1352 Locust Street, Walnut Creek, CA 94596 | 925.937.5100 | website
Tender Greens opened their first Northern California location a couple of months ago in the 4,000 square foot space that was once an Oakville Grocery in downtown Walnut Creek. Until recently out here in Coco county your salad options were Fresh Choice or Sweet Tomatoes who must be credited for their focus on greens rather than grease out here in the land of chains and franchises, although the all-you-can-eat aspect tends to attract the buffet feeder herd, but I digress… The Tender Greens concept of serving healthy, sustainably farmed food at a reasonable price has been a resounding success in the LA market, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed after several visits that they can pull it off out here in The Creek. The interior is a big rambling space with lots of bright natural light and a casual eco-friendly vibe, in fact you just know that they are on the organic and sustainable bandwagon from the bamboo chairs and the black and white photos of people out in the pasture.
Your attention is drawn towards the shiny counter which displays platters of fresh and roasted vegetables, roasted meats and delicious pastries further down around the corner. Executive chef Charles Hechinger worked most recently at the Claremont Hotel Club & Spa, and you can read his extensive biography here. The basic menu at all Tender Greens feature seasonal salads, sandwiches, soups and “Hot Stuff From the Grill,” using humanely-raised meats, locally-grown produce and sustainably-caught fish and most of the dishes are under $11. The menu offers dishes featuring grilled meats such as marinated steak, salt and pepper chicken, chipotle bbq chicken, herb brushed local albacore that are served in a full sized salad with garlic herb crostini, on a sandwich, or as a hot plate with yukon gold mashed potatoes and salad all priced at $10.50. So expect to pay $14ish if you get a beverage and after taxes.
There is an in-house bakery serving classic American pastries like pop tarts, sticky buns and a selection of seasonal pies. They also offer breakfast service consisting of fresh roasted and French-press coffee, pastries, and have plans to offer weekend brunch.
These Savory Wheat Muffins looked intriguing. At first I thought they were topped with hummus but I think that was just the shape of the muffin top. Inside the muffins were house cured bacon, bell peppers, green onions Parmesan and sharp cheddar cheese.
I loved the salad made with thin slices of Backyard Steak, served over red and green butter lettuce, radishes, roasted red and gold beets, tossed with a horseradish vinaigrette. The tri-tip steak was tender and juicy and so very good, although I think this dish could be improved with a sprinkle of blue cheese or crumbled goat cheese…
My co-worker ChrisW was drawn to the Southern Fried Chicken, which proved to be a smallish chunk of chicken breast served over a mound of freckled romaine and butter lettuces, sliced cucumber and radish, drizzled with a tart dill dressing.
I sampled a piece of the chicken which was light and not greasy which made us suspicious that it was baked and not fried… It was crispy and delicious, but there was something spa-cuisineish about it, but in the end, I would order this dish again!
On a subsequent visit ChrisW ordered the Tuna Nicoise, which had two thick slices of seared tuna served over a luscious mound of tender greens, tomato, roasted fingerling potato, topped with a petite quail egg, haricots verts, capers and olives and tossed with a sherry vinaigrette. Winner!
My other co-worker Vic had the Fritto misto, which was crispy monterey squid, fennel, sweet onion and lemon, wild arugula, frisee, treviso, lemon vinaigrette. He inhaled this and said it tasted light and healthy.
My friend ChrisK came out to visit from San Francisco last week and loved their Harvest Salad full of organic strawberries and raspberries, Knoll Farm Arugula, Little Gem Lettuce, Walnuts, Laura Chennel Goat Cheese, White Balsamic Vinaigrette. She really enjoyed it, almost as much as she enjoyed the sunny warm weather (as opposed to the SF summer which is cold and foggy).
Out of three visits, I had a couple of salads that left something to be desired. I had to try the Craft Salad, which includes housemade salumi, feta, pickled vegetables and roasted peppers with olives, capers, young lettuce, drizzled in cabernet vinaigrette. It was tasty but not balanced. It seemed overwhelmed by the salty, pickled elements. Don’t get me wrong, I love salty things, I have confessed to even craving saltidos and umeboshi to you before… but this dish was too harsh and would be much better if served with several slices of plain sweet baguette instead of the single garlicky crouton, to counterbalance things.
And within two hours I was hungry…
On another visit, the daily special caught my eye. Grilled Lemon Prawns and Octopus, Knolls organic wild arugula, baby frisee and little gem lettuce, roasted red onion, broccolini, asparagus with Cabernet vinaigrette.
The octopus had an unfortunate slimy gelatinous flap that I ended up scraping off because I found it to be kind of gross. But the rest of the salad had impeccably fresh greens and a mixture of chewy radicchio and roasted vegetables that were well prepared and perfectly seasoned, and the three pieces of prawn were succulent and gone in a minute. But I’ll just say that I would be hesitant to order the octopus here again…
Despite the fact that I’ve had only one really good salad in three visits, I am looking forward to coming back to explore the menu and am sure that I will find dishes that please me.
Open 7 am to 9 pm daily. There is a parking structure attached to the building that charges a very reasonable 50 cents per hour.