When Jake and Telly's, the Greek restaurant on the West side, first opened, the menu was enormous. The offerings were extensive, reflecting what I believed at the time to be every dish the owners had ever sampled. It was mind boggling, almost frightening. But if you could persevere through the sheer weight of the menu, you were bound to be rewarded with something wonderful.
I'm very, very happy to report that, if anything, the quality of food at Jake and Telly's has only gotten better since their opening in 1997. And the menu has been trimmed down to a more manageable size, focusing on familiar, traditional Greek dishes. You could pretty much just close your eyes and randomly point at something on the menu, and you'd still be delighted with whatever you received.
If you haven't yet visited Jake and Telly's, I can't imagine what you're waiting for. The interior is pleasant -- white walls trimmed everywhere with a brilliant, Aegean blue that almost makes you think you're far away from Colorado Springs. But the best reason to visit is the balcony, surrounded by trees, overlooking the hustle and bustle of West Colorado Avenue but removed from the snuffling dogs and careless smokers among Old Colorado City's voluminous summer pedestrian traffic. The perfect spot for a drink with a date or dinner with old friends, the balcony encourages lingering, long after the last crumb of baklava has disappeared.
The trick is to get some friends together for a trip to Jake and Telly's, so that you might start with the appetizer sampler. At $11.95, it's well worth the price, because it comprises a sampling of practically all the appetizers, allowing you the luxury of not having to make up your mind. Fat chunks of feta doused with homemade Greek dressing; many sharp, briny and divine black olives, spanakopita with its light and flaky layers of filo pastry riddled with feta cheese and spinach; piles of freshly grilled pita bread and more grace the plate.
The hummus is quite good, but I'm afraid I've fallen in love with Melitzanasalata, which claims to be a mere blend of roasted eggplant with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. It's slightly sweet and a bit tangy, earthy and robust. There must be more to it; it couldn't be that simple, could it? The tzaziki is another favorite, with chopped cucumber and garlic blended with fresh dill, sour cream and yogurt. This is one of those sauces that I think you could eat over almost anything but chocolate. The skordalia, too, looks like an unassuming lump of cold mashed potatoes, but this blend of roasted garlic, potato and olive oil is perilously addictive, especially spread on warm, grilled pita bread.
A little warning about the mini Greek salad: Mini is a matter of perspective. I guess they figure if the regular Greek salad comes on a huge platter, then they can serve a smaller salad on a dinner plate and call it a mini. It's loaded with black olives, feta cheese, cucumbers, onions and tomatoes over fresh greens. I had to ask what the Horiatiki salad was, defined on the menu as "village style Greek salad." It's the same as a regular Greek salad, I was told, except there's more of the good stuff and no lettuce.
When in a Greek restaurant, I thought, I ought to try the lamb. So the first thing I tried was Lamb Kivetzi, and it was a struggle to ever order anything else. This was a sauced lamb shank served with orzo and juicy, crisp yet tender asparagus. Heaven on a plate -- the meat was falling-off-the-bone tender, succulent, full of flavor but absent any unpleasant gamey taste you can sometimes get with lamb.
And I was equally impressed by the lamb kabobs. Tender, juicy chunks of lamb tenderloin are skewered with thin slices of onion and green pepper, seasoned and grilled. More toothsome than the Kivetzi, every bite brings a veritable explosion of intense flavor. I found it very hard to share, even with the person who had souvlaki, a couple of skewers of some very fine marinated and grilled pork.
Pork fans should order the Brizoles -- pork chop heaven. I'm not sure how they're seasoned, but they are excellent, perfectly grilled to maintain juiciness, and the serving size was so large as to border on the absurd, easily enough for two people.
You don't have to eat red meat at Jake and Telly's. I'm dying to get back there to sample the Chicken Oreganato, a half chicken roasted with lemon and oregano, then grilled. And I look forward to the Mediterranean Salmon, which is grilled and topped with a cucumber, onion and dill relish. If I keep going back often enough, I'm sure I'll work my way through the more traditional dishes like Pastitsio, Moussaka and Veggie Moussaka, all of which, based on what I've tried already, are sure to be wonderful.
But don't take my word for it. Go get a table on the balcony and see for yourself.