Salad lovers were waiting in a line as tidy as a freshly planted field of kale during our inaugural visit to the just-opened Sweetgreen in Linden Square. The 1,700 sq. ft. space — which used to hold Bonsoir, purveyor of pretty linens and home decor items (now located at 873 Worcester St Suite #1) — now houses a business that aims to keep customers beautiful on the inside. It’s all about the greens, people.
Grab a tray and set it down on the cafeteria-style tray slide. Place your order, and the employee behind the discreet but effective sneeze guard will assemble your salad as you walk along, ogling the beautiful butternut squash, parsnips, tomatoes, portobello mushrooms, goat cheese, parmesan chesse, wild rice, quinoa, and more, so much more. It’s what you would have in your refrigerator if you finally acted on that New Year’s resolution to shop three times a week, eat healthy three times a day, and make it all yourself. It’s late February, so how’s that working out for you lately?
Never mind, Sweetgreen has you covered. The fast-casual sit-down restaurant that seats about 30 keeps all their healthy ingredients on full display in stainless steel bins. This cool-to-be-kind treatment keeps the leafy stuff cool, and thus perky and fresh. For sure, you won’t see any wilted arugula in an environment this dedicated to freshness and hygiene.
Some menu items currently on offer: Curry Chickpea; Winter Squash and Blue Cheese; Miso Bowl; Shroomami; Pesto Portobello; Kale Caesar; Guacamole Greens; Rad Tahi; Hummus Tahina. There are vegan and gluten-free options.
In this Petter Rabbit dream world, you’ll find leafy greens of every sort — romaine, kale, spinach, organic spinach, mesclun, arugula. It’s health in a bowl. It’s also a $10 salad, the one you could make at home if only your greens weren’t a little wilted and sad, and only if you knew how to duplicate the savoriness of Sweetgreen’s umami walnuts or their roasted sesame tofu. Try not to get too down on yourself. Face it, no one wants to pull eight ingredients out of the fridge and set to the task of chopping, shredding, and seasoning just to have to clean it all up. When I put it that way, it starts to sound worth it to have someone do all that for you, with a smile.
That’s the gamble Sweetgreen is making, and it’s not much of a gamble. They’re shooting for fish in a barrel here in Wellesley, and they know it. What’s more, the fish have been begging to be shot. A couple of comments on our Facebook page from besotted and exultant fans about the opening: “I’m crying tears of joy!” and, “Thank Christ.” Not sure if they were at a revival meeting or a restaurant. Can I get an amen?
The chalkboard on the wall boasts a list of no fewer than 35 healthy ingredients in use on that day. Damn, I didn’t know there were that many healthy ingredients in the world. I compared my kitchen ingredients with theirs (why do I torture myself?). I’ll admit it, the perishables that are in my fridge look as though they have officially perished. My quinoa has just about reached its expiration date. And I’ve never even tasted kabocha squash.
On our visit it was a raw winter night, so I tried out their Pesto Portobello Warm Bowl. The 775-calorie warm quinoa, organic arugula, roasted chicken, warm portobello mix, raw corn, hot chickpeas, spicy broccoli, and pesto vinaigrette was served up quickly. Every ingredient was beautiful, and the portion side was generous. Bob tried out the Miso Bowl, made of shredded kale, organic wild rice, miso-glazed vegetables, basil, shredded cabbage, roasted chicken, roasted almonds, miso sesame ginger dressing. “It’s one way to get me to eat more slowly,” said my co-blogger, who is more apt to seek out a dinner that’s a bit more substantial.
Locavores have ample reason to be thrilled with the chain’s devotion to area farmers. Managers at the individual 80+ locations are empowered by corporate to seek out the freshest ingredients from the region’s food producers. Local places that are contributing their bounty to the Wellesley location: Ward’s Berry Farm (Sharon); Happy Valley Farm (Whately, Sunderland, Hadley and North Amherst); Westfield Farms; Iggy’s (the Cambridge bakery supplies the bread); Carlisle Honey (Tyngsborough). The full menu is rounded out by crops grown at around 20 other farms around the country.
Mixed in with all these transitory ingredients are plenty of hipster design elements. Polished concrete floors? Check. Monstera plant in the corner? Check. Gleaming white tiles with white grout? Check. Stainless steel everything else. Oh yeah, they’ve got that.
I asked a staff member how they handle their food waste. “We send any leftover fresh ingredients home with staff, but we really are pretty good at estimating the needs of each location. We’ll get even better at that here in Wellesley as we go along.”
Just to amuse myself, I will likely plow my way through each menu item as I go along through winter. But I’m already picturing warm summer nights sitting in the Linden Square courtyard, salad in front of me as I convince myself it’s not too late to get beach-body ready. At the very least, I’ve now got one more way to eat my greens and one less excuse to shun healthy living.
180 Linden Square
Open Monday – Sunday, 10:30am – 9pm