38 locations

District Elite

Fast Casual 2.0 brands that are helping turn Washington, D.C., into a new capital of restaurant innovation.

The 800-pound gorilla in the city (albeit one entrenched in a kale-based diet), sweetgreen helped pave the way for several of D.C.’s upstart fast casuals. By now, the story of sweetgreen’s success is well worn; three Georgetown buddies (Nicolas Jammet, Jonathan Neman, and Nathaniel Ru) founded the salad brand in 2007, then expanded its lifestyle vibe with the Sweetlife Festival and in-school education programs that teach kids the value of healthy eating.

sweetgreen has raised nearly $100 million in venture funding for national growth and counts among its investors the billionaire Steve Case and his Revolution Growth firm. Having already expanded to Boston, New York, and other East Coast locations, sweetgreen opened for the first time in California this year.