Tender Greens provides high-quality, healthy, farmers-market-style food prepared in a fine-dining style, according to Wong.
Architect Bill Terramorse designed Liberty Station’s Tender Greens restaurant, as well as the very first location in Culver City. The downtown San Diego and University Towne Center-La Jolla sites were designed by Valerio Architects.
Wong said the architects wanted to offer a relaxed, laid-back atmosphere with a modern, comfortable vibe.
“The original idea was that we’d take a beach house, outfit it with a killer kitchen and entertain all our friends with food we’d want to eat,” said Wong. “The color palette is warm, bright and cozy with yellows, greens, natural wood.”
The first San Diego-based Tender Greens opened in June 2008 at Point Loma’s Liberty Station, serving as the training camp for the newer restaurants under mentor and executive chef Peter Balistreri.
The new downtown San Diego site opened in June.
One of the many sustainable business practices embraced by Tender Greens is to rotate staff so it experiences the Tender Greens way: a passion for food, community and team spirit.
The Tender Greens at UTC-La Jolla opened in June 2012, and another will be setting up shop at San Diego International Airport in September.
Tender Greens also puts emphasis on another sustainable practice: passion projects. Wong said these are an integral ingredient of the Tender Greens mission statement.
Balistreri, for example, “taught himself how to make salumi and offered his handcrafted salumi as part of his daily specials and charcuterie platter,” said Wong.
He now has his own line of artisan salumi and charcuterie available wholesale to chefs, restaurants and retail at the Tender Greens restaurants.
One of the key ingredients to a sustainable restaurant model is creating salads, soups and other dishes, like fresh fruit cobblers, using local, seasonable produce. The chefs also shop the local farmers markets for inspiration to prepare twice-daily specials.
Tender Greens uses “every part of the animal, so you might see roast beef one day, then slow-cooked beef cheeks or tenderloin another day,” said Wong.
The pastry team makes all desserts from scratch, and each restaurant has its own specialties, including downtown San Diego’s decadent gluten-free peanut butter cookies. Depending on what’s in season, one may finish off a meal with a berry crisp topped with vanilla ice cream, or perhaps a chocolate or carrot cupcake.
Tender Greens also supports local artists.
“Each location features custom artwork by local artists who create pieces that capture the feel of the respective neighborhood and communities,” said Wong. “We worked with San Diego artist Nan Coffey, who created fun art pieces for our Point Loma and downtown San Diego locations. Jon Burgerman created the art at UTC-La Jolla.”
Other sustainable practices include using reclaimed, recycled and environmentally friendly products whenever possible.
“Our restaurants are now 100 percent LED lights to cut down on electricity use,” said Wong. “We also implemented a bottle-less system and completely eliminated bottle consumption at our newer restaurants. All wine, beer, water and even house-made soda is served through a draft system to eliminate the use of plastic bottles and temper waste.”
Jodie Wilson, manager of the downtown Tender Greens location, said the décor, lighting, colors and food quality are all about providing the customer with a greater dining experience.
“It’s a it’s lots of fun to work here,” said Wilson. “We have a great team that strives to bring good food and service to our customers.”
Operations manager Leanne Ring-quist, who transferred to the downtown venue from the Point Loma Tender Greens, agrees.
“We have a loyal customer base,” said Ringquist. “Some of our Poing Loma regulars have also come here to eat since we opened. The downtown site is a mix of Point Loma personnel and new hires, as we want to maintain a consistent style.”
Tender Greens locations are open from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. daily at:
• Point Loma (Liberty Station) — 2400 Historic Decatur Road; (619) 226-6254
• Downtown — 110 W. Broadway; (619) 795-2353
• UTC-La Jolla — 4545 La Jolla Village Drive; (858) 455-9395.
To learn more about the restaurant, catering services, its community-based Sustainable Life Project and to access recipes, visit tendergreens.com.