Salad restaurant Sweetgreen opens, offers healthy options in Downtown Berkeley

Audrey McNamara/Staff

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A salad chain restaurant launched the store’s first Northern California location Tuesday, bringing a healthier and more conscious way of eating to Downtown Berkeley.

Sweetgreen, founded in 2007 in Washington, D.C., is located at 1890 Shattuck Ave. and occupies the same building as the old-school burger and hot dog joint Oscar’s did before closing last year. In keeping with the historical value of the building, few renovations — such as an outdoor patio for customers — were made to the building, said Nicolas Jammet, co-founder of Sweetgreen.

Embedding itself in the community, Sweetgreen has partnered with the Berkeley Technology Academy in the chain’s homegrown program, which is meant to educate children about healthy eating, according to Sweetgreen spokesperson Nina Anakar. All proceeds made from Sweetgreen’s grand opening will fund the Berkeley Technology Academy garden project, Anakar added.

With three locations in the Los Angeles area already, Sweetgreen in Berkeley will be its fourth site in California.

“We realized that Berkeley was probably one of the more exciting places in terms of a community that knows and understands good food and the food system,” Jammet said. “Berkeley is the epicenter of a lot of change in food and where conversation of good food even started.”

According to Anakar, Sweetgreen will provide five menus, based on each city’s growing season.

“We believe food should taste different in different parts of the area and time of year,” Jammet said.

The falafel and feta salad bowl, for instance — an item that has never been offered before — will be available at Sweetgreen’s Berkeley branch.

Pei Evans, a customer and Berkeley resident who works nearby, has been waiting for Sweetgreen’s opening and hopes the restaurant will provide quality and affordable food choices and will make the Downtown Berkeley area more attractive.

While Sweetgreen will bring an abundance of healthy and nutritious food options to the Berkeley community, it will not necessarily be affordable, said Julia Tubert, a campus junior and Berkeley Food Institute communications assistant.

“The pricing is a tad high, but given that there are so few salad options, it’s definitely worth it as a treat once in a while,” said Juliet Hemmati, a customer and campus sophomore.

Some nearby businesses believe the opening of Sweetgreen will help attract more foot traffic to the area.

Martin Ibarra, co-owner of Berkeley Espresso located on the same block, said the opening of Sweetgreen will not necessarily bring competition but instead may increase sales and advertise his coffee shop by attracting customers to visit the neighborhood.

Located close to Gourmet Ghetto, the birthplace of the farm-to-table movement started by Chez Panisse, Sweetgreen is committed to building consistent partnerships with its suppliers. According to Jammet, Sweetgreen has partnered with local farms, such as Full Belly Farm, and Acme Bread.

“We are also local, so we really appreciate other businesses doing a similar thing,” said William McCaughtery, manager at the nearby Bistro Liaison.

Kali Feiereisel — campus graduate student in the department of public health and member of GradFood, a campus group focusing on food and agriculture — said that while she has never been to the restaurant, she liked how Sweetgreen focused on locally sourced ingredients, a key step in conscious and sustainable eating.

Another Sweetgreen location is expected to open in Palo Alto, California, in the next month, Jammet said.

Contact Roann Pao at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @roann_pao.