GO! DINING REVIEW: Pegasus hasn't yet taken flight
Restaurant character: This mythical creature lacks the magic to take flight
Rating total: 2.5 out of 5 forks
Food: 3 out of 5 forks
Ambiance: 3 out of 5 forks
Service: 2 out of 5 forks
Address: 19251 E. Highway 24, Woodland Park
Contact: 687-4584, pegasuscafewp.com
Hours: 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 5-9 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays
Credit cards: Yes
Vegetarian options: Yes, including the falafel plate or falafel pita and the “Open Sesame Eggplant,” which is lightly fried and served with cous cous, potatoes, chick peas and pita.
What’s online as of Jan. 9, 2012
• 4 out of 5 stars based on six reviews on Yelp
• 71 percent of 42 voters “liked it” on Urban Spoon
• 14 check-ins on Foursquare
• Discounts available when you sign up for the Pegasus Club at pegasuscafewp.com.
At more than 8,400 feet above sea level, Woodland Park is known as the city above the clouds, which makes it a fitting home for Pegasus Mediterranean Café, named after the winged horse of Greek mythology. While it doesn’t rise to the level of magical, the 9-month-old Greek restaurant adds diversity to Woodland Park’s culinary scene and serves up some tasty dishes, interspersed with a few disappointments. While it hasn’t yet taken flight, locals will find plenty to enjoy about the restaurant, but it will take a little polish to send me flying up the pass just to visit this café.
Stark white and blue, the exterior of Pegasus isn’t overly inviting, but once you get past the painted cinder-block walls of the entry, the dining room is a cozy surprise with a warm fireplace, romantic lighting and a beam ceiling. Brick walls and patterned curtains section the large restaurant into three alcoves, and bright blue chairs are pulled up to the cute bar area.
What kills the warmth is its echoing emptiness, which might not be a problem if this place catches on. On one visit, the one car in the lot was likely the server’s, and we couldn’t find her for a good five minutes spent milling around the bar. My table was the only one in the house for at least part of both my visits, and there was trouble with the sound system skipping. One evening, the staff simply turned it off in order not to deal with it, and the silence carrying our conversation throughout the room was uncomfortable and off-putting.
The highlight of the menu, in this heat-lovers estimation, is the spicy dishes, which are rich with fiery chili and tangy vinegar flavors. I’d recommend choosing the spicy hummus, spicy gyro or spicy chicken shwarma over the plain versions any day.
Ask for a side of the sauce for dipping if you want to regulate the heat yourself.
Some of the classics are done well. Drizzled in good-quality olive oil and sprinkled with spice, Pegasus’ hummus ($7) will have you scooping the plate clean with the provided triangles of warm, multigrain pita — which is not homemade, but is fresh and of a good quality. The sharbat ($2), a traditional Greek drink of lemonade and rosewater, is an exotic and delicious accompaniment.
As for the beef-and-lamb gyro ($10 lunch, $12 dinner), it’s fine, but being fine was disappointing after the raves I heard after the restaurant opened. I found the meat to be tasty but tamely spiced, lacking the pepperiness I’ve enjoyed in other versions. Perhaps the batches of meat I tested were created on a bad day, or at least a worse day than previous reports.
Similarly, Pegasus’ falafel is perfectly respectable and I wouldn’t turn it away. Like all lunches, the falafel pita was served with salad (fresh and crisp), lentil soup (enjoyable and herby) or fries (limp and unsalted) for $10. Though the house dressing helps, I found the fried balls of chickpeas dried my mouth of all its saliva and required frequent water breaks.
I’m lucky I got to try the falafel on my second visit, because Pegasus was out on my first (granted, weeknight) — along with one 86’d chicken dish and fresh zucchini. The squash was supposed to be served with the tilapia plate ($16), where the tilapia was salty and somewhat mealy.
The vegetarian sampler ($14) was a mixed bag. While the hummus is delicious, the baba ganouj (a dip of roasted eggplant) was unappealingly smoky and pungent, and the dolmas (stuffed grape leaves) seemed to be filled with nothing but plain, watery white rice. The plate went back half full.
The chicken in the Mediterranean Chicken Pita was plain, the main flavor being the sandwich’s dressing, and the same plain poultry was featured in the Schwarma Chicken Pita (both $10, lunch), except with a mild, hard-to-detect garlic sauce.
Plus, the Kafta Kabab (ground sirloin with herbs and spices cooked on the grill) tasted Americanized, like mild, mini meatloaves over basmati rice. At $18 for the platter, it was a pricey disappointment.
Baklava ($4) could have sweetened the meal, but it, too, fell short and fell heavily. Rather than layer upon thin layer of phyllo, walnuts and honey, there were only three: a lid of dry pastry sheets, a thick middle of filling and a pastry base. The base was actually too hard and dense to cut with a fork or even easily with a knife, and sawing on dessert isn’t a great way to end a meal.
I had night-and-day experiences with Pegasus’ staff, and one server was a consummate, caring professional who went above and beyond in terms of customer service. Her knowledge of Greek spices and the restaurant’s ingredients was impressive.
On the other side of the equation was a well-meaning but distracted server who first brought water sporting a floating fly, then left water and wine glasses un-refilled all evening. In addition to more wine, we also would have ordered desserts, had they been offered, which is somewhat baffling, considering that we were the restaurant’s only patrons.
Nothing rose to the level of making a formal complaint, and if I lived in the area, I would certainly grant Pegasus the chance to prove that the bland and bad spots are the exception rather than the norm.
As a Springs-dweller, however, there is nothing legendary or magical enough on the menu to take me want to drive up the pass.