In spite of the 90-degree weather, diners lined up outside Sweetgreen in Irvine on July 18 to get the first taste of the popular seasonal salad and bowl concept.
The Los Angeles-based fast-casual restaurant is branching out in Southern California with the opening its first Orange County location at Irvine Spectrum Center.
“We are thrilled to finally be opening here in Orange County,” Sweetgreen co-founder Nicolas Jammet said on the morning of Irvine’s grand opening. “It is an incredible community, and we are thrilled to be opening our doors here.”
Sweetgreen was conceived as a way to bridge the gap between inexpensive but unhealthy fast food and nutritious but pricey quick meals, by Jammet and partners Jonathan Neman and Nathaniel Ru. In 2007, the three recent college graduates launched Sweetgreen, which prioritizes organic, quality ingredients, fresh produce and relationships with farms and purveyors.
“We spend a lot of time making sure that we source our ingredients really thoughtfully,” said Jammet.
Local suppliers for Sweetgreen Irvine Spectrum include Dynasty Farm, which provides kale, Coke Farm, which provides summer squash, zucchini, cabbage and red beets, and Frog Hollow Farm, the source of seasonal peaches used on the peaches and goat cheese salad, which is served over kale with cucumbers, mint, basil and roasted almonds in a balsamic vinaigrette.
A chalkboard at the Irvine location lists produce and condiments being served that day and the farms and purveyors they come from, like carrots from Karn Ridge Farm and goat cheese from Drakes Farm.
“We are proud to be expanding within our current home state of California, giving us even more opportunities to work with the incredible partners who provide the fresh ingredients that we use in our restaurants every day,” said Neman.
Sweetgreen also collaborates with other well-known brands to create limited-edition offerings. The honey barbecue sauce, for example, was created in collaboration with chef Charlie McKenna of Lillie’s Q in Chicago, and used in the BBQ chicken, made up of blackened chicken, shredded cabbage, red onions, tomatoes, apples, cilantro, tortilla chips, chopped romaine and shredded kale, served with green goddess ranch and, of course, honey barbecue sauce.
For the grand opening in Irvine, popular local coffee shop Coffee Dose Cafe provided complimentary coffee from its mobile cart, and Peaches Floral hosted a build-your-own-bouquet flower bar. In addition, for every meal sold on opening day, Sweetgreen donated a meal to Food Finders, a nonprofit that coordinates the daily pick-up of surplus food for transportation directly to nonprofit partners or for distribution to those experiencing food insecurity.
Two more Sweetgreen locations are set to open in Orange County before year‘s end.
“We have Tustin coming soon and Huntington Beach, which we are really excited about,” said Jammet.
Sweetgreen Tustin is expected to open in late summer/early fall at 15090 Kensington Park, while the Huntington Beach location will join the lineup at 5 Points Plaza at 18685-7 Main St.
“And we are continuing to expand up and down the coast,” Jammet said. “We just opened one in San Diego a week ago.”