perfection and did not leave behind signs of greasy oil stains.

When it came down to the last two dishes, the Harvest Salad was an absolute winner. The salad, as the name indicates, varies by season. If you’re not fond of vegetables and fruits mixing together, this may just change your mind. My salad consisted of organic thinly sliced pieces of apple, local nuts and balsamic vinaigrette on a bed of farm fresh lettuce.

The Simple Salad, which was a kale salad, was quite tasty and goes by its name well with hints of parmesan and garlic vinaigrette.
And, the Honeydew Tea was perfect for the first couple sips. But be wary, as it does taste watered down toward the end.

When it comes to other menu options, you can order your choice of meat without a choice of a hot plate or sandwich. Instead, opt for the Simple Salad. The only difference is that the simple salad is doubled in portion size.

If you are feeling more adventurous, try the Falafel Salad. Word around town is that in contrast to the Irvine Spectrum, the dish is available only at this University Town Center location, conveniently walking distance from campus.

The price range here to receive a fulfilling meal is around $12, while the most affordable foods is the comfort soup for $4. So unless you’re interested to eat something very light, this place can be pricey for a college student’s budget.

Overall, the dishes here are good if you’re opting to dine healthier. The dishes are comprised of a variety of healthy protein and salad plates. Come here once in a while if you’d rather go out for that nice dining experience without having to dress up. And if you enjoy your food lightly seasoned, well here is the place to dine.