The Vegetarian Resource Group Blog

CAVA® Grill Vegan Options

Posted on December 26, 2017 by The VRG Blog Editor

Cava Toppings

By Jeanne Yacoubou, MS

In 2006, three Greek childhood friends opened full-service Cava Mezze in their Rockville, MD hometown followed by other locations in Washington, DC, Maryland, and Virginia. The restaurants featured small plate (mezze) Greek dining.

As a spin-off on Cava Mezze, the founders launched in 2011 Cava Grill, a fast-casual, Greek- and Mediterranean-inspired restaurant chain with locations in the Delaware/Maryland/Virginia region. Since then DC-based Cava has expanded to the New York City area and California with plans to open locations in North Carolina, Texas, and Massachusetts by 2018. As of December 2017, there are approximately forty Cava Grill locations in the United States according to their website:

Since late 2008, Cava’s dips & spreads are sold at specialty markets nationwide:

The VRG corresponded by email with Megan Vlasho, Customer Experience Manager, and Zach Korte, Food Safety Quality Engineer at Cava Grill, to find out more about its vegan menu items. Here is what we learned between July to November 2017. Our questions are arranged by Cava’s menu item categories as they appear on the chain’s website.

The VRG: Does your pita or mini-pita contain milk, whey, or any dairy ingredient?
Cava: No, none of our pitas contain dairy.

The VRG: Does your pita or mini-pita contain sugar?
Cava: They contain sugar.

The VRG: Do you use organic sugar in your pita breads making them from scratch? If you use a premix or premade dough, do you know if the sugar in the pita is non-cow bone char processed?
Cava: We get our pita bread from a third party, so I’ll have to ask them about their sugar.

Zach wrote: I’ve been in contact with our pita supplier. They state that they are 100% vegetarian, and they are halal-certified, which ensures no animal products are present in the final product. Their suppliers, including sugar, are confidential, so they could not share the information about bone char processing.

The VRG: Is L-cysteine used as a dough conditioner in your pita or mini-pita?
Cava: Our supplier … (said) In the past it was made from sugar beets; however this has recently changed and they are now using the ingredient which is made from feathers.

The VRG: Do you use meat stock or broths to cook the rice?
Cava: Vegetable broth.

Dips + Spreads:
The VRG: Do you make your hummus starting from dry garbanzo beans?
Cava: We use canned chickpeas in our hummus.

The VRG: Is the hummus all-vegetable?
Cava: We have a number of hummus options.
[VRG Note: Complete hummus ingredient information is presented by clicking on entries shown here:]

The VRG: Does the roasted red pepper hummus contain cheese?
Cava: No.

The VRG: Does the harissa sauce contain mayonnaise or any dairy?
Cava: No.
[VRG Note: Cava’s other menu offerings in this category: Tzatziki Sauce, Eggplant & Red Pepper Dip, and Crazy Feta contain dairy.]

The VRG: Is your feta cheese made with animal rennet?
Cava: I spoke with our feta supplier and they use vegetarian microbial rennet.

The VRG: Does your feta cheese contain animal lipase?
Cava: [It contains] an animal-based lipase.

The VRG: Does your feta cheese contain any other animal-derived enzymes?
Cava: [The lipase is] the only animal-derived enzyme in the product.

The VRG: Does the yogurt in your Tzatziki Sauce and the Eggplant & Red Pepper Dip contain any animal-derived enzymes or cultures?
Cava: The yogurt in our dips & spreads is manufactured using non-animal enzymes and cultures.

The VRG: Is the falafel all-vegetable? Is it prepared away from all meats?
Cava: Our beef meatballs, lamb meatballs, and falafel are prepared using the same prep equipment (bowls) but they are thoroughly washed and sanitized between their use with different recipes.

The VRG: Is the falafel fried in fresh oil? If so, which type of oil?
Cava: The falafel is fried in canola oil, which is changed on a regular basis and only used to fry our falafel, pita chips, and pita crisps toppings.

The VRG: Are the pita chips made from the pita bread?
Cava: Yes.

The VRG: Are the roasted vegetables prepared in animal fats or in contact with meats during storage and/or preparation?
Cava: No.

The VRG: Are the pickled onions and/or pickled banana peppers made with vinaigrette?
Cava: No, but our pickled onions do contain sugar.

The VRG: Does the cabbage slaw contain vinaigrette?
Cava: No. It uses olive oil and lemon juice.

The VRG: Are the tomato + cucumber and the tomato + onion salads all-vegetable?
Cava: Yes.

The VRG: Is the Cauliflower Quinoa Tabbouleh all-vegetable?
Cava: Yes, with the addition of olive oil, herbs, and seasoning.

The VRG: Is the White Bean Salad all-vegetable?
Cava: Yes, with the addition of olive oil, herbs, and seasoning.

The VRG: Are the following dressings all-vegetable?
•Apricot Dill
•Greek Vinaigrette
•Lemon Herb Tahini
•Green Harissa
Cava: Yes.

The VRG: Do they contain added sugar?
Cava: Yes to all but our Summer Spicy Apricot contains agave.

Later we asked for a sugar update:
The VRG: Has Cava begun using 100% USDA Organic sugar that is never filtered through cow bone char?
Cava: We switched to organic sugar, which does not use bone char, about a month ago.
[VRG Note: We received this reply on October 10, 2017.]

The VRG: Looking again at your allergen page and menu, I noticed “mezze” on the allergen page (in the “base + extras” table) but did not see it on your menu. What specifically is “mezze” and how is it vegetarian?
Cava: “Mezze” on our menu refers to your choice of three dips + pita chips, which are all vegetarian. Ingredient specifications for each of our dips can be found on our Allergens page.

Cava offers some seasonal menu items. Viewing its Fall 2017 menu, The VRG asked the following about fall menu offerings.

The VRG: Are the following all-vegetable?
•Greek Minestrone Soup with Harissa
•Juices: Apple Cinnamon Sage, Cucumber Mint, Blackberry Orange Shrub, Rosemary Limeade
•Seasonal Roasted Vegetables
•Carrots & Currants topping
•Yellow Pepper Tahini dressing
Cava: Yes, all those menu items contain only vegetables/vegetarian ingredients.

The VRG: Do the fall menu items listed in the previous question contain sugar?
Cava: The rosemary limeade contains organic cane sugar. The shrub and cucumber mint juices contain agave.

The VRG: Do any of your menu items contain honey?
Cava: None of our menu items contain honey.

Interested readers may find out more about Cava Grill:

The contents of this posting, our website and our other publications, including Vegetarian Journal, are not intended to provide personal medical advice. Medical advice should be obtained from a qualified health professional. We often depend on product and ingredient information from company statements. It is impossible to be 100% sure about a statement, info can change, people have different views, and mistakes can be made. Please use your best judgment about whether a product is suitable for you. To be sure, do further research or confirmation on your own.

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