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Finally, a lunch salad spot that doesn’t suck.

Tender Greens is a real contender. The California-based, fast-casual chain opened its much-ballyhooed, first New York outpost two weeks ago, and it blows away the competition. Each one of the four meals I enjoyed far outclassed those I’ve had at other veggie-focused, healthyish grab-and-go eateries — a mushrooming class that includes Sweetgreen, Made Nice, Little...
Time: 19:37     Date: 13.02.2018
US Living News: Finally, a lunch salad spot that doesn’t suck. NY Post 24 - US News

The California-based, fast-casual chain opened its much-ballyhooed, first New York outpost two weeks ago, and it blows away the competition.

Each one of the four meals I enjoyed far outclassed those I’ve had at other veggie-focused, healthyish grab-and-go eateries — a mushrooming class that includes Sweetgreen, Made Nice, Little Beet and Dig Inn.

“Executive chef” might seem an odd title at a fast-moving place where you order at a counter and dishes are brought to you within minutes, but that’s the whole idea. Each Tender Greens is run by its own, on-premises toque whose name is prominently posted — unlike typical chain places run by roving corporate teams.

Chef Peter Balistreri, who first made his bones at San Diego’s tony Lodge at Torrey Pines, is helming the new Flatiron District outpost and he’s got quite a team. West Coast locations typically have two sous chefs, but the kitchen at 900 Broadway (at 19th Street) is really stocked.

“We have the luxury of five sous-chefs,” says Balistreri, 33, who relocated his family from California to Park Slope to bring Tender Greens east.

Having a deep bench pays off on the plate: Salads and generously sized protein-and-veggie combos, which are competitively priced from $12.50 to $16.

Best-selling, salt-and-pepper chicken is delightfully, aggressively seasoned with garlic, oregano and thyme. If I’d closed my eyes, I’d take herb-brushed, rare-grilled tuna for a $28 main dish in a fine bistro, but it was all of $14. A $14.50 braised brisket sandwich sounds common but is anything but, thanks to creamy aioli and pea-shoot kimchee — both of which are made in-house.

Every fast-casual, “plant-driven” chain boasts an “artisanal” ingredient or two from specialized farms, but Tender Greens takes it a step further. Balistreri roams the Union Square Greenmarket a few blocks away for produce. “Flagship reserve” cheese, a creamy cheddar, is from Beecher’s right next door. “P. Balistreri salami,” part of a $13.50 kale salad, isn’t named for the chef, but for his California cousin Pete Balistreri, who’s also a chef and makes his own charcuterie.

The restaurant is for those looking to eat well, not whittle down their waistline.

Tender Greens is already looking to open a second location in the city and plans up to 15 of them here.

“I’ll be sort of a regional overseer, but there will be an executive chef at each place,” says Balistreri.

The company has the cash to expand thanks in part to a 2016 investment from Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group.

Meyer downplays his involvement and notes that he just has a “minority” stake in the company.

Balistreri suggests otherwise, referring to Meyer as “Uncle Danny.” He claims that USHG’s investment has “more commas and zeros” than an earlier one that the hospitality company made in competitor Sweetgreen. And Balistreri spent a lot of time observing Meyer’s restaurants here.

“I got my hands wet and dirty and picked [USHG’s] brains,” Balistreri says. “I had a lot of fun at Blue Smoke because I never worked at a barbecue place before.”

Tender Greens’ menu doesn’t yet have calorie counts, as the city requires for a chain of its size, but a rep says they’re coming this spring. Tender Greens co-founder Erik Oberholtzer notes that the restaurant is for those looking to eat well, not whittle down their waistline.

“We’re not a health-food restaurant,” he says with a chuckle.

Whatever they call it, sure tastes great.

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