Restaurant Spotlight: Cava Mezze Grill

April 10, 2013 1:08 PM0 comments

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Fast-casual has become an increasingly popular mode of dining, and the minds behind Cava Mezze have taken notice. In addition to the three Cava Mezze restaurants that have opened in the Washington, D.C. area in the past six years, the fast-casual offshoot Cava Mezze Grill is taking off. The fifth Cava Mezze Grill opened earlier this year in the Mosaic District, bringing the Mediterranean cuisine of Cava Mezze to diners looking to save on time and money.

Deciding what to eat at Cava Mezze Grill may seem daunting at first. The eatery’s menu has step-by-step instructions on how to build a dish, and a glossary of terms (and pronunciations) for popular components of Mediterranean cuisine. But the thorough menu and helpful staff make ordering easier.

Diners first decide if they’d like their meal with or without pita bread. Dishes built on the warm, fluffy pita bread, be it the single large or two small rounds, cost $7.25. One can select a bowl instead, for $8.50, and choose from a variety of greens or seasoned basmati rice for that first layer.

Next comes the choice of dips, which contribute greatly to the overall flavor of the dish, be they spread on the pita or dropped in dollops into the bowls. A tangy tzatziki and creamy hummus are expected, and enjoyable. The eggplant and red pepper spread and the roasted red pepper hummus deliver new flavors while staying on the low end of the spice scale, but the final two spreads offer something for heat seekers. A chunky spread called the Crazy Feta pairs the rich cheese crumbles with pleasant jalapeno heat, and the chili-laden harissa has stinging heat. A choice of three comes with the order, and for a $7.25 “mezze” side order, diners can dunk crispy pita chips into a trio of the dips.

Shuffling down the bar, the next stop is at the “proteins” station, where the server can add lamb, beef, chicken, or falafel to the mix. The beef and lamb are offered in braised strips (for an additional $1.80 cost), or ground and shaped into seasoned patties ($1 more for the lamb variety). The braised lamb (in garlic, tumeric, cayenne, and coriander) and the braised beef (in tomato and onion) are tender, and served dripping in the sauces they’ve been simmering in. The beef and lamb patties are dense and meaty. The ground sirloin in the beef meatballs is well seasoned with garlic and oregano, and the lamb sliders get a touch of harissa for subtle heat without the full kick of the sauce.

The toppings, at more than a dozen in all, feature the diner’s selection of add-ons that bring a range of tastes and textures to the dish – from the tangy olives and pickled banana peppers to the cool diced cucumbers and shredded lettuce, from the crunchy pita strips to the soft feta cheese crumbles.

The choice of sauces – harissa, yogurt dill, lemon herb tahini, and Greek vinaigrette – is the final step in an involved ordering process. But involved means customizable, such that dietary restrictions and taste preferences are easily met. The ingredients are delicious and combine well, so it’s hard to go wrong in selecting from the assorted spreads, meats, and toppings. For a grab-on-the-go meal that costs less than $10 and is built exactly to the diner’s specifications, the work is worthwhile.

Cava Mezze Grill is located at 2905 District Ave., Merrifield. For more information, call 703-988-4313 or visit cavagrill.com. Restaurant hours are Monday – Sunday: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.

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