New lunch place on the block and it’s Cava – the Greek(?) version of fast casual whatever – in other words: here’s a pile of stuff in a bowl. I’m not complaining much, since some of these places give me just what I want – a little bit of a number of different flavors all on one plate. They must be nightmares for any person who hates to have their food touch, but I enjoy poking around in them.
I was trying to figure out what sort of an eating experience they were modeled on however, all these rice bowls and grain bowls and such and while I think they started out as the offspring of salads, at this point they draw on another eating tradition: leftovers. Single folks rarely experience leftovers of much variety, at least I don’t.If I’m cooking something I either make enough for one night or enough for a week, and it’s usually one dish, not five types of vegetables. These bowls are like someone rummaging through the family fridge after a holiday. There’s a couple of tablespoons of everything, and some sauce to tie it all together. That’s why the are so comforting to eat at your desk. It’s like someone cared enough to put together all the scraps and send you off to work with them.
As environments, all of these places are the same, extensions of that I’ve been calling The White Tube, a visual retail environment that makes all urban locations into the same location through careful deployment of Edison Bulbs, white painted brick, reclaimed wood, and uncomfortable stools. These places, with their attached apps for online ordering are never about lingering, they are about getting you your food with the smallest possible amount of human contact possible and getting you back out the door. Given how similar they all are, it’s easy to foresee a future they start to merge and you just order via app and pick up food from any number of comapanies via something like an Amazon dropbox, your packages and your bowl of noms delivered to you in the Automat of the 21st century.