Thursday, March 23, 2017

CAVA Food Review

CAVA's Pita with Grilled Meatballs

It's been almost four years since our last official (for review) visit to CAVA. Since then, they've added several new locations and menu items, while staying close to the top of our unofficial list of favorite places to eat in the nation's capital. In other words, CAVA is one of 10 or so eateries, I choose to eat at, on my own time and with my own money.

Since we can't write a review every time we visit, we thought the addition of Carrot Ginger Soup, various toppings and four new beverages was more than enough reason to stop by. Tenleytown remains my favorite location; and as per usual, they took super good care of me. Ordering was lightning fast and painless, especially when you know what you want. Start with a base (I always pick pitas, they're the absolute best tasting in the DMV) choose up to three dips + spreads (eggplant + red pepper dip, harissa) followed by a protein (grilled meatballs, for a change) and some of the most amazing toppings in the biz... mint (new), pickled onions and tomato + cucumber salad, generously coated in CAVA's new spicy leek dressing. Cost? A paltry $8.75, which is only $1.50 more than it was four years ago (thanks for not gouging your customers.)

Carrot Ginger Soup

More on my pita later; but I have to start with the Carrot Ginger Soup ($3.97) which simply put, has to become a permanent fixture on the menu. One cup has only 50 calories (a-mazing) and packs a punch with every bite. Mine was nice & hot, perfectly thick (not watery, thank you) with tons of authentic carrot flavor, and a subtle kick of ginger. It disappeared in just over a minute. Fabulous.

Strawberry Mint Lime Juice

As for the aforementioned pita, what's not to like love? Their pita bread is insanely good, thicker than most and incredibly fresh. So good in fact, I usually order an extra side of Pita Chips ($1.57) which are crispy/toasted and equally incredible. I normally stuff the pitas with falafel, grilled chicken or spicy lamb meatballs; but I decided to try their grilled meatballs for the first time. They're made from seasoned sirloin with hints of garlic and oregano, and become addictively spicy when matched with the harissa dip and charred leek vinaigrette (with even more harissa.) The mint helps cool it down; but as you probably know, I like my sandwiches spicy. Obviously, there are less spicy toppings available, so plan accordingly. Last but not least, I'd be remiss if I didn't shower praise on the packaging. We eat with our eyes as well... placing this pita a dangerously close second to GRK Fresh Greek for best gyro/yeero in town.

Raspberry + Mint Grapefruit Shrub

Also new, a quartet of light and refreshing juices ($2.50) all made in house. I tried two... Strawberry Mint Lime (refreshing, yes, but surprisingly bland) and its tastier sibling, Raspberry + Mint Grapefruit Shrub, which had a lot more going on (more mint, stronger berry and a delicious twist of grapefruit that doesn't overpower as it usually does.) Kudos to CAVA for always providing lots of innovative drinks, in addition to their already-impressive selection of all-natural fountain sodas. If I want a Coca-Cola, I'll go to McDonald's.

Although the dining room isn't as grand (or as large a space) as next door neighbor Nando's PERi-PERi, eating at CAVA is always a treat. Laminated wood tables with black accents, black wood chairs and sexy copper-finished light fixtures, surrounded by exposed brick on one side, wood panels on the other, with subway white tiles around the kitchen. Like the food, there's lots going on, but it marries very, very well. Music is equally eclectic, featuring performers like Aqualung & Gotye, that only cement one of the best fast casual dining experiences in the area. Something tells me, you're bound to agree.