It doesn't require a magical stallion to discover an unexploited culinary niche in Woodland Park, so I won't say that Jamie Woodson and Marios Gazali have made the most brilliant move by opening Pegasus Mediterranean Café in early April.
But just as BierWerks was wise to gift the city its first brewery, the couple was smart to assume that locals would appreciate an authentic, Persian rug- and Greek art-adorned falafel fixer not requiring a round trip through Ute Pass. They decided as much last July, while on vacation from Des Moines, Iowa, where Gazali also owns similar eateries called Open Sesame and Gazali's.
With Greek and Lebanese heritage, Gazali draws influence cross-culturally, and his menu reflects that and his own experimentation. It was his boredom with his regular gyro that inspired him to one day splash Sriracha across it, with jalapeño slivers and feta crumbles. The resulting spicy gyro offered on Pegasus' lunch menu quickly became his bestseller at Gazali's, just as it was easily my favorite item across two visits here. (All pita wraps cost $10, and include soup, fries, or a Greek salad).
It starts with flavorful beef and lamb gyro-cone meat procured from Chicago's Grecian Delight, spit-roasted and grilled (a nice added touch), and topped with a chunky sour cream and yogurt tatziki, tomatoes, onions and lettuce. Then the peppers and more dairy come in for heat and extra richness, creating an all-round killer combo, worth the mess of sauce pushed out the back on each bite. On a scale of donkey to winged horse, it soars to Icarus' tragic heights.
Our accompanying spicy shawarma chicken and Mediterranean chicken pitas didn't fly so high, but were good. The chicken was a touch dry and could use more seasoning, but the jalapeño-Sriracha combo and a whole pickle perked up the former, and a house vinaigrette, olives, feta and cucumber aided the latter enough.
The house lentil soup was still cooking and unavailable during our lunch, but the side Greek salad was plenty generous and satisfying, as were crisp, cinnamon-dusted fries.
At dinner, the vegetarian sampler ($14) delivered un-warmed pita wedges with both a classic chickpea and spicy hummus, amped again with jalapeños and added cayenne pepper; a fairly smoky and bitter baba ghanoush; decent dolmas and tabouli; and somewhat mealy and dry falafel balls. Those seven-spice garbanzos were better broken up on the falafel salad ($12), where they soaked up what house dressing escaped the crisp romaine and Greek salad toppings, plus tabouli and hummus.
The citrusy, sumac-dusted Kafta Kabob needed a third skewer at $18, but tasted delicious with cinnamon, cardamom and more seven-spice mixed in with the beef over basmati rice, tabouli and hummus with pita. A great rosewater lemonade ($2) complements many flavors with its floral, sweet acidity, and a Lebanese-style baklava ($4) subs a pleasing orange blossom syrup for honey with large walnut chunks in a thick, dry layering of phyllo; it's fine, but I prefer the Greek version.
Gazali released an expanded menu just after my visits, including a Mediterranean-seasoned burger and steak, an eggplant entrée and mujaddara, a lentil, wheat and caramelized onion mix that can be a pita filling or salad topper. So I'll have to ride my own trusty steed (my Nissan) up soon to try them — if I can resist the spicy gyro.
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