What you see is what you eat at Sweetgreen Santa Monica, the new outpost of a rapidly growing farm-to-salad-bowl chain opening on Tuesday. Sweetgreen, which made its L.A. debut with its West Third Street location in May, favors transparency. It likes to stress that all of its salads are created from scratch in-house, so its new Santa Monica restaurant, at Fourth Street and Santa Monica Boulevard, will feature a walk-in glass cooler for customers to peep all the local produce.
“When the customers line up, they walk by the glass walk-in, they’re really looking into our fridge,” Sweetgreen co-founder Nicolas Jammet says.
There’s also an open kitchen so you can see your greens and grains assembled in front of you. Selections can be completely customized, or there are signature salads like the popular Kale Caesar, Rad Thai, and Guacamole Greens, as well as grain bowls like the Wild Child. Plus, there are L.A.-specific specials that change five times a year. (Sweetgreen has different seasonal menus in each of its cities.) Current headliners include the Watermelon + Feta and a roasted eggplant and shredded kale concoction known as the Baby Ganoush that Jammet says is one of his new favorites.
“The idea for us is that it’s all about celebrating the natural cycles and the growing seasons and what’s coming out of the ground,” Jammet says. And, of course, there’s no better place to do this than endless-summer California.
Visitors to Sweetgreen Santa Monica can enjoy their greens inside at the 2,300-square-foot restaurant’s custom-built communal table or grab a seat outdoors on the patio, steps from the Third Street promenade and a quick stroll from the beach and the city’s most buzzed-about farmers market.
Sweetgreen, a tech-minded food company with its own ordering app and an investment from AOL co-founder Steve Case’s venture-capital firm, seems like a natural fit for the Silicon Beach-meets-healthy-lifestyle vibe of Santa Monica.
“The most exciting part for me besides the beach is being this close to the farmers market,” Jammet says. “Every time we go to L.A., we make a point of stopping by the market on Wednesdays.”
Santa Monica reminds Jammet of when he and partners Jonathan Neman and Nathaniel Ru opened their second Sweetgreen outpost, in Washington D.C. near the famously bountiful Dupont Circle farmers market. While Sweetgreen is an East Coast company started by friends who met when they were Georgetown students, Neman and Ru are L.A. natives whose families are still here. So opening in Santa Monica solidifies their homecoming.
“A lot of what we believe about food and lifestyle is really inspired by California,” Jammet says.
Being so close to farmers allows the company to cultivate close relationships with produce wizards like Oxnard’s Tamai Family Farms, which has supplied Sweetgreen with strawberries and even attended a company orientation.
Sweetgreen is part of a new wave of casual eateries making grab-and-go dining a breeze in Santa Monica. Gourmet marketplace Joan’s on Third recently opened on Ocean Avenue. Sandwich slinger Mendocino Farms and the beloved Sidecar Doughnuts both have plans to open at Wilshire and Seventh Street this fall. Belcampo’s new butcher shop on Wilshire has bone broth to go and microwaveable meals. And, of course, established neighborhood favorites include Huckleberry Cafe, Santa Monica Seafood, Bay Cities, and Tender Greens.
Tender Greens and Sweetgreen have something in common besides being places where you can build your own salads. Shake Shack baron Danny Meyer, whose Union Square Hospitality Group recently invested in Tender Greens, is one of Sweetgreen’s backers. Shake Shack, of course, is debuting in L.A. next year with a West Hollywood location.
Life is about balance: There are days for salads and days for bacon cheeseburgers. Maybe it’s time to point out that Shake Shack would likely do well in Santa Monica too.
Sweetgreen Santa Monica, 1343 Fourth St. The restaurant opens at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, August 18 and will serve until 10 p.m. All proceeds from the first day will be donated to L.A.’s Garden School Foundation.