Students no longer have to travel far from campus to enjoy Cava Grill, a Shophouse-meets-Roti chain.
Cava Grill opened Friday at a new Dupont Circle location – just a five-minute walk from the Farragut North Metro stop. The restaurant serves Mediterranean-style salads and grain bowls made to order for a low price.
Cava prides itself on serving locally grown, fresh food. The menu also includes soup, create-your-own pita wraps and not-too-sweet homemade sodas, juices and teas.
Usually, I get nervous at make-your-own combination restaurants like Shophouse, Chipotle and Roti because I worry I’ll make the wrong choice. But at Cava, I was pleasantly surprised by how well everything I chose tasted together. Each ingredient was delicious on its own and the components of the dish worked well together.
On opening day, hundreds lined up outside the new Cava location for a free meal. The delicious smell of falafel and spices wafted up the block, teasing my friend and me with what we would soon eat. And that hour-long wait outside was certainly worth it.
Entering the restaurant, we were greeted by sleek, minimalist decor with white-painted brick walls, wooden tables, metal chairs, real plants and black-and-white photographs of produce. A framed map of the D.C. area pinpointed local Cava Grill locations in Chinatown, Shaw, Tenleytown and Columbia Heights.
Alumna Nikki Rappaport, the director of brand and marketing for Cava Grill, said in an email that four more locations are slated to open this year – including a location in Shaw. Cava’s first New York City location will open this summer in Union Station, she said.
The Dupont Circle location is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and has plenty of indoor seating. For the huge crowd that was there when we went at 1:30 p.m. on Friday, there was still plenty of space to accommodate people waiting in line without making the customers feel trapped in their seats.
My friend ordered a pita wrap filled with traditional hummus, jalapeno-infused feta mousse, spicy lamb meatballs, lettuce, cabbage coleslaw, pickled banana peppers and crumbled feta cheese topped with a Greek vinaigrette dressing ($9.75). He described the pita wrap as a satisfying combination of tender, spicy lamb with added crunchiness from the lettuce and coleslaw.
I ordered a grain bowl with white rice, banana peppers, black lentils, spicy hummus, chicken, coleslaw and crumbled feta cheese topped with the Greek vinaigrette dressing ($8.85).
Even though I had no idea how the dish would taste once I threw ingredients together, the flavors complemented each other. The banana peppers added a hint of spiciness that I didn’t find overpowering. The chunky chicken was tender and the black lentil beans added a succulent note to the combination. The tangy Greek vinaigrette saturated the dish and tied the meat and vegetables together with a Mediterranean flair.
We also tried three house-made soda flavors – black cherry, blueberry and root beer ($2.50-$2.95) – which were sweet and refreshing.
While no one had to pay that day, the cashiers happily cheered whenever someone put money in the tip jar. The kitchen staff, which looked to be made up of about 20 people, was friendly and helpful when I asked for their recommendations.