With a flourish and a staff of literally dozens, SweetGreen opened their fifth storefront this morning on Capitol Hill.  Staffers and interns can rejoice in a new (and, more importantly) healthy lunch option.  While it may not be a ‘food desert,’ the healthier lunch options in the vicinity of the Congressional office buildings have been few and far between.

I took a walk past the Pennsylvania Avenue location at lunchtime, wondering just what I’d find in the old Trover Books space.  Would the green in SweetGreen show through?  Or would they emphasize the sweet to bring in the crowds?

As it turns out, there’s plenty of both with an entire floor’s worth of space left to spare.  And after an abbreviated opening (they closed early at 4 PM) yesterday, they’re now ready to handle the crowds from 11 AM to 10 pM daily.

After the jump, check out their fresh, local focus (and maybe some frozen yogurt while you’re at it).

SweetGreen has come a long way from its beginnings as  a fro-yo and salad concept in a beloved hole-in-the-wall on Georgetown’s M Street.  They’ve grown on the strength of good flavors, smart expansions and marketing, and what seems to be an honest commitment to a variety of environmentally-friendly ideals.  It probably doesn’t hurt that the yogurt is addictive and the signature salads are generally well-balanced and tasty.

With their three-year anniversary still a few weeks away, SweetGreen has already expanded into four more brick-and-mortar locations (a sixth will be opening this summer in Reston).  And they were on the cutting edge of the food truck renaissance, bringing their yogurt – as well as some delicious oatmeal in the mornings – to the masses via SweetFlow Mobile.  Fresh, local, yogurt, mobile…with the exception of cupcakes, they’ve capitalized on just about every major food trend to come through DC in the past three years.

They take those first two trends – fresh and local – pretty seriously at SweetGreen.  So much so that they hired Erin Littlestar to ensure that they’re working directly with as many local farmers and vendors as possible in the creation of their menu.  Littlestar’s pioneering work in local buying at the DC Central Kitchen is one of the things that has made their program so impressive, so you can only imagine what that has done to SweetGreen’s efforts to source locally.  And you’ve got to love her self-created title: the Sourceress.

For my inaugural visit to their new Capitol Hill location, I decided to check out the best of the season in their June Salad.  While they’ve got a repertoire of ten ‘signature’ salads, they also like to highlight what’s fresh in a seasonal salad.  In this case, it included radishes, chopped sugar snap peas, mesclun greens, basil and brie topped with a light champagne vinaigrette.  Served with a slice of bread (they described it as white but it tasted decidedly like sourdough to me) or rolled up in a whole wheat wrap, this is a satisfying meal all by itself.

Of course, there are those who would suggest that the only reason to get a salad at SweetGreen is to justify the subsequent purchase of their delightfully tangy frozen yogurt.  This is no sugary sweet, TCBY-style fro-yo.  Think about the sharp tang of Greek yogurt, then add in a little bit of lemon and some sugar to cut the acidity and you’ve pretty much got it.  We’ve already expressed our love for this yogurt when we’ve had it in Georgetown and from SweetFlow Mobile, but you’ll want to check it out for yourself.

Go ahead, Hill staffers…you’ve earned it.

221 Pennsylvania Ave., SE
Washington, DC
SweetGreen on Urbanspoon