Tender Greens Offers Delicious, Healthy Food

Tender Greens changes "fast food"

Tender Greens Plate

Tender Greens

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There are a few magic words when it comes to So Cal cuisine these days: organic, farm–to–table, local, sustainable. But ten years ago, such appellations certainly weren’t guarantors of success; in fact, they could be dangerous, foreign identifiers that modern consumers weren’t accustomed to—and therefore eschewed. When Tender Greens opened in 2006, it was in a wasteland of mediocre processed foods and vendors. Despite the culinary climate of the day, the unique concept—slow food done fast—flourished into a chain that’s expanded across California. 

Tender Greens was born from a real absence in the food chain. Founders and co–owners Erik Oberholtzer, Matt Lyman and David Dressler all came from backgrounds in fine dining; they constantly had their hands on quality food, but they weren’t able to afford it themselves. “At the time, there was the fine dining world that we came from and fast food, but not a whole lot of great places in between—what is now considered fast casual—that was healthy, affordable and served the type of food that we wanted to eat every day,” says Oberholtzer. “Tender Greens was the answer to that need we felt for our own dining enjoyment; the type of place were we could get great food, cooked with the best seasonal ingredients, served in a comfortable and casual environment, at a price we could afford.” The rest, as they say, is history. As they created their concept, the three founders knew that being sustainable and eco–friendly was simply the natural course.

Tender Greens partners with local farmers, ranchers, artisans, boutique wineries, breweries and coffee roasters to create delicious and nutritious salads, entrees, soups and pastries. This pledge to the community isn’t just an empty slogan, Oberholtzer promises. “We get to know the farmers, ranchers and artisans behind our ingredients. We visit their farm, learn about their process and partner with them to create a win–win relationship.”

Tender Greens

Although you’ll find many of the same items on Tender Greens’ menus across the state, you’ll never taste the same dish twice thanks to the different flavors of localized ingredients. Each location has its own chef who creates their own specialty dishes and items, too, so you’re bound to see something new. Even in a modern California saturated with so–called healthy restaurants, Tender Greens maintains their unique pledge: “We think of healthy as in better for you ingredients, not low–calorie. Our food is healthy because we use better ingredients. Real ingredients, great product combined with fine dining cooking technique.”

The folks behind Tender Greens recognize that San Diego and Southern California were the perfect breeding grounds for their concept. “I think California is a place where healthy trends start,” says Oberholtzer. “People are outdoors and live healthier, more active lifestyles because we have year–round sunshine […] We’ve also had amazing chef talent come from California and in San Diego. Our people and chefs drive food and innovation at Tender Greens, we have a great team in San Diego who make the dream happen.”

Just as their dream came to life here, Tender Greens is expanding into new territory in our shared home. “One of my favorite things we’re working on right now are the Aeroponic Tower Gardens from Green City Farms we’ve installed at some of our restaurants. There will be Tower Gardens at our new Mission Valley location,” says Oberholtzer. These gardens won’t just provide truly local harvests, they’ll make visitors reconsider their very definition of fresh produce. “They are functional as decor and growing ingredients for our restaurant [and] they’re a conversation piece to start a dialogue about new, innovative urban farming techniques.”