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Hot Plate: Cava Brings Greek Tastes to the Hill

Cava, the newest restaurant to come to Barracks Row, opened its doors this spring and has seen no shortage of hungry customers. The dark, sleek dining room quickly fills up during the dinner hour with hungry Hill rats.

[IMGCAP(1)]The second branch of this Rockville-based Greek restaurant is a welcome addition to Eighth Street Southeast, which is quickly becoming a dining destination. Cava (527 Eighth St. SE) offers a trendy destination with good food and an affordable price.

The two-story restaurant is sleek yet homey. The dark walls are decked with photos of the owner’s family, and a colorful mural greets customers as they enter. Cava offers ample outdoor seating with both a patio on Eighth Street and a second-story rooftop seating area.

The large menu has something for everyone. My favorite dish on the menu was the macaroni and cheese. I must admit, I consider myself a connoisseur of this comfort food. I’ve been enjoying the dish since childhood and make a point of ordering it whenever possible. Some of the best in town can be found at Cava, where the dish is composed of long tube pasta and Kefalograviera cheese, a hard sheep milk cheese. The pasta was al dente and the cheese was not overpowering.

The other standout item — which also features Kefalograviera cheese — is the Greek grilled cheese. This sandwich is served with thyme and in a pool of honey. The honey was a wonderful contrast to the cheese and the dish was a favorite of my party’s. We found ourselves soaking up every last drop of honey and wishing we had placed a second order.

It is worth noting that Cava offers many vegetarian selections, making it a good place to take an herbivore. When the asparagus frittata arrived at the table it looked like a pizza, but upon biting into it we decided it tasted much more like a light, fluffy omelet. There was a nice helping of onion thrown into the mix, and the dish was delightful.

The one big miss at Cava was the lollipop filet, which consists of a six-ounce filet, jumbo shrimp and feta speared with a wooden stick. While the idea is cute, the dish itself was messy and the steak was overcooked. The shrimp was boring and lacked seasoning.

Cocktails at Cava, on the other hand, are not to be missed. They are both strong and sweet without tasting like Kool-Aid. The Lemonada is a refreshing summer drink without a hint of alcohol taste, while the strawberry martini is a nice mixture of the fruit, sparkling wine and St. Germain liqueur.

The wait staff at Cava is friendly and quick to suggest a dish. They have perfected the art of always being on hand without hovering. Because the food is served as small plates, dishes tend to come in waves rather than in courses, making it a good setup for a group.

Cava is a great destination for the budget-conscious staffer who is looking for a great meal not far from the Dome. It’s also the perfect summer spot with its front patio and rooftop. Next time you’re in the market for a good meal that won’t break the bank, look to this new hot spot.

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