Farm to table: so last year. Farm to in-store table: so now. Glen’s Garden Market isn’t just a store where every piece of produce is local. It’s also a deli, grocery, corner shop, community center, food incubator and, yes, a bar.
A place like this doesn’t just pop up on the north side of Dupont Circle out of nowhere. Glen’s is the brainchild of Danielle Vogel, a fourth-generation grocer and child of the founders of two well-known food store chains. Both food quality and customer experience were an important part of her upbringing. Nurture and nature, you could say.
Vogel, however, didn’t start out in the biz. First, she was a lawyer on the Senate side of the Hill. Working closely on the climate change bill that ultimately did not get passed, she decided that there could be another path to make progress in climate change. Same goal, different road. Thus was born Glen’s Garden Market, where “every single decision we make for the business is made with the environment in mind,” she said. With a bit of a wink, she calls it “making progress one bite at a time.” And one sip, too.
Glen’s has a no-waste mandate: there is to be no food waste from the kitchen. How else does she follow her shop’s mantra? Providing bike racks and showers for employees, operating on wind power, offering a mostly vegetarian menu and using reclaimed materials for furniture. And composting, naturally.
But more prominently, all items sold at Glen’s were produced within the states of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, and many vendors create their goods within 20 miles of the store. Vogel has a deep, personal relationship with all of her vendors, forming partnerships with only those who “treat their land, their animals and their ingredients with respect.” She even helps others eager to start similar food businesses, acting as both mentor and vendor. In fact, Glen’s has launched 48 local food businesses, and “incubating and accelerating them is a top priority.”
Tikkun olam (repairing the world), therefore, permeates the cool, industrial and highly social space. “Being a mensch is what I am, who we are and what the business is,” she says. Growing up in a kosher home in Connecticut, she has felt that her entire life—tzedakah was never far away, a strong part of her heritage and culture. It is, without a doubt, the most important part of the business.
The menu (and the deli in particular) also reflects some of Vogel’s upbringing. Last year, she and her talented chefs crafted a Chanukah menu. Latkes were made from local potatoes, and fried in local schmaltz. The kugel? Mom’s recipe. The star of the show on the daily menu is the pastrami New Yorker sandwich. It features locally raised beef from Maryland, cured for six days in a spiced proprietary brine, smoked and steamed on-site and then sliced so thin “you can see your finger through it.” Glen’s makes its own Russian dressing, and the slaw comes from local purveyors Number 1 Sons. History, tradition and doing good, all in one extremely delicious sandwich.
With a pedigree like this, you know there’s more brewing besides the locally roasted coffee. Earlier this month, Glen’s opened a 3,500-square-foot location in Shaw. It’s similarly neighborhood-driven, selling local goods and local drinks and serving as a community-gathering place with lots of outdoor space.
Glen’s does good, but it doesn’t scream it. It’s just a comfortable, community-oriented store. Want a Maryland IPA on a picnic table in front of the deli counter? Slice up some unique local cheese, pick up a couple of veggie bites and have at it. And just try to find another place in the area that serves $4 beer that actually tastes like beer. It’s a beautiful store—but it’s also an agent of change.
Glen’s Garden Market Dupont, 202-588 5698, 2001 S Street NW, Washington, DC, Monday–Friday 10 am–10 pm, Saturday–Sunday 9 am–9 pm; Glen’s Garden Market Shaw, 202-939-2839, 1924 8th Street NW, Washington, DC, Monday–Friday 11 am–9 pm, Saturday–Sunday 9 am–9 pm.