When USC announced CAVA Grill as the first restaurant to open at USC Village, students from the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area were ecstatic. Founded in 2015 in the nation’s capital, the fast-food chain combines Chipotle’s “build-your-own-bowl” style with Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavors. With the motto “For those who savor,” CAVA knows how to appeal to each and every tastebud.
Since its introduction, the USC Village CAVA has seen lines lasting almost 20 minutes long. The restaurant is nestled under Building 8, en route to both Trader Joe’s and Target. With many mainstream eateries on campus, it is hard to find something new or unique within walking distance of campus. As one of the only eateries currently open at USC Village, CAVA reels in many customers by virtue of its location. With construction still occurring throughout the premises, the lit-up “CAVA” sign provides comfort for hungry students. Its modern feel with wooden interiors and metal counters add to a cafeteria-esque vibe. And the chaotic scene only adds to the excitement of the process. Once the line shuffles inside the restaurant, it’s difficult to hear virtually anything, let alone the staff. The tables are seldom empty at peak times, and the chairs are filled with both USC students and neighborhood residents. The establishment also offers a calmer outdoor seating if one wishes to escape the noise.
The assembly line of workers begin the process that feels all-too-familiar after a few visits. The staff are friendly and efficient as they slide a brown paper bowl to each section of the process. The “build it” bowl starts off with pita, then grains, then transitions to dips, protein, toppings, and finally, a drench of their mouth-watering dressings. With about 13 toppings and five different dressings, the diverse range of spreads provides nearly unlimited combinations and entices patrons to come back for more.
The bowls are both colorful and unique in flavor. The “base” of the meal ranges from healthy and fresh salads (SuperGreens, Organic Arugula, Spinach) to a large, warm pita filled with items of your choosing. With advertisements about their partner farms spread around the store, customers can expect a natural meal which differs from their chain competitors near the University’s campus. With price points nearing $10, it is clear why students may opt for other eateries around campus. However, for a meal as concentrated and different as CAVA’s the price point is somewhat understandable.
The flavors of the bowl have its own idiosyncratic taste and smell, but surely do not disappoint. The vibrant nature of the bowl is both eye-popping and fascinating. Colors of red, purple and bright green stuff the paper to-go bowl. The smell permeates the room and dominates the experience of trying the bowl. With incredibly unique flavors, the CAVA “build-it” bowl is interesting in its taste. The flavors that D.C. natives can only pin as a “CAVA” at first seem hectic and messy, but later mold together in a delectable fashion. While it takes some getting used to, it is hard to resist a second CAVA bowl after devouring your first.
From Chipotle to Panda Express, USC has seen many cafeteria-esque eateries which are essentially made for a quick bite in between classes. However, the introduction of CAVA to Downtown and the USC village elevates the game of the swift lunch experience. For dinner with friends, a snack during homework or a pit-stop on a crazy day, CAVA is highly recommended for University students looking for something substantial, rare and scrumptious.