As a countdown to the Best of Denver 2010, coming April 1, Cafe Society is serving up a hundred of our favorite dishes in Denver. Send your own nominations to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Number 88: Deviled eggs from Steuben's
I can still remember when the first draft of the first Steuben's menu came out -- a sneak peek that I got almost a year(!!!) before the place actually opened its doors, just as the guys were starting to screw around with some test recipes.
"Deviled eggs?" I thought. "Well, hell... My mom can make deviled eggs."
Months later, but still before the floor at Steuben's had seen its first paying customer, bits and pieces of that first menu were making their way out into Denver's gastronaut community -- both enticing them with visions of green chile cheeseburgers and lobster rolls, and sparking a surprising amount of anger over things like the deviled eggs.
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My mom makes the best deviled eggs anywhere, went the common refrain. Why would I go to a restaurant and pay some cook to make them for me?
The deviled eggs became a flash-point -- a demarcation between what ought to be restaurant food and what ought to be, I don't know...hHome food, I guess. And this topic was debated hotly for weeks, becoming, finally, a defining issue for the crew at Steuben's, who wisely came out with the claim that they made the second-best of everything on their menu.
The best deviled eggs? Undoubtedly your mom's or your grandmother's -- Steuben's wanted to make the second-best. Best truckstop chocolate cake? That place you used to go with your dad when you were a kid -- back in the days when truckstops were full of cigarette smoke and actual truckers, not hipsters and teenagers and low-fat salad dressings. But Steuben's wanted to produce a cake that was almost as good as that.
And so the deviled eggs at Steuben's make this esteemed list not just because they are really, really good deviled eggs (and perfect for snacking on when you've already hit the bar a bit too hard and can't quite stomach a big slab of cake or a plate of gravy fries), but also because they defined the debate about what counted as restaurant food at a time when Denver's chefs and foodies were all wondering the exact same thing. It is a historic plate. And one that well deserves its place of honor.