The best thing to happen since self-serve frozen yogurt is the innovation of the chipotle style service line. Since I coined that phrase myself, I should probably make it clear that the “chipotle style service line,” as you might have guessed, refers to the fast, casual dining experience provided by a gourmet, cafeteria style line where you are able to choose custom options from a selection of bases, proteins and toppings.
As a graduate of UCLA, and a frequent patron of the surrounding Westwood village, I am very familiar with this style of food service… There are about five restaurants on a single block that emulate this model — and for good reason! You get a completely customized order for one very reasonable, fixed price.
With so much competition in one area, let alone, on one block, it’s hard to stand out above the rest — but somehow, Cava, shines. With a healthy, Mediterranean style menu, Cava is able to provide various options for each constituent of your very own culinary creation. The first is your base, where you can choose between a pita sandwich, a bowl with either saffron basmati or brown basmati rice, black lentils, or one of five lettuce options. At the next stop in line, you have your choice of three of the six available spreads. My favorites are the crazy feta (a smooth and mildly spicy feta concoction), the red pepper hummus, and the tzatziki, which is a creamy yogurt and dill sauce. The other choices include regular hummus, an eggplant and red pepper combination, and an insanely spicy harissa (at least to my taste buds!).
If you can believe it, there are still two more stops on the road to crafting your perfect Mediterranean meal. The next choice is your protein: diced, grilled chicken, braised, shredded lamb or beef, savory beef meatballs, crispy falafel, spicy lamb meatballs or a seasonal vegetable option. My personal favorites are the grilled chicken and the beef meatballs — *drool*. And last but not least, you get to load up your meal with as many toppings as you want, at no additional charge! These toppings can vary seasonally but often include diced cucumbers, a cherry tomato and sliced red onion salad, fresh cauliflower tabouleh, banana peppers, pickled onions, sliced black olives, a tangy cabbage slaw and one of six flavorful dressings.
Take my word for it, if you do it right and load up on the fresh toppings, you can have yourself a truly gigantic bowl for less than $9! See the images below for a proper understanding of what I mean by “doing it right” and filling that bowl up to the max… 😉
TBH, the stacked line up and hundreds of possible combinations for your meal already set Cava apart from its fellow, fast-casual dining competitors, but the true hero, one we neither asked for, nor deserved, is the selection of seasonal, flavored iced teas and carefully crafted lemonades! There’s always something new and one of a kind on their beverage counter, and they never cease to disappoint! A personal favorite of mine was the watermelon limeade — it’s wonderfully cool, crisp and refreshing!
Address: 1073 Broxton Avenue, Los Angeles 90024
Price Range: $9 – $15
Must Haves: Greens and Grains Bowl, Crazy Feta, Cauliflower Tabouleh, Cabbage Slaw
Hours: 11 AM – 10 PM