|PB& Jellies||106 E. Kiowa St., Colorado Springs CO|
GO! DINING REVIEW: PBJ and pastrami?
Forks: 3 out of 5 forks
Restaurant character: Over eager and somewhat schizophrenic. But often satisfying.
Address: 106 E. Kiowa St.
Contact: 465-2686, pbandjellies.com
Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Mondays-Wednesdays, 10 a.m.-midnight Thursdays-Saturdays, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sundays
Credit cards: Yes
Wi-fi: Coming soon
WHAT’S ONLINE as of Oct. 31
Foursquare: 33 check-ins by 19 people
Yelp rating: 6 reviews, averaging 4.5 out of 5 stars
Urban Spoon: 7 out of 7 raters “liked” it
Trip Advisor: No ratings yet
El Paso County Public Health: No inspection report yet
I’m not sure that PB & Jellies New York Deli knows exactly what it is.
The Boar’s Head meats and cheeses, Sabrett hot dogs, knishes and New York-themed soundtrack (hello, Mr. Sinatra!) seem to suggest that it really wants to be a old-fashioned New York deli.
A good chunk of the menu and the restaurant name, though, celebrate gourmet peanut butter and jellies, a trending darling of the food world. Trying to cover both bases rather than specializing leaves me a little confused, as does the choice to locate two blocks from the peanut butter joint OPB&J.
Confusion aside, PB and Jellies’ menu contains some creative gems that, if they can get diners through the door, may prove that Colorado Springs has not reached its peanut butter saturation point just yet.
Peanut butter highlights
One of the great bonuses of this reviewing gig: bacon, lots of guilt-free bacon. How could I not order the decadent, surprisingly complex Elvis ($7.49)? Slathered in your choice of peanut butter, stacked with soft, sweet banana slices, chopped nuts, honey and thick, crispy bacon, it’s a taste and texture combination worthy of The King.
There’s a lot to like about the house-made peanut butters, which include plain, chocolate, white chocolate, cinnamon raisin and more, all with no preservatives. But there are no real surprises. The spicy-but-not-fiery Pad Thai on the plain PB&J ($4.49) is the clear choice for more adventurous eaters, and the peach or blackberry ginger (it’s pretty heavy on the ginger) jams play well with the Asian-themed spread.
PB and Jellies’ jelly bar is a fantastic idea: Instead of being forced to choose one of the (again, house-made and preservative-free) jelly options, you can have fun experimenting, dipping your sandwich in a little of my favorite caramel apple here, a little grape or very berry there. I filled up several ramekins to bring to the table so I could sample them all.
Not that you necessarily need jelly with every sandwich, many of which are desserts dressed as entrees. Those include the Peanut Butter Cup ($6.49) with Nutella and the Give Me S’more ($5.99) with dark chocolate PB, marshmallow cream and crunchy Teddy Grahams. Yes, Teddy Grahams. I flashed back to my elementary lunchbox circa 1990, and I think that younger self would have loved the sweet sandwich more than I did as an adult. The sugar quotient was pretty intense.
New York highlights
The main reason to visit PB and Jellies is not peanut butter, but instead the East Meets West knish ($8.99), a truly inspired combination. Flown in from New York, the potato-filled pastry is smothered in fresh, spicy pork or vegetarian Hatch green chili and sour cream. The heat and the starchy potato are refreshing and satisfying after the supersweet peanut butter side of the menu, and after one bite, I knew I would come back solely for this knish any time I’m in the area.
The sandwich I loved the most was also from the deli side of the menu: a totally delicious pastrami sandwich on rye, lean and spicy and topped with a tasty, unique dry coleslaw mix. The slaw is a great, crunchy touch and added a touch of class I couldn’t get in a brown-bag sandwich from home. It was simply great bread, great meat and great quality, and it relied on solid flavor rather than on pure novelty the way many of the restaurant’s PB offerings do. (I’m looking at you, Honey I’m Pregnant, with PB and butter pickles for $6.49.)
Personally, I question the lasting appeal of the gourmet peanut butter and jelly trend; there’s only so many times I want to eat something so sticky sweet. Again, focusing on both New York and PB themes at the same time is a curious choice, and I found more standouts on the New York side of the fence. The PB sandwiches at PB and Jellies are novelties, sure, but anyone with a butter knife can make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at home.
The PB sandwiches are also rich and heavy, and I rarely wanted to finish a whole sandwich. Open until midnight Thursdays through Saturdays, I can see the stick-to-your-ribs quality being appealing for the bar crowds, though.
With sometimes more staff than customers, the service can be a little suffocating. Owner Art Romero and his family really want to make this restaurant work, and they bend over backward to make sure every customer receives excellent service. As the only table in the storefront during a recent lunch hour, the pressure to reassure the overeager family and staff that, yes, everything is fine and tasty — and please take a step back now! — felt a little overwhelming to me.
I love that you’re a family business; I really do. I also want to enjoy my sandwich without being checked on every two minutes.
The Kiowa Street storefront is bright, flower-filled and friendly, and I love the informality of the kitchen tables with their rolls of paper towels, sheaves of construction paper and crayons. The staff’s enthusiasm for the restaurant business is palpable, but it’s the little things that show they lack a deep restaurant background. Not making silverware readily available seems like a strange omission, and the plating of the food is beyond basic: bare plates, sometimes with a messy handful of potato chips.
The whole experience could use a little refinement, but even so, the atmosphere of good, clean fun and a family so clearly working toward its American dream is genuinely charming.