Cava’s Mediterranean Bowls Arrive in Chicago This Week

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Quick-serve Mediterranean restaurant chain Cava, a budding force in bowl-centric dining, will launch its first foray into the Midwest market this week in Wicker Park. The company, which is already teasing a second outpost in the suburbs, will make its Chicago debut on Friday, April 26 at 1484 N. Milwaukee Avenue.

Adored by fans for its wallet-friendly menu laden with nutritious and meat-free options, Cava seems an apt replacement for the location’s previous tenant, local vegetarian chain Native Foods. Its menu applies a familiar mix-and-match approach to its Eater Bowl Bowl-winning grain and vegetable bowls, weaving in Mediterranean-style ingredients like tzatziki, falafel, and spicy lamb meatballs. Cava also features pita wraps with options like Greek chicken with olives and feta.

Fast-casual restaurants have a reputation for fluorescent sterility, a quality that Cava seems intent on bucking with a design style it’s dubbed “Project Soul,” the Sun-Times reports. The company tapped Chicago artist Alyssa Low to create a colorful mural featuring local elements like the city’s flag and Lake Michigan inside the 30-seat Wicker Park restaurant, where customers can also expect cushioned booths and soft lighting.

Cava’s food
Cava insists that bowls don’t have to be boring.

Cava’s second Illinois outpost is slated for a summer debut in Vernon Hills (coincidentally, also on a Milwaukee Avenue — at 890 N. Milwaukee Avenue in the suburb), co-founder Ted Xenohristos tells reporters. The short timeline between openings may signal that a cascade of Cava locations is headed to the Chicago area, as the brand is in the midst of a nationwide expansion, opening 72 locations last year. If all goes according to plan, it hopes to secure 1,000 restaurants by 2032.

Xenohristos, along with partners and childhood friends Ike Grigoropoulos and chef Dimitri Moshovitis, opened the first Cava nearly 20 years ago in Maryland. In the intervening years, Mediterranean food has gained significant prominence in the U.S. It seems that trajectory has served Cava well, as the company went public in 2023 and touts more than $700 million in annual revenue.

Cava Wicker Park, 1484 N. Milwaukee Avenue, Scheduled to open Friday, April 26. Cava Vernon Hills, 890 N. Milwaukee Avenue in Vernon Hills, scheduled to open this summer.

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