From the second-floor bookstore with its "modest but excellent" selection of literary, philosophical, religious and historical classics to the welcoming ground-level caf, Agia Sophia Espresso & Books has created a cozy spot in the spirit of the historic coffeehouse.
Erected in 1888, the building in which Agia Sophia resides once served as Colorado City's city hall. The Orthodox Christian Church, which manages the caf and bookstore, maintains a kind of spirit of public service; the caf operates as a nonprofit, with many volunteers working as staffers.
And the feel of the building welcomes all. Antique chairs and checker tables, some with small lamps, line the wood-paneled walls. Above hang portraits from Legacy Image Design, whose studio is in the building's rear. A lunch counter-style bar offers seating for three, with an arched, floor-to-ceiling window capped in a green awning allowing just enough light.
The menu features traditional Greek lunch items, various espresso drinks, loose teas and cold, non-coffee beverages. My friend, a devout Greek-Irish Catholic with a mean coffee addiction, swooned over a 16-ounce white chocolate mocha latte ($3.50), a deliciously hot, creamy confection. I sipped a tall and tangy mango smoothie ($3.50) as she explained the significance of the icons (images depicting scenes from the Holy Gospel) for sale in a case.
On our Mediterranean plate ($5.95), the from-scratch roasted red pepper hummus was exceptional, creamy and smoky-sweet. Dolmas (rice-stuffed grape leaves), olives, pinwheels of feta, roasted red peppers and grilled pita rounded out this affordable dish.
The white bean and ham soup, made fresh by Garden of the Gods Gourmet, offered a great balance of seasoning. We paired it with a crisp side salad ($6.50).
Agia Sophia's traditional soda-fountain drinks ($2.25) revealed another special touch. On our second visit, our barista Tucker, a quick-witted guy with a kind smile, recommended a mix of cherry and almond syrup poured over ice and mixed with seltzer. It proved refreshingly sweet and fizzy, not too syrupy.
Plus, Agia Sophia's 20-ounce chai latte ($3.40) kicked the pants off the watery Starbucks version.
The paninis, crunchy grilled pita bread filled with Greek veggies or Italian meats and a luscious, melty mix of cheeses and caramelized onions ($4.95/$5.95), gave way nicely to a scrumptiously tart and sweet cherry pie (from Boonzaaijer's Dutch bakery). The soft, sugar-sprinkled, buttery crust was the stuff of fantasy, right out of J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings series or C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia, both of which were on-site.
Meeting rooms for small groups and free Wi-Fi are testament to the caf's ability to inspire thought and conversation in the modern age.
According to Father Anthony, the parish's priest, Agia Sophia's mission is not to be a great food place. However, while many places hope for it, Agia Sophia has accidentally done it. Which begs the question: Dumb luck or divine intervention?
To be on the safe side, I choose the latter.
Agia Sophia Espresso & Books
2902 W. Colorado Ave., 632-3322, agiasophiacoffeeshop.com
Hours: Monday-Thursday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sunday, 1-7 p.m.