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Posted on Sep 7, 2011 in Dear Diary, Food | 40 comments

The Sweet Life

What’s the deal with the trend of putting the word “sweet” into all of my favorite restaurants? From Thai food to froyo, evidently being “sweet” is all the rage. And last night I met up with Reema to try out a new-to-me one!


Welcome to Sweetleaf, a locally-owned fast-casual place that focuses on fresh salads, sandwiches, and a few other treats. They have two locations right now, one in McLean (the original) and one in Vienna (brand new!) It reminded me a lot of my beloved Sweetgreen, just with a more expansive menu and more of a cafe-like feel, as Sweetleaf (oy, that’s gonna get confusing) offers coffee, smoothies, baked goods, ice cream, AND froyo.


Reema and I faced a slight debacle where we each ended up at a different location, her in Vienna, me in Mclean (typical us.) Luckily they weren’t that far apart from each other! While I waited for her to join me, I killed time by taking a few pictures of the decor and ambiance, which I found very charming.


They had a hot sauce bar I have only dreamt of…


Unfortunately, the employees of this particular Sweetleaf apparently were not charmed by Gretchen the Photographer, and after just a few clicks told me that I wasn’t allowed to take pictures. I was admittedly a little taken aback by being, well, scolded. I’d heard of food bloggers being told they weren’t allowed to take pictures in restaurants, but it usually happens in swanky, romantic, dimly-lit hot spots where the celebrity chef is worried that it’ll ruin the atmosphere, not small local cafes!

Shamefaced, I immediately took to Twitter to vent just a li’l…

And within minutes, maybe even seconds, I had a response from Sweetleaf management! Talk about your customer service.

I called him after Reema and I parted ways, and he was very apologetic, which I appreciated. I’m definitely not the kind of person who wants to cause a ruckus or make a big stink about anything, so I felt kind of bad about calling, but it was probably a good thing in the end. He explained that they’ve had issues with people taking photos in the past (oh, we nefarious photogs!), but was upset on my behalf that I felt uncomfortable. He offered to send me a giftcard so that I could come back to Sweetleaf and try the whole experience again.


Despite any lingering atmospheric drama, the sandwich I ordered was tasty (clearly my listening skills aren’t so good, since I took a picture of my sandwich after I was told to stop anyway, hahaha.) I got one of their daily specials, The Scottish, which was essentially lox on bread (toasted wheat bread, cream cheese, red onion, and capers) and thus kinda perfect for me, haha.

My only gripe about the food experience is that when I asked if I could have lettuce & tomato on my sandwich, I was told it’d be 50 cents extra… for each item! I can appreciate trying to make a buck as much as anybody, but if you tell me that a single leaf of lettuce costs 50 cents I will laugh in your face.

Which I did.

So she gave me the lettuce anyway. 😀

Because you know I’m a sucker for local establishments in general, especially those that serve fresh salads AND cupcakes (teehee) I’ll definitely be giving them another shot. Besides, I didn’t even get to order dessert this time around! If you’re local, you should give them a try, but I’d suggest maybe paying a visit to the new Vienna location since it seems like most of their energy is being focused there right now (though they need to update their website, as the only address on it is still for the McLean one… hence the aforementioned location debacle, haha.)

Have you ever been told you can’t take pictures in a restaurant? Since I hardly ever use the flash on my camera anymore, I’m usually not deterred by the thought of being annoying to anyone other than my own party (and by now they should be used to it anyway! Haha.) I’d be interested to hear about your own in-restaurant camera policy, and whether you’ve ever experienced the same!


  1. I’m a little surprised that a little cafe/casual eating place would have issues with photography inside their establishment- however i can totally understand the issue at romantic/expensive/fancy places because if people are using a bright flash and taking a lot of pictures it can definitely affect other diners’ experiences. I’m glad the manager tried to make things right a little.

    • I was definitely impressed with their customer service in that regard, and their willingness to make amends. THAT’S how you know it’s local. 🙂

  2. I’ve only had one place that told me I couldn’t take pictures, and of all places, it was a tiny smoothie bar in NYC that didn’t even have seating. Seriously? Like someone is gonna steal your banana peanut butter smoothie recipe?

    Most places see me taking pictures and ask about my blog and love the publicity!

    • Hahaha, another totally unexpected place!

  3. I still get a little embarrassed when taking pictures in restaurants. I feel everyone is looking at me like I’m a crazy. Because of this, I usually resort to using my camera phone as opposed to my DSLR :/

    • I used to be the same way, and then I got grossed out by how awful my phone pics were, so I just sucked it up. And now I’m “that guy” haha

  4. Wow! I’ve never heard of people being told they can’t take pictures in restaurants. Pretty sweet that they ended up sending you a gift card! I love free stuff so that would make it worth it to me. =)

    • Hahaha, all’s well that ends well!

  5. I’m still working up the courage to take pics every time I eat in a restaurant. I tend to only do it on vacation, for some reason? (What can I say? I’m shy. And yes, I feel like everyone stares. ha,ha).

    However, I have such a fiery temper that if someone told me I couldn’t take pics (in a casual place, that I deemed appropriate), I would probably get up and leave. No business for you, if no photos for me! 😛

    I can’t help but wonder WHAT issues they’ve had, exactly, with people taking photos in their restaurant…?!?! I really can’t imagine what the problem would be. It just sounds like a bs corporate line – which is odd, b/c they are locally owned? Weird.


    • Yeah, it definitely didn’t feel as down-home and local as I’d like it to have, given the experience, but again, maybe it’s just because things are weirdly run in that location due to the focus on the other one? Hopefully next time will be a little different… stay tuned!

    • Hahahaha, maybe I should start carrying around a baggie of condiments for the future — just in case!

  6. This post made me laugh out loud numerous times……from you taking pictures despite being scolded, to your lox selection (that’s a given!), to the lettuce (seriously 50 cents?!?!)……ha

    Hope you are feeling mucho better……text me later if you still feel like froyo tonight : )

    • The most expensive and luxurious lettuce in the world….

  7. I’m kind of curious about the problem they had with people taking pictures in the past. What was the problem?

    • They didn’t go into explicit detail, just something about trouble with people taking pictures with malicious intent. I assume it has something to do with competitors?

  8. I usually forget about the pictures until I have already started eating so end up not taking pictures. LOL. I am new. Your sandwich looks delicious!

    • Hahahahaha, you get used to it. And then your friends and family eventually get used to it too, hahaha.

      • When I do remember my husband smiles like oh, look…my wife is silly. LOL

  9. I too am too chicken to bring my camera into a restaurant! I tend to take really crappy pics off my ancient Blackberry!!
    Maybe I should try… although I may do it just for the hopes of getting a gift card in their apology! 😉 I do agree that dslr’s take WAY better photos than phone!

    • I’ll have to make sure next time that I explain that they should WANT me taking photos with my big camera, because it’s going to make them look way better than if I sneak a few phone pics, haha.

  10. Honestly I try to be so discreet when I take pictures in restaurants (to keep attention away from me, not that I think it is a bad thing to do). I’m glad you got a gift card out of the deal though!

    50 cents for lettuce or tomato? I understand charging extra for something like avocado or maybe even cheese, but lettuce? Yikes.

    • Right?! I mean, it was pretty good lettuce but still. 😉

  11. I love that you took a photo of your sandwich even after they scolded you. You rebel, you! LOL!! 🙂

  12. I am a bad photographer sometimes because I get self conscious about people staring at me while I’m photographing my food. But there have been times when I have gotten over that fear and taken photos in a restaurant and to this day (fingers crossed!) I have never gotten reprimanded.

    I woulda been like “Excuse me, I can’t take photos of the food that I just bought? It’s my food!”

    Glad that guy offered you a gift card. I am also curious what kind of problems they’ve had with photographers. Maybe he thought you were gonna sell the photos to the competition!

    • I so totally look the part of the malicious photographer, bwahahaha

  13. The only place that I got yelled at for taking pictures was the Chop’t in Dupont. I’ve taken pics at the other local Chop’t restaurants but apparently the Dupont location is too good my poor photography. I think it’s pretty awesome that you got a free gift card. I’ll have to check out Sweat Leaf because photography aside I love cafes and your sandwich with the overpriced lettuce and tomatoes looks delish!

    • Definitely give it a shot. Just be camera-aware, hahahaha.

  14. I’ve only had that happen to me once. It is this tiny Italian bakery a couple blocks away from in the city. All they have is display cases of their baked goods. And they will literally bite your head off for taking pictures. I don’t know if you ever seen a little old Italian woman pissed off, but it is scary and a bit unnecessary I think.

    • Ooof! I would have been way more taken aback by that, I think!

  15. Ha. The only place we were told we couldn’t take pictures at was a casino. But this was years ago so I am not sure if it’s the same today since I don’t’ frequent casino’s at all. All we were trying to do was take pics of us drinking and hitting the slots. Apparently security does not like that all. lol

    • Haha, yeah, I have no idea if it’s still that way but I imagine it would be! After all, it’s what they do in Oceans 11, hahaha.

  16. I’m shy about pulling out my DSLR in restaurants…I don’t ever use the flash, so I guess I could be pretty discreet, but I still usually don’t. I’m trying to get better at doing it! Hopefully I don’t get scolded…. 🙂

    • I’m sure this will make me much more AWARE of what I’m doing in the future… always worrying if someone’s gonna come out and tell me to cut it out, hahaha. I’ll have to work on my pitch! 😛

  17. Oh no, I am not sure what I would do if a place told me not to take pis, i feel like it’s good business for them if we blog about it!!

    • Right? Especially since I’m such a softy I usually never say anything bad, hahaha.

  18. I have never heard that people have been asked to stop taking pictures. I see where it would happen at a more fancy place. I’m not sure how I would have handled it if I was in your place.

    I take to twitter with most of my frustration so maybe I would have had the same outcome.

    • I do really appreciate that they were so immediately responsive though — you don’t get that a lot, even when you do complain on Twitter!

  19. I pass Sweetleaf on a daily basis riding around town but have never been! I really wanna try it- esp now since you’ve said it’s a good bite! I’ll just have to remember no to take any pictures 😛 I used to go to that place when it was Moorenko’s ice cream shop!

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