Greens Restaurant – Vegetarianism Zen And Now

Greens Restaurant is one of the most celebrated vegetarians restaurants in the world and has been a consistent member of the Top 100 Bay Area restaurant as listed by the San Francisco Chronicle, recognized as one of America's best restaurants by Zagat, and listed in the Michelin Guide. Greens' executive chef, Annie Somerville, is a pioneer in the farm-to-table movement and works closely with local organic farmers.

The San Francisco Zen Center opened the 130-seat restaurant in 1979. And since 1985, Annie Somerville has been the executive chef and the best-selling cookbook author of the award-winning cookbooks, Fields of Greens and Everyday Greens. Located at the historic Fort Mason Center, Greens overlooks the Marina with sweeping views of the Golden Gate Bridge.


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Greens Cuisine

sweeping views of the Golden Gate Bridge

For decades, Greens Restaurant has been a leader in the cooking revolution in America. Through its inventive, ever-changing menus and bestselling cookbooks, Greens has introduced millions of fans to a sophisticated, vegetarian cuisine packed with satisfying flavor.

As you might expect, the menu uses local, seasonal ingredients with an emphasis on organically grown fruits and vegetables. A popular seasonal first course is peaches from Blossom Bluff Orchards, grilled over charcoal and served on a bed of watercress with a drizzle of local honey and a sprinkling of sea salt and crumbled with fresh goat cheese. We also love the roasted cauliflower salad with capers, pine nuts, fresh mint, escarole, radicchio and dandelion greens with an assertive Dijon vinaigrette. The menu changes often, but here's a sample of what you might find on the lunch, brunch or dinner menu.

  • Roasted figs and burrata cheese on grilled sourdough bread with arugula & endive
  • Wilted kale salad with seasonal apples, almonds, shaved pecorino & Dijon sherry vinaigrette
  • Local baby lettuce, and red endive with Asian pears, oranges, pistachios and pear vinaigrette
Main Courses
  • Fire roasted poblano chili with quinoa, butternut squash, grilled onions, goat cheese, cilantro, salsa, avocado & crème fraîche
  • Green curry with coconut milk, lemongrass, ginger, galangal, Thai bird chilies and cilantro, served with green papaya salad
  • Wild mushroom shepherd's pie with caramelized onions, mashed potatoes and roasted mushroom sauce
  • Garlic-parsley fettuccine with Beluga lentils, rapini, spring onions, olive oil, goat cheese, grana padano
  • Broccoli di Ciccio & Feta Pizza & asiago cheese
  • Mesquite grilled brochettes — mushrooms, fennel, sweet potatoes, red onions and tofu with chimichurri, brown and red rice with pumpkin seeds and cabbage slaw
  • Apple Galette with butter pecan ice cream, caramel & candied almonds (vegan)
  • Chocolate Mousse with a coconut crust, chocolate sauce & coconut sorbet (vegan)
  • Butterscotch pot de creme with toffee sauce, whipped cream & shortbread

The Chef

Annie Somerville

Annie Somerville arrived at the restaurant in 1981 and has been executive chef since 1985. That's, like, about a million years in restaurant life. Somerville trained under Greens' original chef, Deborah Madison. She collaborates with her sous chefs to plan menus and oversees the kitchen staff. Somerville hails from Michigan and came to California to study at Humboldt State University. She then studied at the Zen Center and gravitated towards cooking. Although she has no formal culinary education, she has been a major force in the organic food scene of San Francisco.


A Work of Art

Greens Interior

Greens Restaurant is a work of art, built by master craftsman Paul Discoe and San Francisco Zen Center carpenters. The floor-to-ceiling windows offer panoramic views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Marin Headlands, and the Marina. The restaurant's decor uses twelve kinds of wood, from the black walnut entry doors and the stairs made of hickory wood, to the curved bar featuring cedar. The dining tables are built from maple, walnut, and cherry. The original construction was made without nails using Japanese joinery techniques. The paintings that line the walls are by Bay Area artist Willard Dixon and the redwood centerpiece sculpture is by Inverness artist, J.B. Blunk.

Greens' Suppliers

Green Gulch Farm

Just as important as the cooking is the quality of the ingredients used by Greens. Greens sources organic dairy products from Cow Girl Creamery in nearby Tomales Bay and goat milk cheeses from Andante Dairy in Santa Rosa. Then there's Laura Chenel's famous goat cheese from Sonoma County, and the Vella Cheese Company. Belleweather Farms of Petaluma supplies fromage blanc and Strauss Family Creamery supplies the butter.

The Wine

Wine has been an important part of the dining experience at Greens since Dick Graff of Chalone Vineyards created the first wine list in 1979. In keeping with tradition, Greens' wine director crafts menus that support winemakers and growers who share Greens commitment to sustainability. Wines are carefully selected — produced in small quantities, by organic, biodynamic, and sustainable methods. Above all, the wines are selected to compliment Greens cuisine.

Green Gulch Farm

Green Gulch Farm was founded in the 1960s and is also a project of the Zen Center. It provides Greens with fresh garden vegetables and herbs year-round — chard, leeks, winter squash, and flowering herbs. Tucked in a valley close to the beach in the Marin headlands, the farm provides Greens with these cool-weather crops year round.

But there's a lot more to the farm that just vegetables. The Green Gulch Farm Zen Center, also called the Green Dragon Temple, is a Buddhist practice center and offers training in Zen meditation. There are workshops, apprenticeship programs, a guest house, and facilities for meetings and conferences. Tea classes, gatherings, and workshops are offered weekly from the authentic Japanese teahouse. Visitors are welcome to visit the garden and nurseries daily from 9 AM to 3 PM. Volunteers can work in the gardens in the mornings.


The Founding of Greens Restaurant

Fort Mason Cente

In 1977, in the Marina District of San Francisco, the Fort Mason Center opened as a nonprofit for arts, education, and community. The Park Service, who oversees Fort Mason, felt there should be a restaurant here. Annie Somerville remembers, "No one wanted to come here. It was a major expenditure to build out a huge warehouse area. The San Francisco Zen Center saw it as a challenge, and stepped up to the challenge."

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