Here today, gone tomorrow: These days, that's the siren song of more and more menus, many of which change monthly, some weekly, others daily, which means that if you get too attached to a dish, at some point -- sooner rather than later is the most likely scenario -- you'll be jilted by its abrupt farewell.
But Steuben's, which opened six years ago in Uptown, has steadfastly adhered to its earnest (and enduring) culinary culture, turning out a self-respecting, well-oiled roster of American regional classics that have remained largely untouched, save for a few seasonal bust-outs.
Over the past month, however, chef Brandon Biederman and his kitchen comrades have been toying with the menu, and for the first time since the retro roadhouse opened, there's a substantial collection of new dishes (and only memories of several old mainstays like the fried cheese). "My sous chefs were itching to make some new food, and about a month ago, we starting putting things in motion," says Biederman, who credits his kitchen staff for inspiration. "A lot of the dishes were ideas from our staff, who have been cooking the same thing day after day after day and really wanted the opportunity to make some great new stuff."
Most of the new dishes, notes Biederman, have been offered as specials, which, he says, "flew out the door." The breakfast bierock -- also called a runza -- for example, an old-world yeast-risen bread pocket that's historically filled with beef, sauerkraut, cabbage and spices. Here, though, it's bulked with scrambled eggs, red onions, scallions, bacon and cheddar cheese -- and washed with maple syrup.
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But when you prod Biederman to divulge his favorite dishes from the new menu, which include, among other things, mussels and housemade chorizo; peel-and-eat shrimp; Chinatown chicken wings; chicken and waffles; a sausage and pepper sandwich; a patty melt; spaghetti puttanesca; a New York strip with mustard seed butter; and Steubie snacks -- or Uptown pork crack, which were first introduced on the Steuben's food truck -- he breaks into a wide grin and simply says, "You should eat all of it, because everything is really, really good."
After further contemplation, however, Biederman scours the menu and chooses a repertoire of dishes that he thinks makes the ideal square meal -- and he's right: They're all dishes I'd eat again and again. Herewith, the feast.
Peel-and-eat shrimp dusted with Cajun spices and served with cocktail sauce and black pepper aioli. Watermelon, feta, red onion and arugula salad textured with toasted macadamia nuts. The blue plate: New York strip topped with a sphere of mustard seed butter and sided with sauteed vegetables and mashed potatoes or shoestring fries. Naked, no-frills potato salad...perfect for a picnic. Patty melt. Lemon curd with macerated berries and whipped cream.