Classic Tables: Greens

The vegetarian institution is still ahead of the curve

A little more than 30 years have ticked by since Greens debuted its revolutionary approach to vegetarian cooking in the summer of 1979.

How gratifying to know, then, that restaurants and eaters have finally caught up to Greens' prescient vision. We're now equally at ease name-dropping farms as pop stars, and we take pride in following Pollan-born maxims like "Eat food, mostly plants."

At Greens, that ethos has always been in place. Annie Somerville, who has been chef since 1985, has deep connections with local farms–including the restaurant's sister farm in Marin, Green Gulch–and shops at farmers' markets with relentless commitment. No surprise, then, that her food is always astonishingly delicious.

At a recent meal, two of the restaurant's signature dishes had the spark of new creations. The wilted spinach salad ($11) was sharp and earthy with Gaeta olives, red onions, feta and the iron kick of orach. Planked over three kinds of quinoa, mesquite-grilled Hodo Soy tofu brochettes ($21) came skewered with peppers, fennel and Yukon Gold potatoes–all slicked with the spiky herb purée known as chermoula.

The rest of the menu–predictably–changes with the seasons. Now, artichokes are everywhere, fortifying panzanella ($11.50) and lightening gratins ($23.50). As the days warm, green garlic, Zuckerman Farms asparagus and English peas from Half Moon Bay will also be omnipresent.

Three decades after it first appeared, Greens' food reflects the past while looking to the future; it stays relevant while upholding tradition.

Greens, Fort Mason, Bldg. A; 415-771-6222 or greensrestaurant.com