My BFF has been asking me for years “have you been to Tender Greens yet?” My answer has always been nope. She lives in LA county where there are a handful of Tender Greens, but there wasn’t one in Orange County until recently. A couple of weeks ago, she asked me again and I told her it was about time I went!
Located at the Irvine Spectrum, the environmentally friendly decor and hugely inviting colors of the restaurant doesn’t feel like a ‘self-serve’ style restaurant. You order at the front of the line and then mosey on down with a clear view of the counter where the meals are being prepared. When you reach the end where the cashier is, you pay, and within minutes, your food is ready for you to take to a table, or away if you’re having it to go.
We arrived when the restaurant opened and I’m glad we did. Within 30 minutes, it was already more than half packed and before an hour was up, it was pretty much completely full. However, no need to worry because the lines move really quickly even though it might seem a daunting wait when you see the hoards of people.
We started with some soups. Fisherman’s Stew ($4) was decent although the fish was a tad tough. Each day the restaurant offers a version with ‘meat’, another that is vegetarian and lastly, a vegan option.
Kale and Multigrain ($4) the vegan option was absolutely delicious. It was piping hot and filled with bits of goodness even this carnivore was happy with. I would definitely order this soup again!
Not being a regular fan of salads, we chose one to try. VR Green Farms Harvest Salad ($11) was on the specials board and includes tangerines, tangelos, grapefruit, shaved fennel, candied walnuts, California feta cheese, with tender greens and golden balsamic vinaigrette. As far as salads go, it was very good.
Now, if you think Tender Greens only serves vegetables, then you’re wrong! That’s what I initially thought, but they have some wonderful meaty options as well. These items can be enjoyed as part of a sandwich, as a plate, or put together the way you choose.
For example, we chose the Backyard Marinated Steak ($11) as a sandwich. The steak is grilled medium rare and served on grilled ciabatta bread. You can choose a side salad from the “Simple Salads” selection. We opted for the spinach salad for this item. The flavors were perfectly executed and the quality of the meat was top notch. I brought half of the sandwich home and even after several hours, my son said it was absolutely yummy!
When I saw Fried Chicken ($11) on the menu, I knew I had to have it. We ordered it as a hot plate with mashed potatoes and the kale side salad from the Simple Salad selections. The buttermilk coated chicken was moist and juicy with a perfectly crispy exterior. I know where I’m coming from fried chicken from now on!
Another stand-out is the Herb Brushed Albacore ($11). We didn’t want any more mashed potatoes and you can choose to substitute that or the salad for soup for an additional $2. The fish was lightly seared and the freshness of the fish is unequivocal.
As we went through the line, our mouths were watering from the selection of vegetables on display. We wanted to try some of these as well.
Roasted Grilled Veggies ($3/$5) was a vibrant plate of red garnet yams, parsnips, Brussels sprouts, broccoli rabe and breakfast radishes. Who would’ve thought to grill radishes!! They were soooo good!
Every day, there is a featured Special Side ($4) and on the day of our visit, it was a farro salad with butternut squash, sweet potato, kale, broccoli rabe, caramelized onions tossed in a roasted garlic vinaigrette. Nutty and oh so tantalizing!
As if that wasn’t enough, they have some really awesome desserts as well. My favorite was the Orange Olive Oil Cake! So moist and filled with the aromas of citrus just floats through your palate.
I will definitely be a frequent visitor from now on. For those of you who have never been, I highly suggest you try them out for yourself. This week, I have a $25 gift certificate plus an Orange Olive Cake for one lucky winner. Leave me a comment and tell me what you’re most excited to try! Entries end on Sunday, 10th March. Winner will be announced on Monday! Good Luck!
31 Fortune Drive
Irvine, CA 92618