The tiny green and white shack that housed the first Sweetgreen store reopened its doors Tuesday with a brand new mission.
The Tavern, located in the salad chain’s original storefront at 3333 M St. NW, provides fresh, locally sourced produce and ingredients found in the salad shop’s own dishes. The market is also stocked with products from local vendors like Baked & Wired, La Colombe and South Block.
Nic Jammet, co-founder of Sweetgreen, said after building a larger flagship for Sweetgreen on Wisconsin Avenue last year, the three founders devised a way to rework the space that established the popular chain 11 years ago.
During his time as a Georgetown undergraduate, Jammet said the lack of affordable, fresh produce options near campus was apparent. While that idea jumpstarted his company, it also rumbled in his mind after his business expanded beyond the District.
“I remember the pain of having nowhere to go to get good quality ingredients – there were really no farmers markets in Georgetown, no grocery store,” he said.
Unlike the ready-made dishes of Sweetgreen, The Tavern’s veggies are ready to be chopped up and used in any home-cooked meal. Jammet said that he wanted The Tavern to showcase the local sources that have helped Sweetgreen thrive.
“We wanted to build a place where we could showcase all of the amazing farmers we’ve met, all of the amazing farmers we buy from, the producers and the growers to celebrate their products,” he said.
The Tavern’s indoor farmers market stocks its shelves with products from local brands, including Baked and Wired and Gordy’s Pickle Jar, alongside packaged ingredients from Sweetgreen’s own recipes, like the parmesan crisps found in its classic kale Caesar salad.
Fresh veggies like eggplant, squash and peppers sit in baskets and on cooling shelves. In the search for the best farm fresh food, The Tavern primarily sources from the DMV area but some of its vendors stretch to New York, Pennsylvania and South Carolina.
The Tavern’s exterior of green and white remains untouched, as the shack is a historic landmark that originally housed the Little Tavern hamburger chain. Inside, a rendering of the original Sweetgreen shop acts as a reminder of the chain’s humble beginnings, but the space was entirely redone. Green and white tiles stretch up the wall and charming wood accents give the space a modern touch.
The Tavern features all the cornerstones of the salad joints that are stationed around the country – except for ready-made salads. But one of the restaurant’s old favorites makes a comeback. Sweetflow frozen yogurt was part of Sweetgreen’s original concept before it stopped production in 2014, and Jammet said it’s a fan favorite he was excited to bring back.
“It was this healthy, tart, natural, organic yogurt that had seasonal toppings,” Jammet said. “It was this treat that you really enjoyed but didn’t feel guilty about.”
The refreshing, tart treat comes in two sizes, small ($5) and large ($7), with toppings like granola and cacao nibs. Even the toppings are locally sourced, and the yogurt’s subtle flavor and silky texture make it the perfect sweet treat after a salad or workout, Jammet said.
Sweetgreen’s expansion across the country has prompted a demand for more healthy, locally sourced retailers, he said. With about 90 restaurant locations across eight states, The Tavern is the chain store’s first step into retail, which he said allowed them to have freedom in the new space.
“I think we have been on this crazy growth journey over the past couple years, of opening a bunch of restaurants and different markets in different cities across the country,” he said. “To come back to our roots here, to celebrate the producers and the supply chain, is a lot of fun for us.”