Related Articles: Restaurants, All


A Vegetarian Tradition

Under direction by Chef Annie Somerville, Greens restaurant has helped shape the vegetarian cause for the last 30 years.

Greens is vegetarian, but you will not find that fact mentioned on the menu. Somerville does this intentionally, calling the clientele more “flexitarian.” She focuses patrons on the depth of flavor and quality, organic ingredients rather than the absence of meat.

A bit of history: The San Francisco Zen Center opened back in 1962, and has influenced the San Francisco food scene in many ways. It pulled on the monastery bread-making practices to open popular Tassajara Bakery and started Green Gulch Farm. Following a desire to be self-sustaining, the Zen Center opened Greens in 1979.

Greens is immediately inviting with its bright, airy feel and wall of windows with sweeping views of the Golden Gate Bridge. A multi-colored sunset forms the backdrop in the main room. The clientele is mixed, with locals, families and international travelers humming contentedly.

The restaurant has a warm feel, which comes as no surprise if you have a chance to meet Chef Somerville. Her lively energy is captivating, and do not be surprised if she shares stories about San Francisco history as if you are a dear friend. Somerville frequents farmers markets multiple times per week to pick up seasonal ingredients and connect with other chefs and growers.

The Fall Sampler invigorates appetites with its collection of tasty nibbles and fresh accents. The farro salad with cucumber, cherry tomatoes, and mint, dances between tangy Mediterranean flavors and subtle sweetness. Pita bread has many friends, with inventive eggplant relish and spicy tomato jam. The perfectly cooked eggplant relish is dusted with plump capers, and the jam echoes memories of a comforting fire.

Crisp summer beans with tarragon provide a refreshing finish. The Fire Roasted Happy Quail Piquillo Pepper is a thick mixture of corn, fromage blanc, lemon and parsley all stuffed into a large red pepper, then topped with a green splash of chimichurri. Lighten the load with wild watercress salad served with grilled Knoll Farm figs, charentais melon, and Gouda. The smokiness of the figs balances the sweet golden balsamic.

After a sizeable introduction, it is time for mains. The Ronde Nice Squash Provencal is a force to be reckoned with; two large summer zucchinis stuffed with Japanese eggplant peppers, onions, pine nuts, basil, and sharp Asiago cheese, all over a crispy grilled polenta cake. The multitude of ingredients delights your tongue with a wallop of flavor.

The second entrée is a staple, Mesquite Grilled Brochettes. Mushrooms, potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, corn on the cob, red onion, and tofu all crowd onto skewers, assertively satisfying hungry appetites. My favorite part? The bed of toasted, crunchy black pearl quinoa.

Make sure to save room for dessert. The fresh peach ice cream sandwiched between two homemade ginger snaps and dressed with raspberry compote is delectable. It doesn’t have the treacly fake peach flavor. Instead, it tempts you with a subtle, refreshing hint of peach and ginger cookies that are crispy on the outside and soft in the middle.

Vegetarian Cuisine
Reservations essential? Yes