100 Best Restaurants 2011: Cava

Only the top 40 restaurants were ranked in 2011's Best Restaurants list.

The Rockville original and its Capitol Hill sibling both have exposed-brick walls, chunky furniture, and a dinner-party vibe. Their small plates straddle the line between traditional and contemporary Greek food, eschewing hulking platters of moussaka and pastitzio for shareable platters of spicy lamb sliders; “disco fries” smothered with a sweet pork-and-veal ragu; and jalapeño-spiked feta.

Familiar dishes include a well-made chicken-and-lemon avgolemono soup and juicy cubes of harissa-marinated lamb souvlaki. The longtime friends who launched the restaurants hope to continue their culinary magic as they expand into Clarendon and open a fast-casual endeavor in Bethesda.

Also good: Lush taramasalata; eggplant caponata with walnuts; meatballs in tomato sauce sprinkled with feta; grilled octopus with lemon and olive oil; shrimp with tomato-ouzo sauce; watermelon salad with mint and feta; Greek yogurt with honey and walnuts; French-toast dessert with fruit and cinnamon.

Rockville location open Monday through Friday for lunch and dinner, Saturday and Sunday for dinner. DC open Monday for dinner, Tuesday through Saturday for lunch and dinner, Sunday for brunch and dinner. Moderate.

>> See all of 2011's Best Restaurants

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.