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The best fast food we’ve got

Fried chicken at Tender Greens

Boneless fried chicken served with roasted butternut squash, spinach salad, and slice of toast
Boneless fried chicken served with roasted butternut squash, spinach salad, and slice of toast
Place

Tender Greens Downtown

110 W. Broadway, San Diego

Place

Tender Greens

2400 Historic Decatur Road, San Diego

One of the many things to like about growing fast-casual chain Tender Greens is that each location features its own executive chef. So while you’ll find a lot of similarities between menus — chicken, steak and fish served as plate, salad, or sandwich — you’ll find differences, too.

For example, if you’ve eaten at the Tender Greens in Liberty Station, you haven’t tried the fried chicken served at the shop downtown. At that location Chef Todd Renner professes a fondness for Southern cooking, so the presence of fried chicken isn’t surprising, even on what reads as a healthy, farm-fresh menu. Considering the free-range, antibiotic-free, and hormone-free chicken the restaurant sources, I guess this rates among the healthiest fried poultry dishes in town.

Tender Greens

Hitting this location around lunchtime means braving limited parking and long lines. Just a couple blocks from the courthouse, parking at the lot next door to Tender Greens costs 20 bucks minimum, and when the judges take their lunch break, prospective jurors add to the stream of people pouring out onto the sidewalk waiting in the cafeteria-style line.

But I’ll brave it sometimes, because the chicken’s fantastic. A crispy buttermilk, rosemary, and thyme breading coats tender, boneless meat. If you want a great illustration of the taste concept known as umami, this is it. And you can get it with one of the restaurant’s excellent big salads or stacked on a ciabatta.

I go for the big plate, more for the chance to eat with my hands than the inclusion of two sides. Those are usually salad and mashed potatoes, but grilled seasonal vegetables are usually an option as well as rotating specials that change daily or weekly.

Place

Tender Greens UTC

4545 La Jolla Village Drive, San Diego

A new Tender Greens is due in Mission Valley next year, and I still haven’t tried the one at UTC. Thanks to recent investment by a New York based hospitality group, the chain will soon open locations in New York, Austin, and Chicago and already has locations in San Francisco, Orange County, and its home base of Los Angeles.

Given how much I liked my first experience in Point Loma and how I’ve added a new favorite with downtown’s fried chicken, I can see myself visiting all the San Diego locations to try something new. But I won’t be visiting the locations in all those other cities. As much as I like Tender Greens, it’s not a foodie destination, it’s fast food. It just happens to be the best fast food we’ve got.

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Boneless fried chicken served with roasted butternut squash, spinach salad, and slice of toast
Boneless fried chicken served with roasted butternut squash, spinach salad, and slice of toast
Place

Tender Greens Downtown

110 W. Broadway, San Diego

Place

Tender Greens

2400 Historic Decatur Road, San Diego

One of the many things to like about growing fast-casual chain Tender Greens is that each location features its own executive chef. So while you’ll find a lot of similarities between menus — chicken, steak and fish served as plate, salad, or sandwich — you’ll find differences, too.

For example, if you’ve eaten at the Tender Greens in Liberty Station, you haven’t tried the fried chicken served at the shop downtown. At that location Chef Todd Renner professes a fondness for Southern cooking, so the presence of fried chicken isn’t surprising, even on what reads as a healthy, farm-fresh menu. Considering the free-range, antibiotic-free, and hormone-free chicken the restaurant sources, I guess this rates among the healthiest fried poultry dishes in town.

Tender Greens

Hitting this location around lunchtime means braving limited parking and long lines. Just a couple blocks from the courthouse, parking at the lot next door to Tender Greens costs 20 bucks minimum, and when the judges take their lunch break, prospective jurors add to the stream of people pouring out onto the sidewalk waiting in the cafeteria-style line.

But I’ll brave it sometimes, because the chicken’s fantastic. A crispy buttermilk, rosemary, and thyme breading coats tender, boneless meat. If you want a great illustration of the taste concept known as umami, this is it. And you can get it with one of the restaurant’s excellent big salads or stacked on a ciabatta.

I go for the big plate, more for the chance to eat with my hands than the inclusion of two sides. Those are usually salad and mashed potatoes, but grilled seasonal vegetables are usually an option as well as rotating specials that change daily or weekly.

Place

Tender Greens UTC

4545 La Jolla Village Drive, San Diego

A new Tender Greens is due in Mission Valley next year, and I still haven’t tried the one at UTC. Thanks to recent investment by a New York based hospitality group, the chain will soon open locations in New York, Austin, and Chicago and already has locations in San Francisco, Orange County, and its home base of Los Angeles.

Given how much I liked my first experience in Point Loma and how I’ve added a new favorite with downtown’s fried chicken, I can see myself visiting all the San Diego locations to try something new. But I won’t be visiting the locations in all those other cities. As much as I like Tender Greens, it’s not a foodie destination, it’s fast food. It just happens to be the best fast food we’ve got.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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