Thursday, November 15, 2007

Tender Greens - Best Salads in Los Angeles

About eight months ago some brave little restaurant entrepreneurs looked upon a square mile in central Culver City just around the area where Washington Street, Culver Blvd. and Main Street connect, and said to themselves, "Here is fertile ground for a new Foodie Boom!". This little chunk of the Eastern most part of the "West Side" is surrounded by two filming studios, Sony Corporate Headquarters, City Hall, and numerous little corporate office buildings. Several restaurants have moved in in the last year like: UGO, FRAICHE, MELT DOWN, and FORD'S FILLING STATION to accompany old favorites like PACIFICO's and the DOUBLE DUTCH. BEACON over near the old Helms Bakery Plaza even took the Los Angeles Times Critic Pick for best new restaurant in 2005. This is what foodies in Los Angeles called, The Culver City Boom. And if you live there, as I do, it has been a wonderful treat!

However, among, all of these wonderful little spots, my favorite of all, was the one who had the roughest of starts. Back in 2006, my wife and I were curious when a little storefront next to FORD's started to get remodeled. The sign simply said "TENDER GREENS" Fresh Food. Months went by, and we looked and watched and waited until one Sunday afternoon when the doors finally swung open. What we found, was what I believe to be the best restaurant, with the best food, at the best price in town. I say rough start, because their style of service was overwhelmed by the response the joint received in the early days. Many critics and reviewers heavily criticized this part of the restaurant and thus it affected the early days of Tender Greens. However, those little operational bugs have been stomped out, and now the occasional snafu or mix up only adds to the charm of one of the best places to get a healthy and cheap meal in town.

menu is based on the concept of delivering fresh organic ingredients to their customers with new inventions and innovations on old favorites and comfort foods. The best deal of all is their hot plates, where you can get your choice of Range Free Chicken Breasts, Flank Steak, or Seared Ahi Tuna, with a side of their wonderful Mashed Potatoes and your choice of eight simple salads on the side, for $10.00. It's a great deal. You can also have your hot plate turned into a hot sandwich by subbing the marvelous mashed potatoes for a rustic ciabatta roll with herb aiolli and roasted peppers, with your choice of the chicken, steak or tuna! My wife's old standby is the chicken hot plate with side Caesar Salad. Delicious.

Salads are the main attraction, however! My favorites are the COBB and the CHIPOTLE BBQ chicken. The later is a great example of their mission to try and cut the fat out of these meals and serve up fresh foods with explosive taste. Instead of BBQ sauce and ranch like you would get on any other BBQ Chicken sandwich, they baste the chicken breast in BBQ sauce and then serve it with a Lime Ciliantro Vinaigrette. It's pretty much heaven on a plate. The tart dressing mixes well with the sweetened chicken and the fresh avocado adds a creaminess to each bite.

Also, if you go down to Tender Greens, do not be afraid to try the soups. Their Chicken Noodle is made just like Mom's, probably better, since my Mom's chicken Noodle was made by Campbell's. And the Tomato Soup is also great (not quite as good as Melt Down, but a close second). And if you luck out, the often have Butternut Squash which is spectacular.

And if you are looking for a Diet Coke, don't think you will get it from a fountain machine in a paper cup. Tender Greens serves up a bevy of artisan sodas and sparkling waters. And if you want something a little more mature, they have a selection of wines and beer each day.

Daily specials also pop up, somewhat irregularly. If you see the Oso Buco or the Pulled Pork Sandwich, take the dive and dig in. Whomever, runs their brassiere is highly skilled at what they do.

So, why am I blogging about a FOOD joint on ART OF FUNCTION. I have to commend Tender Greens on their design, which some people find frustrating, but I find refreshing. Tender Greens is a mean and lean food machine. It caters chiefly to a younger, faster moving crowd. Instead of finding a table and waiting for a server, you hit a lunch line similar to what you would find at a Subway joint. The person taking your order, is probably the person who will make your food. Since the ingredients and Menu is simple, throw them in a bowl, add dressing put it on a plate. Despite the simplicity they do a really good job of training their staff so that the food is consistently prepared. Also, you do not eat on a 'paper plate'. Everything is severed with traditional flatware, which is cleared from tables and washed. An example of how the place is attempting to 'stay green' and cut back on waste. Also, there are not booths or carbon copy seating arrangements. Tables are versatile and different, from the eight foot long table with benches, to the smaller cafe types. The Tender Greens owners really put a lot of thought into the experience.

I recommend it highly! So, go green, go Tender Greens!

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