Since its inception in 2011, Jelly has become a name synonymous with breakfast and brunch in Denver. Four years later, the place is just as hopping as ever, with hour-long waits at the original Capitol Hill location the standard anytime you go. Word on the street is that the University of Denver spot is no better for satisfying the morning hangries quickly, so all we can hope is that the restaurant's tagline “Eat More Jelly” holds true and that many more outposts will crop up to serve the faithful following.
A retro diner overflowing with the tragically hip and classically predictable Cap Hill crowd, Jelly seems to be the morning gathering spot for the whole ‘hood — from the chick with the painted-on makeup to the tight-pantsed hipsters overheard asking if they should get a new tat while waiting. Open daily for breakfast from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., the interior is a whimsical tribute to your childhood, with old cereal boxes mounted on the walls, chandeliers made of coffee mugs and spoons, and a host stand that’s actually an old television set playing morning cartoons for the few who can see between the legs of the throngs of people attempting to check-in or be seated. It’s just a known evil: if you want to eat at Jelly, you’re going to have to suck it up and wait.
While Jelly doesn't offer bottomless cocktails (no one would ever get a table), the drink menu is a playful mix of hot and cold creations that change seasonally. As a result of the teasing Colorado weather during my last visit, the bar was out of many of the mixers needed to warm us up with winter creations yet hadn’t fully switched over to spring cocktails. It seemed odd that the switch-over didn’t completely coincide with the new food menu, but it didn't bother me for long as I located the tried and true Bhakti Toddy, letting the frothy chai spiked with spiced rum remind me that Denver isn't necessarily done with chilly weather.
Jelly offers large portions for reasonable prices (if you overlook the crazily inflated cereal bowls), but I like to go a la carte, allowing my friends and I to try a little bit of everything by mixing and matching the kitchen's signature doughnuts with a few sliders and a pancake du jour. Those made-to-order doughnut bites are a must-eat appetizer, each one filled with a different flavor of the eatery's namesake jelly. Sold in orders of four or eight that can be devoured in any flavor combination (with a gluten-free option as well), they’re light, fluffy and perfectly sized — slightly bigger than a Dunkin' Donut Munchkin — to pop in your mouth. My excitement built with each sugary bite better than the last: crème anglaise, salted caramel, maple bacon, and the definite winner, Thai peanut, which tasted like a salty-sweet, peanut-buttery ball of yeasty goodness drizzled in Sriracha.
Building on the theme of sweet heat after the Thai peanut doughnut, we went with the Haco chili Benedict. Described as a stew of chorizo, tomato, roasted poblano, and smoked paprika, this Benny was much sweeter than it was hot, especially the chili sauce and Hollandaise commingled, taking on a thick, yolky texture instead of really standing out on it's own like we'd hoped. Set on biscuits that were too flaky for the heavy toppings, they crumbled with each forkful, making getting that perfect bite a bit of a challenge. The breakfast sliders on toasted Hawaiian buns made for easier mouthfuls. Jelly lets you mix and match two for $7.29 or three for 8.79, with choices of savory, country, garden or rustic. The country was a tasty bacon and egg frittata sandwich with standard ingredients made bolder with a dose of aged cheddar (Isn’t it amazing the difference good cheese makes?), while the savory impressed with generous portions of creamy goat cheese and a bacon, spinach and walnut pesto that was just the right grainy texture and richness to offset the salty meat, leaving us wishing there was way more than just three quickly demolished bites.
If you want to nosh on the house-made jellies, raspberry is a staple doughnut filling, but the flavors that come with the toast rotate daily. Between the doughnuts, sliders and biscuit on the Benedict plate, we had more than enough carbs at our table, but we couldn't resist a side order of that day's delicious mango-pineapple jelly.
While Jelly’s sweet treats were certainly memorable, the sides of thickly sliced and perfectly seasoned rustic potatoes, topped with a dollops of sour cream and chives, were a surprising standout. We asked the server what made them so good, to which she responded either the caramelized onions with which they share the grill — or love. We’ll go with love.
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