It is quick, convenient, inexpensive, and the food is fresh and good. As a plus, almost everything but the metal trays and plastic baskets can be recycled (but these can be reused). What more could you ask for?
If it is a quiet, relaxing meal with linen napkins, flowers and candles, you wonít find it at the new Cava Mezze Grill at Tysons Corner, but you will find all of the above, though it may take a visit or two to figure out the system and find your favorite meal combinations.
The first visit can be a challenge. This is a build-it-yourself meal, with choices printed on a small menu and posted above the service line. The servers can help, too, if you can hear them — it tends to be noisy.
Your first decision is whether you want to construct your meal on pita, a bowl of rice or a bowl of salad. You also could opt for a kidís meal or three mini pitas.
Your next decision is what kind of dips and/or spreads you want. You have choices that include tzatziki, hummus, harissa, eggplant red pepper, and crazy feta. These may be spread on pita or placed in small scoops on your rice or salad.
Next is your main choice. Will it be grilled chicken seasoned with lemon and oregano; meatballs of ground sirloin with lemon, garlic and oregano; spicy balls of ground lamb mixed with cilantro and harissa; strips of braised beef seasoned with tomato and cinnamon; falafal made with chick peas, parsley and herbs; or a veggie?
The chicken, spicy lamb and shredded beef all pass the taste and texture tests admirably, so the other options no doubt will, too.
The final flourish comes with some toppings, shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes and cucumbers, onion slices and a topping of grated cheese.
And thatís your meal. As you might expect, some combinations work better than others. For example, the lamb balls in pita are uneven — a bit of meat with one bite, nothing with the next; and as competing spreads the harissa and tzatzki don't help each other.
To avert mismatches, the chefs have concocted some combinations as a guide. These include a bowl with rice, chicken, hummus, tomato, onion and feta; and a lamb salad with tzatziki, harissa, cucumber, tomato and onion.
On the other hand, once you get the hang of it, itís fun to do your own mixing and matching, and if you get some truly unusual flavor combinations, you'll know what to avoid next time.
Cava is clean, modern, noisy, no frills and strictly do-it-yourself. Turnover is quick, and if it is too noisy, you can move outside to the patio.
Drinks are bottled sodas and water, with beer and wine to come in the next few weeks. No coffee, no dessert, no frills — just good and quick food.