Hungry for Bargains: At these restaurants, no one has to choose between buying gifts and eating out

The Washington Post
Tom Sietsema
Thu, 12/06/2007


IT'S NINE DAYS UNTIL CHRISTMAS, and you've already broken last year's vow not to overspend on the holidays. It happens. One easy way to cut back is by spending less money eating out. Before you cry heresy, let me remind you that there are a slew of delicious restaurant deals around Washington; some of them are even in the shadow of the stores you'll be patronizing on your last-minute shopping rounds. My early gift to you, then, is a handful of meals that are sure to make you merry for $10 or less.

"I FEEL LIKE I'M IN A DISCO!" a friend shouts across the table at Cava. It's true: The fledgling Greek restaurant, in addition to being small and dim, does a number on diners' eardrums. But the mostly beautiful young things in the crowd don't seem to care. Not only are they getting a lot of attention from a small fleet of dashing waiters, they're eating some very tasty mezze, including piping-hot triangles of spinach- and feta cheese-filled pastries, and salmon roe whipped with garlic, olive oil and lemon juice into a luscious dip for pita bread. Every dish is larger than the usual two or three bites, and the average plate is about $8. Chef Dimitri Moshovitis says he was inspired by "the food that my grandmother does, that my mother does" when he and two other 20-something childhood friends set sail with Cava a little more than a year ago. One of the best dishes on their epic menu is from grandma's recipe box: Lamb kapama ($8.95) -- lamb braised with herbs, "pulled" into shreds and tossed with orzo -- is enhanced with cheese, a touch of cinnamon and fresh nutmeg. On Monday, you can wash back the generous bowl with a half-price martini; on Tuesday, you can enjoy the Old Country memory with a bottle of half-price wine.

Cava; 9713 Traville Gateway Dr., Rockville; 301-309-9090