EVAN DUCHARME/SPECIAL TO THE  S.F. EXAMINERGreen Heart Foods’ flavorful avocado toast is nicely dressed with sesame and red onions.

EVAN DUCHARME/SPECIAL TO THE S.F. EXAMINERGreen Heart Foods’ flavorful avocado toast is nicely dressed with sesame and red onions.

Mission’s Green Heart Foods is a healthy gold mine

In those papusa-laden, chorizo-packed corridors of the Mission, finding a gorgeous kale salad feels a bit like spotting a rare ibis in a strip mall. In a way, Green Heart Foods is like an exotic bird: elegant, uncommon and a little bit enchanting. The new cafe is the tiny, public-facing offspring of a larger catering operation by the same name, helmed by chef-turned-holistic-nutritionist Lisa Chatham.

The project aims, at its heart, to pull us (and the tech companies it caters to) away from the standard American diet (SAD). The strategy? Simple. Cooking slowly and tasting good.

Judging by scant sales, I suppose the cafe wasn’t meant to make money. It was meant as a mouthpiece for a movement, a pretty showcase of what lovely, healthy food looks like. It’s attractive enough to feel like an insidious scheme — offering mounds of blindingly pretty greens to bait us away from chicken wings and pizza lunches, to snatch us from the cold, hard grip of quick and thoughtless eating. In a word, to save us. Happily, that’s a tasty affair.

Breakfast at the cafe is rich with superfoods and snacky vegan bits. Goji berries and maple syrup brighten up a coconut chia seed pudding, passing as a kind of post-yoga snack, named Superhero Breakfast.

The Green Heart Smoothie — including blueberries, cashews, coconut butter, Vitamineral Green powder, cacao and maca — looks like pond sludge but tastes better and (probably) does unspeakably good things for your body.

On the lunch side, things are cozier.

The menu’s rhythm is consistent: one daily vegan muffin, frittata, soup, three salads, and a weekly blue plate.

There is ample skill in the kitchen, and recipes are bold in their simplicity. My frittata was standard, peppered with spinach and paper-thin coins of zucchini, but the weekly blue plate — plump, braised chicken thighs wrapped in a sweet, warm helping of mashed butternut squash and sage — triumphed quietly. The chicken, expertly braised, fell away from itself in a cloud of white wine-scented steam.

The avocado toast uncovers refreshing restraint and textural discipline. Smeared on housemade seedy bread and dressed up with black sesame and astringent red onions, it’s a perfect stack.

The salads are apt displays of Chatham’s culinary sensibility and her healthful priorities. Simple renditions find tender leaves of kale slicked with a bright, nutty olive oil, tossed with delicata squash and candied walnuts.

Then, we have the farro — the salad that colonized my entire memory of the food here. Wrinkled, roasted pears are a brilliantly soft acid to counter rich goat cheese, mild arugula, warm toasted hazelnuts and toothsome grain. Adding a sensible mix of oils (olive, truffle) and some sherry vinegar makes for an Elysian dish. The whole thing quickly reminded me how predictably, embarrassingly, a deftly deployed truffle can shatter my senses.

Green Heart Foods exudes positive feelings, in part because everyone who works here seems buoyant, healthy. Swarthy. Happy, even. I don’t want to buy in, but resistance is futile. Whatever the local, organic version of Kool-Aid is, I want to drink it.

That Green Heart Foods makes beautiful food is important. We don’t get to arrive at this intersection often, where nutrition and superb culinary prowess land in the same conversation. And while some of us have time to heed Michael Pollan’s directive to get back into the kitchen, workaholic “brogrammers” and others can’t necessarily do that. It warms my heart, now, that someone is feeding them.

Green Heart Foods

Location: 3321 20th St. (at Folsom Street), S.F.

Contact: (415) 800-8910, www.greanheartfoods.com

Hours: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Friday

Price range: $3 to $13

Recommended dishes: Avocado toast ($3), Green Heart smoothie ($9), Superhero Breakfast ($8)

Credit cards: All major

Reservations: Not acceptedFeaturesFood & DrinkFood and WineGreen Heart FoodsLisa Chatham

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Construction in the Better Market Street Project between Fifth and Eighth streets is expected to break ground in mid-2021.<ins></ins>
SFMTA board to vote on Better Market Street changes

Agency seeks to make up for slimmed-down plan with traffic safety improvements

Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Currey (30) tallied 26 points and seven assists at Monday night’s game against the Lakers. (Chris Victorio for the S.F. Examiner).
Warriors overcome 19-point deficit to stun defending-champion Lakers 115-113

Ladies and gentlemen, the Golden State Warriors are officially back. Stephen Curry… Continue reading

U.S. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris speaks during an event to name President-elect Joe Biden’s economic team at the Queen Theater on Dec. 1, 2020, in Wilmington, Del. (Alex Wong/Getty Images/TNS)
Kamala Harris to resign from Senate

Bridget Bowman CQ-Roll Call Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will resign from the… Continue reading

A view of Science Hall at the City College of San Francisco Ocean campus on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
CCSF begins search for next chancellor amid new challenges

‘It’s arguably the biggest single responsibility the board has,’ trustee says

Some people are concerned that University of California, San Francisco’s expansion at its Parnassus campus could cause an undesirable increase in the number of riders on Muni’s N-Judah line.<ins></ins>
Will UCSF’s $20 million pledge to SFMTA offset traffic woes?

An even more crowded N-Judah plus increased congestion ahead cause concern

Most Read