Mezeh vs Cava: The Great Debate

Jill Rubinger ‘19
Mezeh Enthusiast

Nick Prukop ‘19
Cava Enthusiast

For Mezeh

It is among the classic Law School debates: old ScoCo food or new ScoCo food? Risa or Leslie? Chex Mix or Goldfish in the snack office? Cava or Mezeh? This may be an unpopular opinion now that Cava has made its Charlottesville debut, but I am fully Team Mezeh. In the world of fast, casual Mediterranean fare, Mezeh gets it right. Because it is located in Stonefield shopping center, I love to get Mezeh before making a trip to Trader Joe’s. (Pro tip: Go to Mezeh before so you don’t overspend on weekly grocery shopping.) The Mezeh menu is simple, but that’s because they don’t need to get too fancy with the offerings for the food to be delicious. The line is sometimes almost out the door (hint hint: it’s popular), but the staff is a well-oiled machine that gets you your food in a timely fashion.

What’s on the menu, you ask? First, you can choose from a bowl, a pita pocket, or a wrap. I usually choose a bowl. I get half greens and half grains. Although you can get this at Cava, I find the greens at Mezeh to be fresher—in fact, I find the ingredients at Mezeh to be fresher generally. Next, you choose your protein. The seasoning on both the chicken and falafel tastes like it came from the outdoor markets in Israel. After choosing a protein, you get your unlimited choice of toppings. Here’s a quick rundown: The couscous is the perfect texture, the Turkish salad is a fresh combination of tomatoes and cucumbers, and the spicy feta dip adds a fantastic kick. You get your pick of multiple hummus flavors—OG hummus, cilantro, and spicy. There is one ingredient in particular that makes Mezeh the ultimate Mediterranean dining spot: the eggplant. It is delicious. The restaurant slices eggplant and bakes it to perfect caramelized perfection. They’re always pulling another batch out of the oven because it is such a crowd pleaser. It’s crisp but not too crisp and kind of sweet. Seriously, I could write this entire article about it, but I will refrain. After I ask for extra eggplant, I top off my bowl with sauces. Depending on how much of a kick I want, I either ask for Tzatziki or Harissa sauce—sometimes I get both if I’m feeling crazy. At the end of the ordering process, the magician who has put together your Mediterranean feast will ask you if you want some pita. You should absolutely answer “yes.” Now you’re ready to eat a fantastic meal from the far superior Mezeh.

I would like to admit to some personal reasons why I am not Cava’s biggest fan. First off, I hate bell peppers. So many things on the Cava menu have peppers in them that it keeps me away from a lot of toppings I may otherwise be into. Also, two times I ordered Cava on the app. And two times it was not ready when I got there. So that was kind of annoying. The parking is garbage and it is very difficult to get into the lot. For such a close a proximity to Barracks, it is incredibly difficult to get to. 

I know that my Cava-loving counterpart will sing the restaurant’s praises about proximity to his Pavilion apartment, but really he just likes to be able to get back to play another game of Fortnite. Such dedication to his PlayStation may be clouding his judgment and taste bud accuracy. All of this to say: Mezeh forever.


 For Cava

Cava is amazing.  Cava improves quality of life.  Cava is better than Mezeh.

Cava is short for California-Virginia, as its name pays homage to the two states that I have called home, an exceptional combination and sound business decision. Although far from the wonders of the Mediterranean Sea, Cava allows each of us to enjoy the rich flavors of its exquisite cuisine right here in C’ville, just minutes from school.

It all starts with its extremely convenient location just across Emmet street from the Barracks Road Shopping Center in a brand-new building complex, a huge upgrade from the abandoned field that occupied the area for the last two years. Immediately upon entering the finest fast-casual restaurant Charlottesville has to offer, the guest is welcomed with a wonderful aroma full of Mediterranean spices and warm pita bread. As you then walk through the tastefully decorated space and up to the counter, you are graciously greeted by the kind, talented Cava-ians, or as I like to call them, friends. These amazing people are with you every step of the way as you must make some tough choices on your journey to the perfect bowl, but their charm and generosity quickly erase any and all stress you might be carrying from Slaughter Hall. These people exemplify the significance of choosing such a quality establishment when it’s time to eat, but what sets Cava apart from its fake, lackluster competitors is the food.

After you have decided if the day calls for greens or grains as the base of your meal, you are blessed with the option of picking three different dips or spreads to begin the flavor explosion in what once was just an ordinary bowl made entirely from recycled material. Experimenting is key here as each choice has the potential to change the way you look at your sad homemade salads moving forward, and you cannot go wrong. You then select a protein to be heaped into the mix, and of course an endless supply of incredible toppings and dressings to finish it off. The Cava menu is always changing to match the flavors of the current szn, so go in today for a little taste of fall with their seasonal vegetables and red-pepper dressing.

Once you’ve finished coaching up your team of assembly-line workers and grabbed your free mini pita, whip out the Cava app to collect those points, thank your new homie for hooking you up with extra chicken, and go have a great rest of your day.  More Cava = More life.