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Cava brings yummy D.C. casual food to Boston

By Kara Baskin Globe Correspondent 

Where to Cava

What for Fast-casual (c’mon, nobody says “fast food” these days) salads, grain bowls, and sandwiches with Mediterranean flair in the Fenway. Cava originated in Washington, D.C., and locals love it. The motto? “Food that fills you, and fulfills you, too.”

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The scene Nearly soothing. Marvin Gaye plays in the background, but there’s a small problem — the music keeps skipping. “Oil wasted on the ocean,” poor Marvin croons, again and again. People, mostly young, line up and chatter about the many mix-and-match topping options as the snow falls outside. “Crazy feta,” spicy jalapeno-infused whipped cheese, is a big draw. There’s a large framed photo in line encouraging diners to “live fully”— and to tag Cava on Instagram while doing so. Skydiving, anyone?

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What you’re eating Delicious stuff in various vehicles: atop greens, grains, or stuffed into a pita. You know the drill: Choose your base (lentils? Romaine?), then move on down the line to point at your fillings. But these toppings are unusual. There are dips and spreads (burn-your-tongue-off harissa, roasted red pepper hummus); proteins (garlicky braised lamb, spicy lamb meatballs, falafel); unlimited toppings (time to go wild: quinoa tabbouleh, pickled onions, kalamata olives, diced cucumber and tomatoes); and a dressing (sriracha Greek yogurt, lemon herb tahini). What do they put in that crazy feta spread, anyway? It’s like eating peppery ice cream. Many items are vegan and gluten free. Signs on the wall tout local sourcing partners and farms.

Care for a drink? Sip iced tea of various persuasions (spiced chai, jasmine); beet lemonade; thyme limeade; pineapple-apple-mint juice. For the less experimental, there are Maine Root sodas.

Overheard Weather wisdom; math musings; cheesy plots. “Look! It’s not even sticking. We’re not getting off early,” a man tells his friends, pointing outside at the falling snow. Two friends settle into a booth to catch up. “We took calculus together. You know him. You know him from calculus,” one assures the other. A bold fellow, clearly the leader of his pack of lunch pals, explains the menu to his followers. “No matter what, you have to get the feta,” he announces. A woman approaches the cash register, looking nervous. “Allow me to help you! You look concerned!” cries a manager, unjaded and eager, nearly vaulting over the counter.

1346 Boylston St., Boston, 617-286-8872, www.cava.com

Kara Baskin can be reached at kara.baskin@globe.com.