Leela’s European Café
820 15th Street (at Stout)
Bus directions: take the MallRide to Stout and walk over
I was so pleased to stumble upon Leela’s during my recent trek down 15th Street in downtown Denver. After the parking lot and the Hyatt and other massive buildings, it was great to walk into a place that was open and welcoming, not looming over me.
Leela reminded me a tiny bit of City, O’City on Capitol Hill. Like City, O’City, it is a restaurant and a coffee bar; it even sells pastries by the bar. But Leela’s is much larger and has a stage at the back where bands play on Friday and Saturday nights. Given the MySpace page mention of “exposure,” I would guess that the bands don’t get paid much, if at all.
I ordered my Greek salad with no olives at the bar, as the sign says, and tried out the tiny bar-height table first, but the shorter table was just right for me and all my stuff. In no time at all, my salad arrived: sliced romaine with onion and tomato and green pepper and lemon-pepper dressing. I would have preferred half the feta, but that is my only complaint. My mouth was still tingling from the peppery dressing when I left.
The barkeep liked the looks of the Greek salad so much she ordered it for lunch.
Leela’s wasn’t crowded at lunch. There were two tables when I walked in and a few people at the bar. The barkeep chatted with all of them; she was in her second week and very, very personable. When I asked her how long the restaurant had been open, she said about two years. She laughed about the fact that they “don’t charge” tax; the price you see on the menu is the price you pay. That’s what’s European about the place, she added.
In addition to several salads, Leela’s serves omelettes, “finger food,” panini, burgers, and grilled Italian sandwiches. The drinks on the back of the menu include the Crème Brulee, the Michael Jackson with white and dark chocolate, and the Open 24 Hours, with 4 shots of espresso, mocha, steamed milk, and cinnamon-sugar-encrusted foam.
Leela’s has 899 friends on MySpace, so it must be doing something right. The reviews on Yelp are seriously mixed, from “No reason not to go” to “roaches on the bar.” But I’ll go back at least once: I still want to try the Bellagio Sipping Chocolate.