Rapidly expanding Cava had a pretty unconventional way of teasing out its summer menu: throwing a secretive late-night bash at its Shaw location.
On June 14, the fast-casual Mediterranean restaurant shut down at 9 p.m. and transformed into a nightclub of sorts; curtains dropped to black out windows to the street, while a bouncer manned the door with a strict invite-only list on an iPad.
Once inside, a corner bar doled out drinks spiked with new juices scheduled to officially debut on Monday, June 19. A pop-up grocery store allowed guests — including D.C. tastemakers and Cava execs — to throw Crazy Feta and fresh vegetables into a to-go bag, all while a DJ blasted hits.
The hush-hush affair was part of Cava’s first “Late Night Test Kitchen.” Cava chef/co-founder Dimitri Moshovitis orchestrated much of the action, grooving to Michael Jackson’s “Bad” while whipping up new creations with some of the same ingredients expected to crop up at its 20-plus locations beginning next week. One is spicy apricot dressing, an ode to Moshovitis’ favorite Mediterranean stone fruit, which was splashed on pork shoulder tortilla tacos. Shiitake mushrooms, served with sweet potato poutine at the party, will also be in the mix.
The full summer rollout includes seasonal roasted vegetables, like grape tomatoes, sweet potatoes, button mushrooms, and zucchini that can be added to any grain bowl, salad, or pita. There’s also white bean salad, and the aforementioned juices, including watermelon-mint, lemonade with turmeric, basil limeade, and peach green tea.
A company spokesperson told Eater some of the party foods could show up on restaurant menus in the fall or some time next year. Other test bites included a Crazy Feta corn dog featuring a lamb half-smoke, feta-brined crispy fried chicken, and nachos with black lentil chickpea chili.
The burgeoning local brand plans to add at least 20 new restaurants in 2017, thanks to the $30 million it amassed from investors earlier this year. Cava recently expanded its presence in California, having just opened a West Coast flagship in Santa Monica.