Living the Sweet Life: My Ode to SweetGreen
April 26, 2012

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See that photo? That was taken three days ago, from inside a cubicle at the Georgetown library, where I had been parked for days, studying Orgo. Needless to say, a week bivouacked at the library with Orgo notes and intermittent bouts of frustrated crying can bring one’s spirits down. What quickly elevates them is good food, and in my case, the food has lately been a whole lot of salads from my favorite DC eatery: SweetGreen.

“Favorite eatery” is a big title, but let’s remember: I am a salad junkie. I could easily and happily eat salad thrice daily from here to eternity, and when the salads are as tasty as those SweetGreen offers, I’m happy to indulge. Beyond that, I love the ideals of the restaurant chain—it sources local, sustainable ingredients, and it works to keep on top of changes in the foodgeist. Kale chips, quinoa, and other plant-based superfoods abound on the menu. And in spite of the fact that SweetGreen is not a dedicated vegan eatery, it is a very vegan-friendly eatery. Two of the restaurant’s eight menu salads/wraps are vegan, and all can be modified. If you, like me, like to create your own combinations anyway, you’ll have legumes, grains, sweet potatoes, and plenty of seasonal veggies to choose from. And did I mention that when you request avocado, you get a whole half avocado? Not misery quarters or eights at this joint.

To give you some background, SweetGreen is (obviously) best known as a place to get salad, but the restaurant—which has locations throughout DC and in Philadelphia—is also a place to enjoy frozen yogurt, soups (which are, as far as I know, almost always vegan and gluten free), grain bowls (barley and quinoa base) and sassy drinks like cucumber ginger limeade. The restaurant uses 100% plant-based, compostable packaging, LED lighting, and even the furniture is made from reclaimed wood and old bowling wood. SweetGreen composts leftover food, and some locations have solar panels built into the roof. Best of all, the company was founded by some very entrepreneurial Georgetown students, so of course I feel a sense of alumnal pride.

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You can read more about the restaurant’s philosophy here, but the tagline is “food that fits,” and it’s apt. SweetGreen offers healthy food that is also accessible, fast, and delicious, no matter what kind of eater you are. I’ve had plenty of experience with chopped salad in my day, and until I move to DC, I was pretty devoted to Chop’t, but I have to admit that SweetGreen puts nearly all other salad spots to shame. I think this is because the locations themselves feel homey—I mean, check out the Georgetown outpost below—but also because they don’t just stock watery vegetables that look as though they’ve just been dumped out of a can. Right now, the SG seasonal menu includes fresh, local strawberries, roast local asparagus, roast sweet potatoes, and spicy roasted broccoli. And that’s just a glimpse of what’s fresh daily.

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Like most people, I have a SG standard salad: avocado, sweet potato, chickpeas, tomatoes, cucumbers, beets, carrots, peppers, broccoli, lemon, and lime.

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That said, I’ve tried (and loved) a ton of other options. I enjoy tossing the slightly spicy quinoa into my salads, and pairing it with white beans. Roasted mushrooms and asparagus are also a favorite, and my recent quinoa salad with grapes and avocado was actually inspired by a SweetGreen salad that I concocted on a whim.

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If the food and ethos isn’t enough, my local friends are also big fans of Sweet Green. One of my favorite traditions after a long week is to meet Valerie on Friday night for SG salads; indeed, Val and I met for the first time ever at the Dupont location!

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And after my final final this past winter, the first thing I did was scurry off campus to meet Anne for a salad there.

In these busy times, I can’t always feed myself, but SweetGreen feeds me the way I would if I were home, with a bevy of vegetables at my disposal. I’m devoting a post to SweetGreen today so that you guys can see some of the lunches and dinners I grab when I can’t make it home for dinner. I’m lucky to be near a location!

DC has one dedicated raw restaurant (Elizabeth’s Gone Raw) and many vegan friendly options in the realm of fine dining (Nora’s, Firefly, and Oyamel, to name a few), but I really urge you to check Sweet Green out if you happen to visit DC or Philly anytime soon. Many of us tend to think that a salad is a salad is a salad, but quality ingredients and smart, forward thinking recipe design can certainly make a huge difference. Sweet Green is proof!

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Before I sign off, did any of you read Sherry Turkle’s article on “the flight from communication” in the Times recently? I typically recoil with anti-technology pieces, if only because, as a blogger, I’ve seen how profoundly, positively life-changing technology can be. My “blog friendships” are no less strong for having been formed through keystrokes: if anything, we share fundamental interests that make our friendships stronger. I also see how the internet allows us to form communities animated by shared passion (like the vegan community) and to support each other through hardship (the recovery community).

That said, Turkle’s point about the “messiness” of human relationships versus the clean cut process of putting one’s life online did speak to me. I’m candid with all of you when I struggle (see: post-bacc), but you do see the best of me here on CR, and I sometimes wonder if perhaps I’ve gotten too used to being perceived through the limited window I offer my readers. I’m also a huge, huge believer in the value of being alone in life—traveling alone, working alone, contemplating and reflecting alone, and generally being capable of moving through the world alone. Turkle also speaks to that point, and says,

We think constant connection will make us feel less lonely. The opposite is true. If we are unable to be alone, we are far more likely to be lonely. If we don’t teach our children to be alone, they will know only how to be lonely.

I don’t actually think that sending text messages or tweets makes me less alone, and indeed, I don’t use those mediums to fight being alone (I never fight being alone; if I have any problem in this arena, it’s that I often need to force myself to be more social!). But I wonder if perhaps others do, and whether the “connectedness” of our tech-savvy culture has in some way infringed upon our ability to be alone. Food for thought, anyway!

As always, curious for your opinions on this. And on salad. SweetGreen or otherwise.

xo

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    22 Comments
  1. s a bit of truth to the mostly fiction tales we were told as kids.
    “Methylcobalamin is required for the function of the folate-dependent enzyme, methionine synthase. Not much research has been done to prove that this is the case though.

  2. oh Gena you are in DC,i didn’t know that. I’d love to meet you one day and explore some raw/vegan dining options here.
    I love sweet green, specially the kale chips, love them! 🙂

  3. Hey girl,

    This post reminded me to tell you that I have moved back to NYC, and your New York Bucket list became my New York To-Do List. I do miss sweet green though.

    Enjoy one for me,
    Maria

  4. Sounds like a dream restaurant! Also I love the quote, I believe it’s very true. No wonder why the wisest people on this planet were always seeking loneliness. While you are along, you get an opportunity to become whole, make your own opinions on things, etc. Then you have something to share with others 🙂

  5. Jonathan Neman (one of the founders) is my boyfriend’s friend’s brother. Of course as soon as I visited DC, Ben (my boyfriend) took me there!! I wish it had locations in Boston. I LOOOVEEE that place 🙂

  6. Everytime I read your blog I am struck by how much you remind me of myself and my friend Jessica!!! She also went to an amazing school, called Bryn Mawr, and she was captain of the track team. I feel like if we knew you in real life, we’d all be friends. I–and I know she does too, totally relate to being a little bit anti-social. We’ll hang out like once a month at most and still are all, “You’re my favorite friend!!” with each other. It seems we are a strong, rare, breed. Strong women who are ABLE to be by themselves and LOVE it are EMPOWERING and don’t you forget it girl!!! I think you are fabulous!!

  7. I visited DC last fall and absolutely loved SweetGreen! I hope wherever I eventually live, there’s one nearby, because I will eat there WAY too often.

  8. SweetGreen is my all time favorite place to eat! Recently I was inspired by their use of raw beets in one of their salads and have started doing this at home too! They are sweet and crunchy and their dark red color is so beautiful! I recently moved from DC to Baltimore and my only wish is that SweetGreen would open a location up here. 😉

  9. Glad you have a fave spot, that serves great food, where you can meetup with a fabulous friend. That last part, the fab friend, will always trump everything else for me! So cherished when you have a friend you can count on when you need one!

  10. Gena, I think I’m green with envy. Wish there was a SweetGreen by me! They sound pretty, uh, suh-weet!

    I think the “alone together” phenomenon discussed in this article is an interesting one. I believe there are both benefits and disadvantages of technology and increased electronic connectedness. As you allude to in your comment, I think technology can be great for introverts. I would love to see a full post with your perspective on this topic and I highly recommend Susan Cain’s book, Quite: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking.

  11. Gena, I feel the same about salads as you! Sweet Greens Logan is 2 blocks away, as is Whole Foods, and both are spoilers. Thanks much for sharing the NY Times article. This perspective gives us a chance to “raise our consciousness” about living life to the fullest — online and offline. I cherish my time alone, rarely experience loneliness and feel that my solitude adds tremedous value to my social activities.

  12. I completely agree about the different qualities of salads out there. For me, I love a salad that’s light on the lettuce and heavy on the amazing vegetables like avocado, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and many of the other ingredients you’ve mentioned here.

    As for the technology side of things, I’m also the type that could stand to be more social and I think the internet helps me to explore that side of myself. I’m an introvert through and through, but online, sometimes it can be a little bit easier to socialize.

  13. Hey Gena! I (heart) SweetGreen. I live in New Orleans but travel to DC at least once a month for work. Knowing I have a SG nearby when I travel is so resssuring! In two weeks, I will be moving to DC to start a monthlong work internship. I’ll be staying a few blocks from the Foggy Bottom location, where I will be a regular 🙂 I’ll keep a lookout for ya! Thanks for your dedicated and regular postings, I read everyday!

  14. SweetGreen is seriously awesome! Here in Palo Alto, CA we have a similar establishment called Cafe Sprout, but I find them to be a little stingy with the hearty ingredients…this from a girl who hardly eats a salad without at least half of a good-sized avocado on top! I’m more interested in the second half of your post, though, and I wanted to thank you for being so candid on this subject. I agree that these online friendships can be very positive and rewarding, though for many people it can be yet another way of comparing themselves to others. People do tend to put the “best” of themselves – as if there were such a thing! – online, and it can be very disheartening to look around and see that everyone is having a more exciting, more inspired, more (insert word), life than one’s own. It’s an issue that I think will be very problematic for our generation, having become so dependent on social networks like Twitter and Facebook, and I can only imagine what the social world will look like for my future children! As long as we are conscious of the fact that what one uses as a profile is not necessarily a realistic portrait, I think web-based socializing is wonderful — and super convenient for full-time (introvert) graduate students like myself!! Turkle’s point about the real need to be comfortable alone resonated with me, too. But I think that may be part of a much larger cultural issue than just a symptom of the technology age. I’m curious about what your other readers think!

  15. I forgot to tell you that my sister and I ate at the dupont circle location when were there a few weeks back. Thanks for the recommendation. I agree. Chop’t doesn’t hold a candle!

    Thanks for the link. I relish alone time. Some of my greatest periods of growth have been while traveling alone.

  16. Good luck with O-Chem, Gena, you’re almost done! The NYT article was thought-provoking, thank you for pointing it out. I think my experience with increased social technology has been similar to yours in that I’ve become more social and connected which, for this introvert, has been a good thing. Finding old friends and classmates on Facebook and making new friends in the blogosphere has done wonders for my social life and challenged me socially more than my pre-iPhone interactions ever did. I do remind myself to find balance, though, and still seek solitude and “aloneness” through my yoga practice and evenings spent reading. I certainly don’t have issues having conversations with people, but given that most of my friends are scattered around the country, I’m grateful for technology for bringing us together in convenient, accessible ways!