Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Under Review: Tender Greens (Walnut Creek)

Since, compared to larger towns, I always consider openings in Walnut Creek a big deal (no matter how big of a deal they actually are) because there are much fewer of them, I skipped over to Tender Greens twice last week to see how they've fared since just barely squeaking in an April opening. I was enticed by the general concept, which was quick, locally-sourced, farm-fresh fare. If there's anything I love, it's a place that uses lots of hyphens.

Tender Greens service is cafeteria-style, although a little odd in the sense that it's set up like a cafeteria , long counters and all, but the service feels distinctly like any "order at the reg and we'll bring you your shit" place. You choose an entree from two long, wall-mounted menus, order at the register, and then walk the long counter tops to the dessert and drink sections, where the person behind the register grabs what you want. I guess the long counters are nice so you can get a view of your food being made, as the gawkers to the left are clearly doing, but there was no serving yourself, as I'm apt to do at cafeterias.

The actual seating area is EXPANSIVE and includes plenty of outdoor dining options. Inside, the walls are plastered with all kinds of pictures of farmy fare – people, their farms, farm animals. A good chunk of the wall space is devoted to grimy leathered faces ("salt-of-the-earth folks" as I'm sure someone somewhere says), above a description of their farm, personal history, and introduction to farming. Seating is in keeping with the cafeteria aspect and relatively non-descript, and my ass cheeks survived unscathed so it's comfortable enough to sit in for an extended amount of time. Also, the people behind the counter WILL come over repeatedly trying to remove dishes if they are especially bored.
I went with the Southern Fried Chicken Salad: freckled romaine, butter lettuce, cucumber, radish, dill dressing. A pile of butter lettuce served as a bed for the three large pieces of chicken, which were the focal point of the dish. One was a little undercooked for my taste, chewy and pink underneath the fry, although D tells me it was probably still edible. The other two pieces tasted fried-to-order, and the batter was satisfactorily fatty, with a nice crunch. The rest of the salad was simple, and the slightly acidic bite of the radish was a nice counter to the richness of the chicken.  Overall, I was a fan, except for that one piece, which I'm sure could have been easily remedied but was banished to D's plate.

D opted for the Chipotle Barbecue Chicken: romaine hearts, avocado (on the side, because he's a weirdo and doesnt like avocado), queso fresco, crispy tortilla strips, green onion, cilantro lime dressing. While he spent a good portion of the meal trying to determine what the fuck the mystery cheese was (he swears queso fresco was nowhere on the menu), he said the chicken was cooked well, and the salad was "good." yuuuuuup.
I know I don't sound enthused about the place as a whole, and while I found the salads enjoyable but not mind blowing, YOU NEED TO GET DESSERT. I went for a vanilla lemon curd pastry with mixed berries, and D opted for some sort of banana pastry. While he liked the flavors of his dessert, the consistency was tough and tending towards stale, suggesting the dessert may have spent some time in the display case. Whatever, forget his. No one gets banana anyways. We both loved mine, the highlight being the actual pastry "crust". The fruit tasted fresh, the curd/filling was sweet without being overpowering, and the crust was flaky but substantial.

Overall, I consider Tender Greens a good place for some fresh food that won't make you feel like a bloated bastard once you're done. The salads are plenty big, varied, and flavorful. They have a few fun drink selections, like mint lemonade and hibiscus tea, as well as a few taps for beer and wine. The place isn't really a steal, and for approximately $35 for the two of us I may opt for take-out because bored counter people make me uncomfortable. That out of the way: GET DESSERT. They have blown my mind without fail, and I would definitely shove an old person out of my way to get my grubby hands on one.
Tender Greens
1352 Locust St., Walnut Creek
(925) 937-5100

No comments:

Post a Comment