Tender Greens

Sometimes, I feel a little protective over my very favorite spots--those restaurants that I visit as often as once a week, places where I have to get my fix.  Something inside of me gets greedy and wants to preserve their familiarity, my feelings of ownership about these gems.  But today, I'm feeling generous.  So I'm sharing the latest episode of LA on 20's web series, and this time I am visiting Tender Greens in Santa Monica with my little brother, Sam.

I find that one of the most difficult things about being on a budget is being able to eat healthfully.  Fresh produce, especially organic and sustainably farmed/caught/raised fare just costs more to procure, and sometimes it can feel out of reach for those of us looking to get the most bang for the buck. 

Which is why I really treasure Tender Greens.  Seriously, it's a special place.  Because not only have they created a model where they can offer all of those things--seasonal, ethically raised, fresh, organic food--at an affordable price point, on a large scale, but they go above and beyond by also offering a consistently excellent, inventive specials menu each and every day.  I have had a beautifully cooked piece of cod with braised hen of the woods mushrooms for $12.  I have had delicious and light pea tendril ravioli with a side of arugula salad for $12 for dinner.  Free range beef and pork meatballs in a slowly simmered, rich marinara for $4.

It's cafeteria-style dining, because that's what allows them to offer these really elevated, well-executed, healthy, delicious dishes at that price.  But it feels like a nice sit-down restaurant--they have beer and wine on tap, and seasonal and decadent desserts, including some really good vegan ones.  There are multiple locations throughout LA and in the Bay Area, San Diego, and Orange County, so wherever you find yourself in California, this affordable and healthy option isn't far away.  I really cannot say enough about how cool this place is.  So I'll let the video do the rest of the talking.  Please enjoy!

Umami Burger

This godforsaken place has the best burger in LA hands down, most likely the best in the world. Too bad the tables are so close together it’s like being on a double date, and the service is so brusque that you’ll think you’re Oliver Twist. They don’t take temperatures on your meat, it’s either medium rare or well-done. Everything but the burgers lack seasoning—my salad had no discernible taste whatsoever, and since when is plain ricotta cheese on top of a few beets and watercress even called “salad” anyway? Everything was so terrible that by the time I got my burger I was all geared up to bash it, but my God was it delicious. I mean, absolutely perfect, an explosion of flavor and tenderness and sheer bliss. I am not exaggerating, the meat itself was so tender and flavorful that it would have been superlative all on its own, but then the crisp, chewy parmesan wafer and the sweet tomato on top brought it to a whole new level. And that’s just the namesake burger. The other burger we ordered, called the Hatch Burger, was even better if you can believe it. Some yelpers have deemed it “overpriced,” but I’ll shell out $9.00 for the best burger I’ve ever had any day. You won’t want anything but the burger, so you’re golden on price. Oh man, I want one now. And it’s only breakfast time. Damn. Image credit: flickr user Yogma