Greens: simplicity in San Francisco
Five days in San Francisco without an agenda is an interesting prospect. Well that’s not true. We had one. My sister’s only request was a meal at the stalwart vegetarian restaurant Greens.
We embarked on the journey to lunch on a beautiful spring day. From the heart of Union Square, awash with panhandlers and the cheerful ding of the cable cars, we instead took ‘streetcar’ to Fisherman’s Wharf. Sure the cable cars are fun but not if you have to wait an hour to hop aboard. The old trams from around the world (including Melbourne) run down Market Street from the wharf to the Castro. Each car is different and equally as character filled. Each trip an adventure in itself.
Once we headed beyond the Embarcadero, directions to Fort Mason were sketchy. While the map, on paper at least, showed a clear route down Bay Street, on the ground it was illusive. Instead the footpath lured us over the hill to the marina, through the small National Park. The ascent was bolstered by spectacular views of the bay and the Marina on the other side welcomed us. The sprawling Green Meadows Park felt a million miles away from the homeless in the city centre. But it still took us a considerable amount of time to find the restaurant once we’d made it to the suburb on the other side.
With literally five minutes to spare before the end of lunch service we finally arrived at Greens, relieved to be welcomed to a table at 2.30pm. The stress evaporated as we sat in the light-filled converted warehouse, watching yachts bob outside in front of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. The view is complemented by a spacious interior fit out in mostly reclaimed timber, high ceilings and large artworks.
My only hesitation about Greens had been the menu belying its 70s vego roots. To be honest, perusing the website, none of the few dairy-free offerings seemed that inspiring but I shouldn’t have been concerned. By mid-afternoon and the hike, anything would have tasted good! The food at Greens though simple was the freshest I tasted on my holiday.
My sister’s Spring Sampler sounded a little dull but the plate was ample, the just picked veggies popping with taste.
So too my Mesquite Grilled Brochettes – vegetable and tofu skewers smothered in a tasty green chimichurri sauce, served with a spicy slaw and red/brown rice. The organic baby potatoes and chunks of pale corn were most flavoursome that I’ve ever eaten.
Even the octogenarian omnivore enjoyed his cheesy pizza.
The ambience at Greens enhanced the experienced. While only a couple of diners remained so late in the service (an elderly pair celebrating an anniversary and a middle aged guy the spitting image of all the ‘barefoot millionaires’ I’d met in Oregon on my previous visit) the staff didn’t hurry any of us, as if understanding the importance of atmosphere on digestion.
I’ve mentioned before that Australia doesn’t do high-endveg*n dining well. Without fuss, Greens is beautiful yet relaxed, with a million dollar view, laid back but efficient staff and every sense catered for. It ticks all the boxes with style and good taste.
Much to our surprise, the octogenarian who’d struggled over the hill on the inbound journey wanted to amble back through the sculptures of Green Meadow Park and take in the views of Alcatraz, Fisherman’s wharf and the bridge once more. Without the pressure of time and unknown geography and relaxed from a satisfying lunch washed down with an organic beer, we could relax into the beauty of the small National Park.
Greens is worth an excursion, so close to the hackneyed San Francisco tourist sights but a million miles away from the urban tension. Choose it for the sheer simple flavours of the produce, inspiring natural design of the restaurant and the iconic views. But most of all Greens is a spa for the senses, proving simplicity of flavour wins over culinary trickery every time.