I recently attended a friend’s son’s college graduation and had several happy group restaurant experiences with the extended family of the graduate. This was one of those times when I could not be in complete control my food options, as I was not choosing the venues. I was happy when one of our lunches turned out to be Tender Greens, which is a fast casual style farm-to-table concept restaurant offering lots of salads and vegetables. It was a big busy vibrant place where you stand in line and order and wait to pick up your tray of food. Standing in line ordering quickly with 8 people, for me, was not the time to interrogate the counter server about every ingredient. In social circumstances like this, I exercise my flexibility in going with the flow when needed–Table Karma.
In any event, I hadn’t had breakfast and wanted a lot of food to make sure I would survive a long afternoon at the graduation events and a dry salad alone was not going to cut it. After looking for a vegetarian choices to add substance to a salad plate I came up with the Falafel Plate. I opted for the Tender Greens as my salad choice and green hummus for my side dish, asking that they leave off the dairy-based tzatziki. It also came with a pita style flat bread that I used to make small wraps. The falafel balls were crunchy and good but of course deep fried in oil, and there was a light vinaigrette on the salad–more oil. The green hummus was delicious but I had no idea at the time what was in it. Now I know–lots of olive oil. See the recipe below.
Tender Greens has a lot of locations all over California, but not in other states yet. I like the concept and it made the group really happy. For a plant-based consumer, there are a lot of salad choices, but dressings are always a problem at restaurants if you want to avoid oil. Plain lemon, vinegar, or hot sauce would be the best choices here. Vegan protein choices are also limited, which is why I chose the falafels. Be forewarned, though–I found out later that the falafels are fried in the same frier as the chicken.
Here is what the Tender Greens website says about their concept–“Farm to Fork–We think there should be a conscious connection between the one who eats the food and the source of that sustenance. These days people eat on the run; if we can’t slow you down, at least we can tell you about what you are eating.” That sounds good to me, but I wanted to find out more about what was in the food, so I researched the nutritional information for Tender Greens.
Here is the recipe Tender Greens posts for their green hummus — note that for 4 cups of garbanzo beans, they are adding a full cup of olive oil!!
The added ingredients give the hummus dish more texture and substance to stand up on the plate, as well as an extra bite in flavor and added vitamins and minerals.
- 1/4 cup cilantro
- 2 cups spinach1 cup Arugula
- 1/4 cup diced green onion
- 2 small cloves garlic
- 1 cup olive oil
- 4 cups garbanzo beans
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
I found the nutritional information for the Falafel Plate, but I am not sure what exactly is included. You can see that there is a substantial amount of fat –25 g– included in this dish.
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 25 g||38%|
|Saturated fat 4 g||20%|
|Cholesterol 5 mg||1%|
|Sodium 1,530 mg||63%|
|Total Carbohydrate 52 g||17%|
|Dietary fiber 1 g||4%|
|Sugar 10 g|
|Protein 18 g||36%|
Tender Greens does have one specifically vegan option–“HAPPY VEGAN–wheat with cranberry and hazelnuts, quinoa with cucumber and beets, green hummus, tabbouleh, tender greens,” but (WOW!) I checked out the nutritional information for this plate that is loaded with 37 g of fat and 980 calories!!!
Another vegan option at Tender Greens is the grilled vegetables. These must be loaded with oil because their own website recommends that if you are watching calories you should choose the mashed potatoes rather than the grilled vegetables!!!
I love falafels but I don’t love the oil, especially chicken oil, and I love tzatziki, but I don’t want the dairy. Clearly, I needed to make a Table Karma version–oil free and completely plant-based– that I could enjoy.
Would I go to Tender Greens again on my own volition? Maybe, if all I wanted was a salad–and I brought my own dressing.
See my recipes for healthy versions of falafels, green hummus and tzatziki.