100 Very Best Restaurants 2014: Cava Mezze

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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