100 Very Best Restaurants 2014: Cava Mezze

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The dining room at Cava Mezze. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

These Greek small-plates lounges don’t suffer from a dual identity; much of their appeal derives from it. The dark, noisy rooms may prime you for slick, conceptualized food, but the plates are imbued with a yia yia’s passionate soul. Avgolemono, the lemony chicken soup, is soothing on a cold day, while taramasalata, one of several party-starting dips, is as bright as it is light. The lamb sliders are so plump, juicy, and smartly adorned (with feta and spicy red-pepper spread), they just might revive your interest in mini-burgers. The rewards are fewer when it comes to larger plates, and in what’s becoming the norm at small-plates spots, you may find yourself playing waiter—rearranging dishes and handing empties to the staff. Skip dessert, but not a cocktail: The smooth cucumber gin martini sets a mood and eases the nerves.

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

Don’t miss: Cava Fries, with feta and kefalograviera cheese; baked feta; “lollipop chicken”; spicy lamb meatballs; spit-carved gyro (Sunday only). 

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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 Logan Circle.

Anna Spiegel
Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.