Mostly millennials lit up social media in anticipation of Sweetgreen, the salad and grain bowl chain’s entrée into Atlanta. Opened last month in the Ponce City Market, avid fans had relished Sweetgreen meals in Los Angeles, D.C. and other cities.
Soon to open in Lenox Square and Colony Square, Sweetgreen goes head on with Flower Child, CAVA and smaller players such as Kale Me Crazy and Salata. All took up the gap left by COVID changes in hand-touching salad bars and fill the thriving market for fresh, healthy, local, build-your-own, quickly prepared, easy takeout or eat in casual and app-oriented upbeat food.
Sweetgreen was launched in 2007 by three college students who wanted to reimagine fast food and be community conscious. Amy Fingerhut, first vice president at CBRE, represented Sweetgreen in their Atlanta expansion. “I am from the D.C. suburbs where Sweetgreen was born. I was crazy fan since they opened store number 2 in Dupont Circle. When I was approached to represent them in 2015 to open in Atlanta, I was beyond ecstatic, especially being so passionate about the concept (and that I eat salads every day).
“We had a lot of starts and stops as LA jumped over Atlanta for expansion and some other markets; but by 2019 it was finally going to be Atlanta. There is always the rewarding feeling when you see a restaurant or retailer come to life in your hometown that you worked so hard to make happen, but this one felt just that little extra special.”
Note that Sweetgreen is not part of the Ponce City Market food court, which is limited to local vendors and not chain based. Thus, in an adjacent outdoor square, Sweetgreen has its own storefront next to the ever-popular Sephora cosmetics.
Buzz words are sustainability, seasonability, watchful of allergies, made “in house” dressing, and the freshest of produce. Atlanta has unique peach-oriented offerings (a la peach+berry burrata.) The menu has categories: warm bowls, sides, salads, plates and beverages. Entrees start at $10.50 and man o man is it hard to chose! We went with a Warm Pesto Protein Bowl loaded with kale, wild rice, spicy broccoli, chickpeas, black lentils, almonds, sunflower seeds and avocado with two dressings to sample on the side: Pesto vinaigrette and Caesar, both of which were rich and still low fat. Then we split the Shroomami Bowl, equally yummy with roasted sesame tofu (our tofu was a bit oversalted), portobello mushrooms, raw beets, cucumber, basil, kale, wild rice, with orange-hued miso sesame dressing. Fun additions could be mint leaves or za’atar, a Middle Eastern spice. There are large portions with leftovers!
Chicken and catfish are proteins which we eschewed, but looked appealing for those in those camps. Some Sweetgreen locations offer steelhead trout.
What we would order next time:
Veggie Caesar with roasted sweet potato
Guacamole Greens with lime cilantro jalapeño vinaigrette
Harvest Bowl with quinoa, apples, goat cheese, raw pecans and balsamic vinaigrette
A side of rosemary focaccia looked inviting at $1.95, 230 calories. Carbs are also labeled. Every single item has calorie count.
Beverages galore one would expect with such a hip menu: Pink Lady Apple Kombucha, Moon Goddess, hibiscus and jasmine green teas, sparkling waters.
The app is user friendly and the customer is in the driver’s seat, easy to switch items, defer to allergies and substitutions, or build your own.
For pickups, each order has a “shelf window time” for food safety that won’t lay around at room temp, and later a “consume time” (about three hours) from the pickup time for eating at home.
Food precision restrictions are also made clear. Sweetgreen lists soy, nuts, dairy, gluten, meat and fish as those preferences (or lack thereof) noted on the app.
Sweetgreen is located at 650 North Avenue. I had no luck in calling and reaching a local connection. Calls were referred to texting to a central bot.