There are plenty of restaurants that serve healthy eats. Few can do so with mouthwatering success. Fewer still see that “healthy” isn’t just about the impact of food on the body, but its impact on the world. Enter Sweetgreen.
The sustainable enterprise first launched in 2007 in Georgetown, spearheaded by a group of recent college graduates. Sweetgreen expanded rapidly and continues to grow, now boasting about 20 eateries – and not just in the Washington, D.C. area, but also in the New York City, Boston, and Philadelphia metropolitan areas.
Northern Virginia is home to four of the restaurants, including a location in Ballston that opened about three years ago. From the moment you step inside, the sustainable message is clear. Recycling and compost bins sit aside the traditional trash can. The silverware and cups are inscribed with the message that they can be composted. Reclaimed wood can be found around the dining room. Salad blasters, reusable and lidded containers for salad, are sold from a display. A chalkboard near the start of the salad-and-wrap assembly line details the farms from which the restaurant’s organic ingredients are sourced, many located as nearby as Maryland.
While these local and organic elements are certainly satisfying to the sustainability-minded, the healthy and tasty food here goes a step further.
Nine signature ingredient combinations in all, including an ever-changing seasonal option, can be tossed into a bowl or tucked into a wrap. The recipes are undeniably inventive. The Guacamole Greens ($9.50) takes its inspiration from the dip, with big chunks of tortilla chip and avocado combined with grape tomatoes halves, diced red onion, and cubes of roasted chicken. Sure, it’s all served over mesclun greens, but the toppings draw the focus. And a bite of the greens, drizzled in a super-citrusy lime cilantro jalapeno vinaigrette, speared with some avocado and onion comes surprisingly close to the flavor of guacamole.
Even traditional salad combinations are served with a twist at Sweetgreen. The District Cobb ($11.50) leaves iceberg in the dust with its blend of shredded kale and chopped romaine. Slivers of boiled egg give up their yolk, which is as smooth as the goat cheese that spreads throughout the greens. Avocado plays a similar role. The raw corn is surprisingly sweet, and grape tomatoes add to the blend of textures. The salad is served not only with chicken, but also bacon crumbles with taste amplified against the agave dijon vinaigrette.
While most of the salads are made with chilled ingredients, the Earth Bowl ($9.00) adds warm quinoa and farro to arugula, with chicken, tomatoes, corn, big hunks of lightly spicy broccoli, and potent cubes of white cheddar cheese, all tossed in pesto vinaigrette.
There’s also a do-it-yourself salad and wrap option, both starting at a base cost of $6.35 and increasing with the topping selection from the restaurant’s wide array of organic eats – red beets, chickpeas, sprouts, tofu, falafel, truffle oil, and more.
For dessert, there’s yogurt, served in two flavors – a tart and icy plain yogurt and a dark chocolate variety with cocoa flavor uninterrupted by excessive sweetness. (The yogurt costs $4 for a small and $6 for a large, each with the choice of three free toppings.)
While Sweetgreen’s commitment to sustainability is indisputably admirable, it’s the overall ease of dining here that leaves a lasting impression. Counting calories? They’re listed on the menu. Have dietary restrictions? All salads and wraps are made to order, and easily customized. But most of all, if you’re looking for a healthy, tasty meal, Sweetgreen has what you need.
Sweetgreen is located at 4075 Wilson Blvd., Arlington. For more information, call 703-522-2016 or visit sweetgreen.com. Restaurant hours are Monday – Saturday: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. and Sunday: 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.