Charlotte’s first CAVA location opened in University City in late February.
The Washington-based fast-casual Mediterranean chain has four more Charlotte-area locations in the works in Park Road Shopping Center, Atherton Mill, Waverly and Huntersville.
The Huntersville location will open next in May followed by Park Road Shopping Center this summer. The location I’m most excited about — South End at Atherton Mill — will open in early 2019.
The menu features dozens of greens, grains, dips, spreads, proteins and toppings used to create customizable bowls and pita wraps.
Locally, the closest comparison would be YAFO, Frank Scibelli’s counter-service Mediterranean restaurant with a location in SouthPark and another on the way in Plaza Midwood.
Both concepts feature eastern Mediterranean staples like falafel, hummus and harissa.
For a first timer, the customization options at CAVA are pretty overwhelming with nearly 59 million possible ingredient combinations.
I felt myself wanting to reach for some kind of signature menu item instead of trying to pull all the right flavors together myself.
But after going through the line once, I’ve got a handle on the menu and process and definitely prefer the flexibility of picking all my own stuff.
Start by selecting a base — greens + grains, grain bowl, salad, large pita, mini pita or mini pita + soup — and then move down the line to add all your fixings.
Prices start around $4 for a single mini pita up to about $10 for a grain bowl, which includes up to three spreads, one protein and unlimited toppings.
You’ll see an upcharge for premium proteins like braised lamb, spicy lamb meatballs and the seasonal featured protein. Otherwise, it’s included in the price of your base.
Pro tip: You can put multiple greens, grains and proteins in one bowl or wrap. Just ask for 1/2 and 1/2.
Here are all the CAVA Charlotte menu options:
Base: Greens + grains bowl ($9.37), grain bowl ($9.37), salad ($9.37), large pita ($8.75), mini pita ($3.95), mini pita + soup ($7.92), kids meal mini pita ($5.95)
Greens: Arugula, SuperGreens, baby spinach, romaine, SplendidGreens
Grains: Saffron basmati rice, brown rice, black lentils
Dips & Spreads (up to three): Tzatziki, hummus, eggplant + red pepper dip, crazy feta, harissa, roasted red pepper dip
Proteins: Grilled chicken, falafel, grilled meatballs, seasonal roasted vegetables, spicy lamb meatballs (+$1.45), braised lamb (+$1.45).
Toppings (unlimited): Shredded romaine, pita crisps, cabbage slaw, tomato & onion, diced cucumber, tomato & cucumber, Kalamata olives, cauliflower quinoa tabbouleh, pickled onions, lemon wedge, fresh mint, pickled banana peppers, crumbled fetal, sumac radishes
Dressings: Yogurt dill, lemon herb tahini, Greek vinaigrette, sriracha Greek yogurt, green harissa, spicy lime tahini
Definitely get a fountain drink so you can continue the customization at the drink station by mixing their house-made juices and teas.
They rotate out a featured drink and the current one — a bright yellow ginger lime turmeric tonic — is fantastic.
CAVA University City is open 7 days a week from 10:45 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Stay tuned for more on the forthcoming locations.