Steuben’s will definitely resonate with you if a) you’re American; and b) are of a certain age. What this means, basically, is that Steuben’s is a restaurant that, amazingly, seems themed (if that’s a verb) around the kind of food and service Americans in the 1960s and 1970s had … in school.
Really. I remember this stuff. I remember green plastic trays that had little compartments for your meat, your mashed potatoes, your inevitably-overcooked veggies. I remember the way the pudding tasted, and the logo and branding of the company that brought all that stuff to our school. Steuben’s brings it all back. The only thing missing are the lunch ladies. To quote Wikipedia, just in case you’re not American, “Lunch lady is an American slang term for a woman who cooks and serves food in a school cafeteria; the equivalent British English term is "dinner lady"
Steuben’s Food Service echoes all those childhood memories. They just added hipsters to it. And people who can cook. I liked it.
Steuben’s is on East Seventeenth Avenue, about a ten-minute walk from Denver’s main business district. There’s no parking lot, so you’re going to have to find something on the street, which shouldn’t be hard. However, the neighborhood is the home of a lot of wandering homeless types, so be prepared for some basically harmless pedestrian weirdness.
Address: 523 East 17th Avenue, Denver, Colorado 80203
Phone: (303) 830-1001
Monday – Thursday: 11:00 – 23:00; Friday: 11:00 – midnight; Saturday: 10:00 – midnight; Sunday: 10:00 – 23:00.
Noisy, lively, fun. The ambience is sort of hipped-up diner/cafeteria, so you’ll sit on some version of a diner banquette, with your food arriving on a table with a stainless-steel perimeter, but the place is obviously decorated by a pro, with faux old-time posters on the walls, fluorescent lights and so on. The crowd is an interesting mixture of Denver hipsters, older people, and people from the neighborhood. They also have a massive cocktail menu, so there’s a busy, lively bar scene here as well as a restaurant.
Good. One server handled the entire table, and he was friendly, fast and professional. Because the place is noisy, however, and/or because I’m getting old, it was sometimes difficult to hear him. It reminds me of a scene from Ocean’s Eleven:
Bartender: [over the noise in the background] How's the game going?
Rusty: Longest hour of my life.
Bartender: [not hearing him] What?
Rusty: I'm running away with your wife.
[He grins and flashes Rusty a thumbs-up]
Moderate -- $48 for one, including drinks and dessert. The portions are adequate, but not enormous.
The food is very good. It’s hearty, expertly-done American food – this is Denver after all, and there aren’t a lot of fancy flourishes on the cuisine here. But it is good, and they know what they’re doing.
As an appetizer, I began with that all-American food, Buffalo wings. These are chicken wings and/or small drumsticks, pan-fried and served covered with a spicy tomato hot sauce, along with two dipping sauces, one consisting of ranch salad dressing and the other with an extremely thick, rich, chunky Blue Cheese sauce. Incidentally, Buffalo wings are named not for the enormous American animal, but for the town where they were allegedly invented – Buffalo, New York. At Steuben’s, it comes with carrots and celery sticks, like real Buffalo wings should, and as real Buffalo wings also demand, there is a bowl provided for the chicken bones and two towelettes for cleaning up the incredible, massive mess. These wings were great – spicy, but not set-your-face-on-fire hot, with rich sauce and a large pile of wings.
Dinner itself was the Blue Plate Special – the legendary dish once served in every diner in the United States. Formerly, in diners of the past, the Blue Plate Special was the special of the day – an inexpensive, filling meal. In this case, it’s a strip steak with butter, mashed potatoes, and sautéed vegetables. The reference to diners the name of this dish implies is kind of ironic. Diner food is usually pretty bad – the idea is to stop being hungry so you can start driving again. This special was great. The mashed potatoes were rich and good, the steak was properly done and nicely seasoned, and the vegetables were an interesting mix, seasoned and sautéed really nicely. It was a great dish, and a real bargain at only $19.
Dessert had to be butterscotch pudding, the finale to millions of school lunches - it was great, and just as I remember it. Served in a parfait glass that was heavy enough to stun a bull – the real diner special, along with three miniature vanilla wafers, and a cup of coffee served, of course, in a heavy diner mug. All good, all real, all (basically) authentic. Despite being a little contrived, a little precious, and a little over-merchandised, Steuben Food Service is an excellent stop next time you’re in Denver. Recommended.Published On: Friday, November 8th, 2013