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Cava Mezze Grill, Quick-Serve Mediterranean in Three Locations with Two More Coming Soon

Local Chain Greek Mediterranean Quick Serve

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#1 ad.mich

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Posted 23 January 2011 - 10:39 PM

They have a new spinoff location in Bethesda that is doing the Chipotle model, Cava Mezze Grill. Pita, rice bowl, salad, mini flatbread pitas (to top like tacos) - you get a shmear of a spread and then protein (chicken/beef/lamb/sausage/falafel). Seems like another Chipotle-meets-(insert country) - like Merzi in downtown DC, but with arguably more potential.

I'm definitely curious as I think their spreads are pretty good, but I'm not go-to-Bethesda-for-a-fast-casual-lunch curious. Anyone been?

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#2 jandres374

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Posted 24 January 2011 - 08:45 AM

Stopped in Friday for lunch. Arrived shortly before noon and there was no line but a bunch of tables were already filled up.

It does remind one of Chipotle with the assembly line and simple menu.

I decided on the mini pitas as I thought it was the best way to sample a few things on the menu. I had the chicken, lamb and ground sirloin. I also tried the hummus, tzatziki and harissa sauce as well as the crazy feta. Topped each with some pickled cabbage slaw and tomato/onion salad.
While I found the ingredients to be fresh and tasty, they need to work on the pita size and assembly. The pitas are very small and make it difficult to get all the ingredients in it and still be able to eat it. Also, they just kind to throw the ingredients on top of each pita and then close the box.
Totals cost was under $8, which makes it a pretty decent deal for lunch.

I suspect any minor issues on the pita size and assembly will be ironed out with time. I won't hesitate to return.

#3 stockwatch

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Posted 24 January 2011 - 11:02 PM

Sounds more like Roti, which itself appears to have copied Chipotle/Potbelly's assembly line method. Of course, who knows who started it. Subway has been doing it for a while, but I'm sure there were many before it. Cava Express, though, sounds promising plus local to boot.

#4 DiningInFrederick

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Posted 27 January 2011 - 07:48 PM

Stopped in Friday for lunch. Arrived shortly before noon and there was no line but a bunch of tables were already filled up.

It does remind one of Chipotle with the assembly line and simple menu.

I decided on the mini pitas as I thought it was the best way to sample a few things on the menu. I had the chicken, lamb and ground sirloin. I also tried the hummus, tzatziki and harissa sauce as well as the crazy feta. Topped each with some pickled cabbage slaw and tomato/onion salad.
While I found the ingredients to be fresh and tasty, they need to work on the pita size and assembly. The pitas are very small and make it difficult to get all the ingredients in it and still be able to eat it. Also, they just kind to throw the ingredients on top of each pita and then close the box.
Totals cost was under $8, which makes it a pretty decent deal for lunch.

I suspect any minor issues on the pita size and assembly will be ironed out with time. I won't hesitate to return.

I stopped in for a very early dinner (3 PM) on Tuesday and experienced many of the same things as jandres374. I had similar motivations and wanted to try multiple things at once, so I also got the three small pita options, and as jandres374 said, the pitas are woefully inappropriate for this wonderful idea. They're too thick and small in diameter to hold barely any of the ingredients that are so tempting to have dumped on them. I'm not sure what they can do though if they want to allow people to have multiple proteins (I guess you could ask them to mix the meats, but I'm not sure people would think to ask that; I never have at Chipotle), but it's an awkward eating experience at best. I also confirmed something that I had presumed before I started assembling my pitas: rice--no matter how tasty--is even more superfluous on a pita than it is on a burrito, but they offer it to you here just as they do at Chipotle. But I have to say there were certain things that I really liked on this first visit: The pitas tasted great, the feta cheese is outstanding, and the meats were all flavorful and juciy despite all being cooked to a dark greyish brown. The different spread options also tasted pleasantly familiar from our several visits to the Rockville Cava as well as buying some of them in the grocery store. And probably most importantly, all the different combinations tasted really good together. I also saw what jandres374 was saying when he considered "the ingredients to be fresh and tasty"; I think that's b/c the different relishes/salsas/whatever-you-call-them-in-Greek are all raw vegetables that had clearly been finely chopped very recently so all the water hasn't had time to leech out. But the tomatoes are a predictable out-of-season pink, and when paying under $8 for a meal in Bethesda in a place clearly aiming for high customer volume, I don't presume they'll get much rosier in August. I'm ok with that though. I'll be back. It's an interesting idea that expands my fast-food options in Bethesda. Do I like Cava Mezze Grill as much as a fast food option as I like Cava as a sit down dining option? Hmm...too early to tell.

Pax,
Brian
P.S. I PM-ed jandre374 to ask which meat options he picked to see which he preferred. I ended up getting the lamb (a sausage), the ground beef, and the pork. My favorite was the pork despite that grayish brown color I referenced above. If the lamb was more of a cubed option, I bet I'd love that too, but lamb sausage is probably a more marketable option.

#5 bschulman

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Posted 27 January 2011 - 08:40 PM

I stopped in for a very early dinner (3 PM) on Tuesday and experienced many of the same things as jandres374. I had similar motivations and wanted to try multiple things at once, so I also got the three small pita options, and as jandres374 said, the pitas are woefully inappropriate for this wonderful idea. They're too thick and small in diameter to hold barely any of the ingredients that are so tempting to have dumped on them. I'm not sure what they can do though if they want to allow people to have multiple proteins (I guess you could ask them to mix the meats, but I'm not sure people would think to ask that; I never have at Chipotle), but it's an awkward eating experience at best. I also confirmed something that I had presumed before I started assembling my pitas: rice--no matter how tasty--is even more superfluous on a pita than it is on a burrito, but they offer it to you here just as they do at Chipotle. But I have to say there were certain things that I really liked on this first visit: The pitas tasted great, the feta cheese is outstanding, and the meats were all flavorful and juciy despite all being cooked to a dark greyish brown. The different spread options also tasted pleasantly familiar from our several visits to the Rockville Cava as well as buying some of them in the grocery store. And probably most importantly, all the different combinations tasted really good together. I also saw what jandres374 was saying when he considered "the ingredients to be fresh and tasty"; I think that's b/c the different relishes/salsas/whatever-you-call-them-in-Greek are all raw vegetables that had clearly been finely chopped very recently so all the water hasn't had time to leech out. But the tomatoes are a predictable out-of-season pink, and when paying under $8 for a meal in Bethesda in a place clearly aiming for high customer volume, I don't presume they'll get much rosier in August. I'm ok with that though. I'll be back. It's an interesting idea that expands my fast-food options in Bethesda. Do I like Cava Mezze Grill as much as a fast food option as I like Cava as a sit down dining option? Hmm...too early to tell.

Pax,
Brian
P.S. I PM-ed jandre374 to ask which meat options he picked to see which he preferred. I ended up getting the lamb (a sausage), the ground beef, and the pork. My favorite was the pork despite that grayish brown color I referenced above. If the lamb was more of a cubed option, I bet I'd love that too, but lamb sausage is probably a more marketable option.

jandres374 & DiningInFrederick, thanks for stopping in and trying out our new Cava Grill. Our minis are more a "knife & fork" version or you can finish off what falls into the basket with a fork. We have been working on them to be more "user friendly". Our crew sometimes is a bit generous with the toppings which can make for a difficult grab from the basket. We have looked at a few other vehicles to serve them in (two larger, folded pitas), but are trying to maintain a format where a customer can get a sample of a few different combinations. We will continue to work to improve and tighten the presentation.

Our rice is primarily intended for our rice bowls, but we do like to offer as an option for your pita. I have to say, after eating my go-to of Crazy Feta, Lamb, and cabbage salad Pita for a number of days, I added rice to the combo and have been including it ever since. I think it can be a nice addition to a pita depending on the other fillings.

Our sausage is an all natural pork with leeks, fennel seeds, orange zest, and red wine vinegar. It is from one of our founders' family recipe. We also have our lamb that we braise, then finish off on the grill. It is chopped into chunks and the composition breaks down partially into shreds once on the line. We source all of our meats hormone & antibiotic free. We prep our produce daily and as you noted, tomatoes are unfortunately out of season. We hope you will find them bright with color come August.

Again, thanks for the visit and the feedback. Feel free to say hello on your next visit.

Best,
Brett

www.cavagrill.com
www.eatcava.com


#6 DonRocks

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Posted 27 January 2011 - 10:04 PM

We also have our lamb that we braise, then finish off on the grill.


Brett, thanks for this informative post. As long as you're here, can you tell us how you braise your lamb? In general, braised meats finished on the grill screams "sous vide" to me (which isn't necessarily a bad thing, given your target audience and price point), but if you're by chance oven-braising, could you please let me know so I can be in yesterday? Posted Image

Cheers,
Rocks

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#7 bschulman

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Posted 28 January 2011 - 08:53 AM

Brett, thanks for this informative post. As long as you're here, can you tell us how you braise your lamb? In general, braised meats finished on the grill screams "sous vide" to me (which isn't necessarily a bad thing, given your target audience and price point), but if you're by chance oven-braising, could you please let me know so I can be in yesterday? Posted Image

Cheers,
Rocks


Rocks,

We braise the lamb fresh every day for about 3-4 hours in batches (on the stove top in a pot with bay leaves, onions etc) to soften the meat. If we straight grill the leg of lamb, it can sometimes come out a bit "tough" if not completely trimmed (and we like to keep some fat on it for flavor). We then finish on the grill and chop it right off the grill onto the line. Dimtiri wanted to keep some of the souvlaki elements the guys grew up on, hence the grill step at the end as opposed to a straight, long braise (like some of the dishes at our full service restaurants). We tested a number of preparations in this service format and found this combination to give the best results in consistency of flavor and juiciness.

Best,
Brett

www.cavagrill.com
www.eatcava.com


#8 Jsenter

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Posted 28 January 2011 - 10:17 AM

We have eaten at Cava Grill twice since it has opened. We have liked both the lamb and the pork. The only complaint my wife has is that there is not desserts to solve her sweet tooth cravings at the end of the meal.

Jeff

#9 DiningInFrederick

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Posted 28 January 2011 - 10:43 AM

jandres374 & DiningInFrederick, thanks for stopping in and trying out our new Cava Grill. Our minis are more a "knife & fork" version or you can finish off what falls into the basket with a fork. We have been working on them to be more "user friendly". Our crew sometimes is a bit generous with the toppings which can make for a difficult grab from the basket. We have looked at a few other vehicles to serve them in (two larger, folded pitas), but are trying to maintain a format where a customer can get a sample of a few different combinations. We will continue to work to improve and tighten the presentation.

Our rice is primarily intended for our rice bowls, but we do like to offer as an option for your pita. I have to say, after eating my go-to of Crazy Feta, Lamb, and cabbage salad Pita for a number of days, I added rice to the combo and have been including it ever since. I think it can be a nice addition to a pita depending on the other fillings.

Our sausage is an all natural pork with leeks, fennel seeds, orange zest, and red wine vinegar. It is from one of our founders' family recipe. We also have our lamb that we braise, then finish off on the grill. It is chopped into chunks and the composition breaks down partially into shreds once on the line. We source all of our meats hormone & antibiotic free. We prep our produce daily and as you noted, tomatoes are unfortunately out of season. We hope you will find them bright with color come August.

Again, thanks for the visit and the feedback. Feel free to say hello on your next visit.

Best,
Brett

Thanks for the reply Brett. Based on your description, I swapped the identification of the pork and the lamb. That means I DO like the lamb best!

Pax,
Brian

#10 ALB

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Posted 28 January 2011 - 06:52 PM

I stopped by Cava Grill for lunch today and really enjoyed it. I got the minis with 2 falafel and 1 lamb - all with tzaziki, lettuce, rice and the cucumber salad made of cukes, lemon juice among other things. I really enjoyed it. I just ate everything with a knife and fork rather than trying to pick them up because once I was done choosing toppings, it was all pretty much covered anyway. I really liked it- especially the falafel- I love how they keep some of the chickpeas whole rather than blending them all. I'll definitely be back.

#11 darkstar965

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Posted 30 January 2011 - 05:35 PM

Tried Cava Mezze last week for the first time. Liked it but think it's also a spot with clear potential as yet unrealized.

Largely because I hadn't checked DR.com prior, I neglected to get the three mini pitas to better sample--will do next time.

I had a lentil soup with one of the rice bowls with chopped beef which the DBtC (dude behind the counter) suggested over the other proteins.

Liked:

- that everyone was super friendly and flexible. No real constraints on what toppings/sauces so we ordered a few different ones to at least try those.
- the simplicity and value pricing
- the concept
- the dijon vinaigrette that came with my dining companion's salad bowl. this was the sauce/topping with the most flavor and I ended up asking for a second one for my rice bowl even though it wasn't intended for that.

Would have liked better if:

- sauces and toppings had more flavor. esp the tzatziki, hummus, harissa, eggplant/pepper and even the hummus. all were ok but all were blander than I'd prefer
- likewise on both the rice and beef. both fine. both underseasoned. maybe I should have gotten the lamb? will try that next time.

Very reasonable prices, efficient and friendly service. Will definitely go back and maybe ask for more guidance given the above.

#12 bschulman

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Posted 31 January 2011 - 09:01 AM

Tried Cava Mezze last week for the first time. Liked it but think it's also a spot with clear potential as yet unrealized.

Largely because I hadn't checked DR.com prior, I neglected to get the three mini pitas to better sample--will do next time.

I had a lentil soup with one of the rice bowls with chopped beef which the DBtC (dude behind the counter) suggested over the other proteins.

Liked:

- that everyone was super friendly and flexible. No real constraints on what toppings/sauces so we ordered a few different ones to at least try those.
- the simplicity and value pricing
- the concept
- the dijon vinaigrette that came with my dining companion's salad bowl. this was the sauce/topping with the most flavor and I ended up asking for a second one for my rice bowl even though it wasn't intended for that.

Would have liked better if:

- sauces and toppings had more flavor. esp the tzatziki, hummus, harissa, eggplant/pepper and even the hummus. all were ok but all were blander than I'd prefer
- likewise on both the rice and beef. both fine. both underseasoned. maybe I should have gotten the lamb? will try that next time.

Very reasonable prices, efficient and friendly service. Will definitely go back and maybe ask for more guidance given the above.

darkstar965,

Thank you for your visit and comments. Our hummus, eggplant dip, and tzatziki are certainly our milder spreads, but I have never heard the adjective bland associated with our spicy Harissa. Feel free to ask for a greater application of the spread from our crew if the typical amount does not suffice. I would also recommend our Crazy Feta spread, a combination of sauteed jalapenos, red onions, olive oil, and feta. It has a nice kick to it. On the meat side, in addition to the lamb, I would suggest giving the Loukaniko a try as well. It has a much bolder flavor profile than our ground sirloin.

Look forward to seeing you at the Grill.

Best,
Brett

www.cavagrill.com
www.eatcava.com


#13 darkstar965

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Posted 31 January 2011 - 02:02 PM

darkstar965,

Thank you for your visit and comments. Our hummus, eggplant dip, and tzatziki are certainly our milder spreads, but I have never heard the adjective bland associated with our spicy Harissa. Feel free to ask for a greater application of the spread from our crew if the typical amount does not suffice. I would also recommend our Crazy Feta spread, a combination of sauteed jalapenos, red onions, olive oil, and feta. It has a nice kick to it. On the meat side, in addition to the lamb, I would suggest giving the Loukaniko a try as well. It has a much bolder flavor profile than our ground sirloin.

Look forward to seeing you at the Grill.

Best,
Brett

Many thanks Brett. Really appreciate the guidance and will follow it on a second visit soon!

#14 darkstar965

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Posted 08 February 2011 - 11:53 PM

Visited Cava again tonight and wanted to update my first reactions from a couple of weeks ago. Followed Brett's advice and ordered the lamb rather than the ground sirloin since I ws looking for more vibrant flavors.

We braise the lamb fresh every day for about 3-4 hours in batches (on the stove top in a pot with bay leaves, onions etc) to soften the meat. If we straight grill the leg of lamb, it can sometimes come out a bit "tough" if not completely trimmed (and we like to keep some fat on it for flavor). We then finish on the grill and chop it right off the grill onto the line. Dimtiri wanted to keep some of the souvlaki elements the guys grew up on, hence the grill step at the end as opposed to a straight, long braise (like some of the dishes at our full service restaurants). We tested a number of preparations in this service format and found this combination to give the best results in consistency of flavor and juiciness.

I did enjoy the lamb more. But, given the above braising method (which sounds fantastic), I still think it could be enhanced some. Maybe some thyme and tad heavier on salt with some fresh ground pepper? Something just to make it pop a bit more. It was tasty and I enjoyed it more than the beef but think the lamb, which is good, could be even better.

- that everyone was super friendly and flexible. No real constraints on what toppings/sauces so we ordered a few different ones to at least try those.
- the simplicity and value pricing
- the concept

Is it DR-verboten to quote oneself? :) Quoting because I wanted to again underscore the three likes above. Love that Cava Mezze staff are so accommodating and that so many options are allowed at such reasonable prices.

Our hummus, eggplant dip, and tzatziki are certainly our milder spreads, but I have never heard the adjective bland associated with our spicy Harissa. Feel free to ask for a greater application of the spread from our crew if the typical amount does not suffice. On the meat side, in addition to the lamb, I would suggest giving the Loukaniko a try as well. It has a much bolder flavor profile than our ground sirloin.

Brett was totally right to gently question whether the harissa really was "bland" as I'd described previously lumping it in with the other toppings. He was right. I made sure to get this tonight and hadn't had it the previous time--my mistake. It has definite kick in the form of heat. I used it mixed into the rice bowl with lamb and that helped some.

At the end of the day, Cava Mezze is a low priced quick serve concept, I totally appreciate that and think it's a great formula. While I do think a bit more might be possible to embolden the sirloin and lamb flavor profiles, I also realize that it may not be that feasible to do or I may well be an outlier on this. And, I'll definitely be back more. Not just to try the Loukaniko (the one I haven't yet tried) but also because it's an easy choice to make for a fast and easy meal one can feel good about eating.

#15 bschulman

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Posted 09 February 2011 - 09:09 AM

Visited Cava again tonight and wanted to update my first reactions from a couple of weeks ago. Followed Brett's advice and ordered the lamb rather than the ground sirloin since I ws looking for more vibrant flavors.

I did enjoy the lamb more. But, given the above braising method (which sounds fantastic), I still think it could be enhanced some. Maybe some thyme and tad heavier on salt with some fresh ground pepper? Something just to make it pop a bit more. It was tasty and I enjoyed it more than the beef but think the lamb, which is good, could be even better.

Is it DR-verboten to quote oneself? :) Quoting because I wanted to again underscore the three likes above. Love that Cava Mezze staff are so accommodating and that so many options are allowed at such reasonable prices.

Brett was totally right to gently question whether the harissa really was "bland" as I'd described previously lumping it in with the other toppings. He was right. I made sure to get this tonight and hadn't had it the previous time--my mistake. It has definite kick in the form of heat. I used it mixed into the rice bowl with lamb and that helped some.

At the end of the day, Cava Mezze is a low priced quick serve concept, I totally appreciate that and think it's a great formula. While I do think a bit more might be possible to embolden the sirloin and lamb flavor profiles, I also realize that it may not be that feasible to do or I may well be an outlier on this. And, I'll definitely be back more. Not just to try the Loukaniko (the one I haven't yet tried) but also because it's an easy choice to make for a fast and easy meal one can feel good about eating.

Darkstar,

Thank you for the return visit and the feedback. It is great to hear your comments on our crew as this has been a point of emphasis. Although the setting is more "commercialized" in terms of service, we don't want to lose our roots and that neighborhood feel of our full service restaurants.

The service format is a new one to us and we are constantly refining to find the right balance for a voluminous, fast paced setting. Our initial goal was to go lighter on the meat marinades/seasonings and let the dips/spreads strengthen the flavor profile. Having said that, there is a fine line between light and bland and we continue to garner feedback and work to find balance and consistency. We also want to ensure that the flavor profiles do not become too polarizing given the wide net we are looking to cast in terms of customer appeal. Our hope is that a customer can try out the various options and find their "go-to" combination (or two....or three :)) that can become a reliable lunch or on-the-go quality dinner option.

Again, thanks for the feedback as we develop the Grills.

www.cavagrill.com
www.eatcava.com


#16 bookluvingbabe

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Posted 09 February 2011 - 09:53 AM

I checked it Cava Mezze Grill last week for a quick lunch after a marathon session at the ENT with the little guy.

I liked the idea a lot more than I liked the execution. I tried the mini trio with lamb, falafel and something else that was probably chicken. Had the hummus and tzaski spreads. I thought both meats were very dry. There weren't enough of the spreads to help with that situation.

I imagine this is partially a launch issue and I would give it another try in a month or so. Certainly the inexpensive AND edible lunch options in downtown Bethesda are limited.

I did think it was MUCH better than my only experience at Roti.

#17 DiningInFrederick

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Posted 13 February 2011 - 05:26 PM

\ I thought both meats were very dry. There weren't enough of the spreads to help with that situation.

\

I was in Tuesday and got a large pita with lamb instead of the minis this time, and the lamb was dryer than the last time I had been in. Actually most of the meats looked dryer, but of course I only tasted the lamb so can't say for certain that they were. I still enjoyed my sandwich and still think it's a good deal, but I had a stronger experience my first time. I'll still be back.

pax,
Brian

#18 darkstar965

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Posted 26 February 2011 - 06:30 PM

This just in: Cava Mezze is the best quick serve option in Bethesda. Tastier, healthier, friendlier, better value, honest.

When I first went to CM, documented earlier in this thread, I appreciated what Brett and his partners were trying to do and just felt like a few things could be even better without too much additional investment. Now that I've been about 6 or 7 times for lunch and dinner, I'm pretty sure this is the best quick serve option in Bethesda.

On one hand, Bethesda has always and unfortunately been a neighborhood of mediocre restaurant options. Of course there are exceptions: Jaleo, Raku at times, Mussel Bar (though can be hit and miss), certainly Blacks, Lebanese Taverna if you're okay with an occasional horrible service day and a couple of others I've neglected to mention. But then there are so many more mediocre spots that seem more targeted to tourists than sophisticated restaurant goers (spots like American Tap Room, Cafe Deluxe, or Parkers....there are many others). I've never really understood why this trend persists but it's tangential for this post.

For quick serve options in Bethesda's core, we have 1) Five Guys, 2) Sweet Green, 3) Taylor Gourmet, 4) Potbelly, and a few others not mentioned here. Those four named in turn, IMHO, are 1) matter of opinion but clearly pretty unhealthy to eat regularly, 2) too unpredictable on food quality with absentee management and indifferent service, 3) pretty good but I still feel like they've betrayed our trust and then not owned up to it (see posts on that thread) and 4) well, Potbelly is a big chain with big chain quality.

Then along came Mezze. What's different? Why is it my nominee for best QSR in Bethesda?

1. Value: prices are low, food is quite good, restrictions on toppings or changes are virtually non-existent

2. Food Quality: some of the proteins (ground beef and lamb especially) have been fairly knocked a bit for being dry or bland. but, I think CM has really worked to improve this. For example, I didn't so much enjoy the ground sirloin my first time there thinking it pretty flavorless. Last week, John (one of the managers) mentioned to me they'd changed the recipe. Sure enough, had it again today and it was very good with very nice flavor. Loukaniko has always been good and I'm waiting for news about a possible lamb 2.0 to give that another try. Toppings are always fresh, whether red pepper/eggplant, hummus, feta or diced tomato and onion. You can really eat here on a small budget and have food that's both tasty and healthy! go figure. Why can't all those other guys do that? (rhetorical)

3. Service/Staff: This is the one that most amazes me. It's really hard to staff a quick serve/fast food place with committed and friendly staff who stick around for awhile. Mezze really seems to have cracked the code on this. I suspect what they're doing to achieve this is fairly straight-forward with the longer term in mind but they should keep it secret because it's hugely differentiating from what poses as competition in the immediate area. The staff here do a better job than some at local, higher-priced yet mediocre, sit-down restaurants. In my visits to Mezze so far, I've consistently seen the staff 1) smile and greet customers with sincerity, 2) run up to the door with menus in hand if newbies enter and seem confused, 3) help customers exiting to easily sort their refuse into different recycling containers, 4) cheerfully add a little extra of whatever's requested or mix and match or basically do all they can to accommodate reasonable requests and 5) talk and act in ways that seem like they really are glad to be working there and serving customers; that shouldn't be so refreshingly unique but, sadly, it is.

Related to #2, Mezze management actively solicits feedback AND USES IT. LOVE that!! Not everything at Mezze is perfect but the cool thing here is they really seem to listen and work to improve or at least communicate (to wit: ownership participation here on the board). Contrast that with the "Philadelphia" sandwich boys or even Sweet Green where there's rarely a salaried adult around to even talk with customers. There's also the green aspect of Mezze with many points of evidence besides the recycling.

I've never been to the Cava sit-down restaurants but will definitely make it a point to give them a try soon. My bottom line on Cava is that at least to this point, they are an honest and authentic concept. The food they offer and the service all convey respect they have for the customers. I wish them a ton of success and a very, very long run at this and the other locations they open. They deserve our loyalty so long as they stay true to the path they've defined for what and how they run the business.

#19 bschulman

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Posted 26 February 2011 - 11:21 PM

darkstar,

We can't thank you enough for that kind post. I look forward to sharing this with our staff at our meeting in the am. It is rewarding to see our efforts successful and appreciated. The guys founded the full service restaurants on the belief of treating customers with respect and kindness, as if guests in their own home. When we first met, I was struck at the family atmosphere of the employees whether in the kitchen or front of house. We have tried to bring this quality to the fast casual format. Our crew is top notch. They have taken to our vision for the Grill and have been willing partners in our endeavor.

Our food and format, while gaining popularity, is still foreign to many. We have made a concerted effort to educate our customers, whether it be the food, the decision tree, or the disposal area. Not only is our format foreign to customers, but it was foreign to us before launching the Grill. As stated earlier, we are determined to continually improve and hone our processes to serve the best product possible in the best atmosphere. The "change" in recipe of the ground sirloin was actually perfecting our kitchen crew in mixing and cooking the sirloin. Much like our bumps in the road with our lamb, process is key to success. I will say that the "dry" rough patch the lamb experienced has passed and has been juicy the past week. This is our most temperamental protein and we must maintain our prep and process for this to be successful..... all of which is not possible without the valuable feedback of our customers and places like this board.

A few other notes - I feel like a craiglist "missed connections" entry with you at the Grill. Say hello next time you are in and I should be there, especially in the daytime.

- Get on Foursquare! You would be challenging for the mayor - free chips & dip (and we will have some other rewards for frequent check ins).

Thanks again and look forward to seeing you at the Grill soon.

www.cavagrill.com
www.eatcava.com


#20 sacrilicious

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Posted 16 February 2012 - 09:19 AM

This morning I saw a sign that Cava Mezze Grill is coming to Wisconsin Avenue near Van Ness, the former Jandara space (which was followed by a succession of other Asian restaurants, but none of the names have stuck with me). The building had been basically razed so I was wondering what was going on. Good news for the neighborhood, IMO. Any estimate of when it will be open?

#21 MsDiPesto

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Posted 16 February 2012 - 10:13 AM

I and a few work colleagues went to Cava Mezze Grille in Bethesda for lunch last week. Everyone was pleased with their food, and I was impressed with the freshness of the ingredients, and how well it held up on the walk back to the office (we all got it to go). I'll definitely go back. I had the rice bowl with the shredded lamb, crazy feta, felafal, and really enjoyed it.

A gourmet who thinks of calories is like a tart who looks at her watch. - James Beard


#22 bschulman

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Posted 16 February 2012 - 01:27 PM

This morning I saw a sign that Cava Mezze Grill is coming to Wisconsin Avenue near Van Ness, the former Jandara space (which was followed by a succession of other Asian restaurants, but none of the names have stuck with me). The building had been basically razed so I was wondering what was going on. Good news for the neighborhood, IMO. Any estimate of when it will be open?


We are targeting a June opening. Lots of work to do to the building as we wanted to strip it back to its brick roots, remove the existing facade and clean it out. Given the larger space, we will have more "family friendly" seating and less high-top communal seating as we do in Bethesda. A few new cool evolutions in store as well.

A few notes on our menu - As much as we liked the lamb preparation, given a number of issues including consistency and price, we have just rolled out our new preparation that is the same one we use for our lamb sliders that are popular at the full service restaurants. Ground lamb with harissa and cilantro. You will receive four small patties to add to your pita, bowl, salad or minis (and we were able to reduce the customer price).

In addition, we will be rolling out a braised beef next week akin to our Kokkonisto we serve at the full service outlets.

Thanks for the continued feedback!

www.cavagrill.com
www.eatcava.com


#23 smithhemb

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Posted 16 February 2012 - 04:32 PM

Wow, from ecstatic to slightly bummed in two posts, LOL!

Delighted to see Cava Grill coming to my 'hood. That said, what I crave is the braised lamb. Alas, I will now be "forced" to try both the braised beef and the ground lamb.

Too bad there's no fast-food flaming cheese option....

#24 darkstar965

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Posted 17 February 2012 - 06:20 PM

Wow, from ecstatic to slightly bummed in two posts, LOL!

Delighted to see Cava Grill coming to my 'hood. That said, what I crave is the braised lamb. Alas, I will now be "forced" to try both the braised beef and the ground lamb.

Too bad there's no fast-food flaming cheese option....


A good problem to have I guess. I'm looking forward to the ground lamb. But reminds me how much I miss the mustard-based dressing they had when they opened. Heard different things about it being seasonal or not in high demand but not sure. It was a great dressing for greens and a savory sauce to complement some of the meats. Oh well, everyone can't have everything they want. Serving a diverse market with so many different prefs is in fact challenging ;)

#25 Jsenter

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Posted 18 February 2012 - 06:03 PM

We tried the new lamb on our sandwiches the other night. While it was not bad and we understand the reasons you changed, we felt it was no ware near as good as the old lamb. I think that was my faverate thing served.

#26 darkstar965

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Posted 18 February 2012 - 06:16 PM

Also tried the new lamb patties today. Also liked them. Also will miss the braised lamb.

The lamb patties are nice but, with the cilantro and noticeable kick of the harissa, are a very different item from the braised lamb. I know people who loved the braised lamb and won't be able to handle the new patties due to a cilantro aversion. All said, I also understand the pricing/consistency motivations but, without the data Cava has, it surprises me just a bit. Cava's pricing already seemed like one of the most affordable options on Bethesda Row. And, again with the big caveat that I'm just speculating without real data of any kind, I'd have guessed that consistency could be a challenge with the patties also? Doneness and degree of heat/cilantro especially? Finally, the patties introduce more protein homogeneity into the menu since the sirloin is similarly prepared...unless the new braised beef will replace the ground sirloin.

Just some thoughts in reaction but still very much a fan of Cava. All the above notwithstanding, these are great people working hard to meet their customers' needs--extraordinarily tough in this category and with so much difference of opinion out there. Still healthy, tasty and uber affordable. Good things.

Who knows? Maybe we'll see the braised lamb again down the road?

#27 bschulman

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Posted 18 February 2012 - 09:25 PM

Greatly appreciate all the feedback above. Bethesda is a bit of our test lab for this new format of our food. We will continue to test and work on a braised lamb product in the future that will work with our menu both from a price and consistency standpoint. In addition to product quality concerns, we really felt we couldn't raise the braised lamb price much more, which would have been necessary. We want this format to be a value proposition for time, health, and budget conscious customers. When a Lamb bowl begins to exceed the $10 mark, we lose that proposition.

Our sliders are a top item at all three full service restaurants and are always requested at the grill. Given their popularity, more palatable cost of goods, and ability to execute, they were a natural fit. The braised beef will replace the Loukaniko. Chef Dimitri will continue to test new items that may be introduced on a regular or seasonal basis. We want to continue to evolve Cava Grill and optimize our offerings to meet our customer's needs and make sure we are serving the best, most consistent product possible.

...and darkstar, we have been working on salad dressing variations all the time and your old favorite should be reappearing.

Thanks again for the feedback as it really helps us perfect this new format.

www.cavagrill.com
www.eatcava.com


#28 darkstar965

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Posted 19 February 2012 - 05:18 PM

Awesome stuff above in Brett's post which is so foundational to the culture of the company and why it's great and enjoying the success it is.

As for the dressing, awesome but can't stress enough--I'd really hope you only make changes you think best for the market. I may be the only wacko out there that even remembers the mustard dressing let alone misses it.

#29 MsDiPesto

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Posted 20 February 2012 - 01:01 PM

Good thing I went when I did, I liked the braised lamb, and am not crazy about cilantro.

A gourmet who thinks of calories is like a tart who looks at her watch. - James Beard


#30 darkstar965

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Posted 20 February 2012 - 04:01 PM

Good thing I went when I did, I liked the braised lamb, and am not crazy about cilantro.


Sure but, at the same time, I'm looking forward to this week's new intro:

<snip>

In addition, we will be rolling out a braised beef next week akin to our Kokkonisto we serve at the full service outlets.

Thanks for the continued feedback!



#31 MsDiPesto

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Posted 21 February 2012 - 12:09 AM

I will go back, there are so many more combinations and permutations of ingredients I have to try!

A gourmet who thinks of calories is like a tart who looks at her watch. - James Beard


#32 DrXmus

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Posted 29 February 2012 - 11:31 PM

Coming to Mosaic District in Merrifield in 2012. Looking forward to a great new option for us out here.

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#33 darkstar965

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Posted 30 March 2012 - 01:18 AM

Sure but, at the same time, I'm looking forward to this week's new intro:


Had the new braised beef tonight for the first time. As one who was a bit disappointed when the braised lamb was pulled, understood why and this replacement is a winner. Also great to have the mustard-based dressing back. Some really nice flavors here to be sure. And at some of the best prices in Bethesda.

#34 ScotteeM

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Posted 16 August 2012 - 08:56 AM

Coming to Mosaic District in Merrifield in 2012. Looking forward to a great new option for us out here.


Is there an opening date yet?

Dona Animella


#35 DrXmus

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Posted 16 August 2012 - 09:09 PM

Is there an opening date yet?


No idea when the restaurant is to open, but the Target opens Oct. 14th. In general, the Mosaic development says they'll be open in the fall. Jeff Black has said he wants to open his joint within Mosaic by December (to take advantage of some tax breaks), so the restaurants don't necessarily all have a fall opening.

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#36 bschulman

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Posted 17 August 2012 - 08:04 AM

Hoping to open by November 1st. Really looking forward to this location with a great line-up of neighbors. Edens has put a lot of thought and effort to make the Mosaic project a success and one residents will enjoy.

www.cavagrill.com
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#37 qwertyy

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Posted 17 August 2012 - 08:56 AM

I've only been once, but I think this place is a welcome addition to the retail cluster in Columbia Heights. Chipotle is okay, but not nearly decent enough to put up with its constant, awful lines.

I had the salad bowl with braised lamb. The meat was plentiful, and had a discernibly lamby flavor. It's quite tasty, but not the best choice for a salad--a bit heavy. The eggplant and red pepper dip is a little disappointingly bland, but the crazy feta is fantastic. Like, I'll-be-picking-some-up-to-serve-at-my-next-party-because-try-as-I-might-I-can't-replicate-it-at-home fantastic.

Cheers to them too for having an interactive nutrition calculator on their website. If I'm going to eat take-out from a place with any regularity, I need to know what I'm getting myself into.

#38 Rovers2000

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Posted 17 August 2012 - 08:59 AM

I'm very excited for the Tenley location to open...it will absolutely jump to #1 in my lunch rotation at the office.

Any estimate on when it might open?

Dave

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#39 bschulman

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Posted 17 August 2012 - 12:40 PM

Tenleytown is looking like the last week in September. Have a few new things in store there!

www.cavagrill.com
www.eatcava.com


#40 schulju

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Posted 19 July 2013 - 04:44 PM

Hey peeps, if your office is close to a Cava Mezze Grill, it's a great option for a catered lunch!*  We are a small office of less than 25 folks and we hold a monthly lunch for all employees.  Our office manager worked with the Tyson's location to set up the ordering.  Each person received an email directly from Cava with a link to order what they wanted (everyone had a $15 limit..enough for just about any entree and a side of chips/dip).  All the food came individually packaged with everyone's name on it.  We have a lot of vegetarian/vegan folks as well as carnivores so we need to chose options that can accommodate both.  Cava worked out great.  Many of my co-workers had never been, and everyone really loved their lunch and requested that we use Cava again soon for our monthly get-together.  

 

Although I love the full service restaurant in Rockville, I had never been to a Grill location before.  I ordered the braised lamb bowl with lots of great dips and toppings.  Outstanding!  Plus, OMG it was huge.  I couldn't eat more than half...looking forward to having the rest for dinner tonight.  

 

*In full disclosure, I do not know if they delivered or if someone from the office went to pick-up. 


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#41 KeithA

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Posted 22 July 2013 - 09:48 AM

I went for the first time last week for lunch at the Cava Grill Tenleytown location and it was packed, but the line moved very fast. With all of the options it was hard to decide what to get. I opted for the salad with half arugula and half romaine (they also have several other lettuce and vegetable bases), topped with beef meatballs and braised lamb, a variety of salatim/veggie toppings, and some of their spreads and then you get a fresh, hot tasty pita on the side. Very fresh, good, and customizable. The best of the choices were the tzatiki sauce and the braised lamb (which is really tasty shredded lamb - think pulled pork).  The beef meatballs were only so so - kind of well done hamburger - could have been cooked less and more seasoning.  The spicy harissa spread was also good, but I think I would opt again to have it on the side and add as needed.  I wasn't as big a fan of the crazy feta - feta cheese mixed to be a spread with jalapenos - but that just be my taste - it was made well.  The nice thing about the salad was that you could it it was as you like or pull out stuff and fill the pita for a small sandwich too.  Worth checking out if you are near one.



#42 ktmoomau

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Posted 18 March 2014 - 11:35 AM

Cava Mezze Grill continues to be one of my very favorite places for fast casual.  Probably because of how extremely easy it is to eat gluten free.  But dining there the other night with Hubby, I figured out one of the other reasons I like it so much.  It doesn't have the same limitations of some of the other eateries set up in similar fashion (the Chipotle Model) as to number of this and that.  Yes, you get a base and a meat, but they have so many veggies and sides and their dips are really good.  I like the variety of toppings, cabbage slaw, pickled onions, tabouleh, banana peppers, quinoa, lettuce, olives, cucumbers, etc, etc.  I just feel like they have put a little more care in their toppings than some other places and I don't feel nickel and dimed.  I usually get a brown rice bowl with meatballs, but every now and then will get a salad.  Hubby likes the mini pitas.  I plead with them to put one in Ballston.  I generally hit up the Tysons location while shopping.


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