Healthy fast-casual concept Sweetgreen opened its first Atlanta location at Ponce City Market last week.
Founded in Washington, D.C., in 2007, with a mission statement that reads “building healthier communities by connecting people to real food,” the company currently owns and operates some 120 locations across the U.S., from California to Connecticut.
Recently, it’s been expanding in the Southeast, with at least three more restaurants planned for Atlanta, including one at Colony Square in Midtown.
Last week, Sweetgreen co-founder and co-CEO Nic Jammet was at the Ponce City Market restaurant to help usher in opening day.
“We started Sweetgreen almost 14 years ago, when I was a senior in college at Georgetown, with my two co-founders and friends, Nathaniel Ru and Jonathan Neman,” Jammet said. “We opened our first restaurant in Georgetown a month after graduation. The three of us still run the business together. We still sit in one office, with one desk in our support center.
“The vision was to create a fast-food healthy option that was a place that you could feel good about the food, but enjoy the experience, and connect with the brand. When we looked around, all the places where the food was the most craveable, or most accessible, were all the least healthy. So we wanted to create that same set of desires, but with healthy food.”
Though you can customize anything and everything, the Sweetgreen menu features seasonally selected salads, bowls, plates, sides and beverages, with an emphasis on fresh ingredients that are sustainably sourced, often from local farms and purveyors. In Atlanta, Alon’s Bakery, Allison’s Honey, Calyroad Creamery, and Kemboocha are among the businesses Sweetgreen is supporting.
Newly introduced, Sweetgreen at Ponce City Market has a Blackened Catfish Bowl that’s exclusive to Atlanta. It’s layered with shredded cabbage, raw carrots, red onions, basil, spicy sunflower seeds, warm wild rice, baby spinach, lemon squeeze, and green goddess ranch dressing. There’s also a Peach and Burrata salad, with tomatoes, cucumbers, basil, mint, roasted almonds, spring mix, shredded kale, and balsamic vinaigrette.
“The menu is really focused on how we source, and a supply chain that embraces regionality, seasonality, and just having a direct connection with the growers and food partners,” Jammet said. “The minute we start looking for real estate, we start looking for farms and farmers markets. Our supply team comes to learn as much as we can about the local food, and who the local growers are that we want to partner with. But for us, the focus is not about being hyper local, it’s about transparency and sustainability.”
Asked about the decision to bring Sweetgreen to Atlanta, Jammet said he believes it was an obvious choice at this point in the company’s growth.
“I consider us the lucky ones to be able to come to Atlanta and open and bring our food and brand here,” he said. “It’s a city we’ve been excited about for so long. From what we’ve learned, it seems like such a vibrant food culture and arts culture. It’s a really exciting community, with a really amazing supply chain.”
While the Sweetgreen kitchens, order counters and pickup and delivery areas are similar at all locations, the build-out and decor are unique to each restaurant.
In Atlanta, the company partnered with TILA Studios in East Point, a visual arts incubator that elevates Black female artists and provides them with opportunities to showcase their work.
Atlanta textile artist Honey Pierre created a wall-mounted work that serves as the centerpiece of the dining area, with a floating tableau of organic shapes inspired by the changing seasons in the city.
“This design is different from anything we’ve built,” Jammet said. “The idea is to make each one feel like they were built with the city in mind.”
10:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Mondays-Sundays.
Dine-in, pickup and delivery available. Masks required for dine-in service.
650 North Ave. NE, Suite 102B, Atlanta. 770-766-8500, sweetgreen.com.