I’ve always been a fan of the Clarendon restaurant scene. Good food, good drinks, and when it’s not 115 degrees out, a great place to sit outside with a bottle of wine. But until Wednesday night, when I had a chance to try newly opened CAVA Mezze, I didn’t know what Clarendon had been missing. Don’t get me wrong, all the restaurants are great, some like Liberty Tavern are even rated within Washingtonian’s Top 100 Restaurants. But as great as they are, they’re all just kind of comfortable. You know the food will be good, you’ll probably order the same thing you always do, and you’ll have a drink feeling satisfied. It’s the restaurant equivalent of settling. But our settling days are over.
Greek-inspired CAVA Mezze (also in Washingtonian’s Top 100) already has wildly successful locations in Rockville and Capitol Hill. In fact, while I was eating at CAVA in Clarendon, Speaker of the House John Boehner was chowing down at CAVA in DC. But when the time came to open a new location, Chef Dimitri Moshovitis says, “Clarendon was a no brainer for us.” And he’s right; with an awesome location on Clarendon Avenue (right next to Restaurant 3), soon-to-come outdoor seating, and a local fan base that was already loyal to the other locations, CAVA Mezze will soon join the ranks of a slew of restaurants that have made it big in Arlington’s chicest neighborhood.
CAVA’s ambiance is similar to its neighbors – modern, chic enough to take a date but low-key enough to feel comfortable, and noisy. Its food, however, is nothing like the places that surround it.
I know this because I’m an Arlingtonian (is that what we’re called?) who frequents the Clarendon restaurant scene and who also gave CAVA a try on Wednesday night. I’m also Persian, which in the culinary world, might as well be Greek. As such, I’ve grown up on some pretty awesome Mediterranean food (shout out to the awesome cooks in my family), so I know good Greek (or “Greek-inspired”) food when I have it. And on Wednesday night, I had it.
I wanted to taste as many menu items as possible (I have to do my research right?), but to avoid having to shop for bigger jeans, I took three girlfriends and my trusty photographer with me to help. After tasting (and I use that term lightly) nearly a third of the menu, we’re still full.
Bottom Line: Go to CAVA and go hungry. The menu may be full of mezze (small plates), but they’re so good you’ll have to order a whole bunch. And to help you sift through their rather intense menu – I’ve highlighted a few of our favorite plates and drinks!
Favorite Specialty Cocktails: Since you’ll want to start with a cold drink, I recommend one of CAVA’s awesome cocktails. These are a few of our favorites:
- Cucumber & Jalapeno Margarita
- Pineapple Mojito
- Cucumber Gin
- Spiced Pear Tree
Favorite Cold Mezze: Crazy Feta. The jalapenos make it taste like no Feta you’ve had before (Note: CAVA’s Crazy Feta is sold at Whole Foods and other stores. I recommend making Crazy Feta burgers for your next BBQ. Your guests won’t know what hit them!)
Favorite Cheese Mezze:
Haloumi Sliders. The Sliders might be the best grilled cheese you’ve ever had. It doesn’t look like a traditional grilled cheese, but that’s because CAVA uses Haloumi cheese – a grill-able cheese from Cyprus.
Saganaki. The Kefalograviera cheese comes from Northern Greece and is something between a Parmesan and Romano cheese marinated in Brandy. Once it gets to your table, the waiter squeezes some lemon and lights a match. BOOM – your Saganaki is ready. I recommend having the cheese on top of some pita bread and with some Harissa. SO good.
Favorite Vegetable Mezze: Chick Peas 3-Ways. Oh my goodness, these were awesome. A chickpea fritter of whole chickpeas atop hummus (aka smashed chickpeas). Trifecta of delish.
Favorite Lamb Mezze: Lamb Chops. Lamb done well is a beautiful thing. Especially when it’s sitting on a bed of delicious potatoes.
Favorite Meat Mezze: New York Strip and Lollipop Chicken. Just order them both. Seriously. The NY Strip is to die for and few people can artfully put fried chicken atop Greek yogurt and honey and make it taste that good.
Favorite Seafood Mezze: Scallops w/ Mushroom Risotto. Need I say more? But you should also try the Halibut and the Oyster Skordalia (Fried Oysters). I’m not much of an oyster person, but these were top-notch.
Favorite Braised Mezze: Sous Vide Short Rib. A 72-Hour Braise, a cabernet reduction, and some truffle oil. Again – need I say more?
Favorite Dessert: I’m just going to tell you to get all of them. But, if your sweet tooth isn’t as intense as mine – get the Baklava. It will blow your mind. And also get the Greek Style Donuts. And if you’ve had enough Greek by the time you get to dessert – try the French Toast. And then come back for brunch this weekend and have it again. Just make sure you go for a run or two in between.
And there you have it! I would love to know what you think (whether you’ve tried it or not!), so be sure to leave a comment. Or check out more of our dinner pictures on Chocolate & Stilettos Facebook Page!
Happy Friday! xo – KC