So far today, with the Review of a Restaurant.

I like Colorado. I probably won’t be able to put a finger on it until I go somewhere else, either on a long trip, or I move. At a first guess, here’s a rambling anecdote:

The first time I went to Wisconsin as an adult (we’d gone there many times over the years to visit family), one of the things that I noticed (travelling as a tourist) was the separate culture groups: the Norwegians, the Germans, the English, the Scots, and GOD help you if you failed to mention them, the Welsh and Cornish miners. Within a block, you could get lefse and salt-water taffy,and tour the Mustard Museum and the passionately independent local bookstore. You could get maps showing the locations of the gnomes around town. Drive a little further north, and there’s the House on the Rock. Further still, and there’s a Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum in Spring Green. Nobody’s native; nobody’s not.

Colorado seems to be like that, but on a national, rather than a European, level. When you ask, “Where are you from?” the answer is seldom “Colorado” but a different state or part of the country. California. Utah. Texas. Iowa. New York. Pennsylvania. Minnesota (watch out for those Minnesotans; they’ve figured out that “mountains” means snow when you want it and a car that starts in the morning without being plugged into a generator all night).

Lee’s working today. I went to a restaurant. I have this project of touring Colorado Springs like I toured Iowa when I lived there. I’ve only had the itch to sneak off to Denver a couple of times so far, and the zoo’s captured me both times. The exploration of Denver will happen later, I’m sure.

I went to Zorbadillo’s Greek and Mexican Restaurant. They don’t have saginaki, unless you can ask for it to be specially prepared. This is, because of Lee, the standard by which all Greek restaurants shall be judged. Jake and Telly’s, the other big Greek restaurant in town, doesn’t get it all toasty and good. Eh. I had the lemon-chicken soup and a souvalaki sandwhich from their limited lunch menu. Pretty good; I could probably do better on the soup (but only because I’m obsessed with soup), but the souvalaki was savory, stuffed with tender chunks of lamb and grilled vegetables, served with roasted potatoes on the side. The potatoes had–for some reason–included okra, which I’m sure isn’t traditional, but it worked. Ray liked the potatoes best, and savaged my plate for the last of them.

The restaurant was deserted when I came in, so much so that I was prepared to turn around and leave because they looked closed. Customers drifted in as I ate, but it seems like winter is a pretty slow time for the place. (Last summer, it seemed to be pretty packed whenever I drove by.) I was wearing my Panera’s shirt from my stint in Iowa, and the owner drifted over to my table and started up a conversation. It could have been the shirt, or the bebe, or just the boredom of looking through the books during a Sunday afternoon. Maybe it’s just his habit.

We talked for a while, and I asked him the reason behind the name. Everyone asks about the name. It’s based off the concept of the restaurant, which is Greek + Mexican. (Greek, because he’s Greek, and Mexican, because not everybody likes Greek, he explained.) The Zorba part comes from Zorba the Greek, a novel and movie about a Greek man that loves life. The dillo part…he’d been debating how to tie in the Mexican theme in the name of the place, and happened to think of…

Armadillos.

I cracked up when he told me that, because it was so funny and brilliant. Zorbadillos. Now, it makes perfect sense.

My overall impression so far was that the place was a pretty neat affair, very Mediterranean in atmosphere, lots of scenes from the Greek isles, a pretty typical menu (once you got used to the idea of Mexican food in a Greek restaurant–not fusion food, but traditional food from two different traditions). Then the owner (after plying Ray and I with chocolate and other goodies–it must be some kind of cultural hospitality thing, because he stacked the stuff all over a table in the entryway, too) invited us to wander over next door, to a cafe that they’d just opened two months ago, called the Neptune Cafe.

Wow.

If I live to be a hundred, I’ll never see another place like it, most likely. Half the building is glassed-in, and small stained-glass windows line the other half. Some of the tile, the owner said, is from Venice, from an old church. He picked it up in a warehouse…

The building is divided in two, with a cafe on one half and a wine bar on the other. (Scheduled for Valentine’s Day is a wine-tasting and meal. First the apertifs at the Cafe. Then, the romantic meal at the restaurant. Finally, the wine and coctails at the Cafe.) The eye is delighted with the details–both the sheer clutter and the harmonious merging of the eclectic elements. The belly is entranced with a glimpse at the menu–tapas, appetisers, salads, sandwhiches, pizzas, pastries and desserts made in-house. A completely different menu than the restaurant, one that delivers the answer to the “greek-mexican?” question. Finally, the nose–if that’s the term–whiffs the delight of the coffee menu, which ranges from coffee to divine coffee, the sort with any sort of alcohol you can imagine adding to it. I didn’t see the wine list, and I wouldn’t know how to describe it if I had.

I had the impression that this man had more imagination than I do, which is saying something. I left feeling like I’d found someplace that could easily become a good gravitation point, as are the best coffee shops: the place only needs to be discovered. I had a great time; he was a charming host, but not the kind of charming that leaves one wondering what the person is really like afterwards. This was the kind of charming which has spaces in the conversation, blank gazes into space, a moment of thought between question and reply, and a restrained eagerness to show off one’s prized creations that I can so relate to.

Also, he tried to hire me, which made me laugh.