Steuben’s has been a mainstay dining destination since it first opened its doors in 2006. The diner-inspired fare finds its inspiration in regional comfort food from across the US. Executive chef Dave Jabour utilizes top-notch ingredients to produce cuisine meant to be reminiscent of fond memories — the kind of food enjoyed during times of greatest comfort. Last week the restaurant instituted the greatest menu overhaul done in its 12-year history. Featuring a variety of new entrees, sandwiches, appetizers and beverages, the new menu still includes many of the crowd-favorites with the additions all presumed to be better than the items they replaced.
Owner Josh Wolkon opened the restaurant — his second venture — with the hopes of creating a more casual space than his now iconic downtown joint Vesta. The space is named after a restaurant owned by his great-uncles in his native Boston during the 1940s up through the 1960s. The walls are plastered with memorabilia — old menus, family photos and vintage signage tie the new space to its namesake. While the menu at Denver’s Steuben’s is not identical to its historic inspiration, the old menu clearly inspired the current iteration with its commitment to down-home favorites. The main difference being the list’s prices — a plate of steak and potatoes once ran a mere $1.50.
The interior was designed to further accentuate the vintage feel — with the commitment going down to the details. Classic glassware lines the bar and the sign above the takeout counter has the occasional letter intentionally painted differently to give a greater sense of being from the past. As with Wolkon’s other locations, Steuben’s uses repurposed materials to achieve its very specific aesthetic. While the food is surely what keeps people coming back, the interior design plays a substantial role in creating the warm atmosphere integral to the rounded dining experience.
While the restaurant will make seasonal changes to the menu and is always seeking to improve the selections, the new list features the most substantial set of alterations yet. New items include the bodega breakfast sandwich ($7), a surprisingly robust combination of thick-cut smoked bacon, a fried egg and American cheese on a brioche bun. For only having four ingredients the convenient bite stuns in its simplicity — the quality of each ingredient elevating the NYC staple. The brick chicken ($17) is a half chicken compressed beneath a cast-iron skillet to enrich the flavor and make the skin extra crispy. The sturdy dish is served with crispy potatoes, seasonal vegetables and chicken jus.
Drink-wise, the restaurant has several exciting additions to their already strong list of classic cocktails. The smoke in the afternoon ($10) is Leopold Bros. Cherry liqueur, Montelobos espadin mezcal, Ancho Reyes chile liqueur, Hella citrus bitters, lemon juice and muddled orange. The deep smoke of the mezcal is nicely balanced by the bright citrus, making the beverage a surprisingly effortless cocktail despite the complexity of the spirit. The G&T special takes the classic beverage and deconstructs it, allowing guests to build their own out of Leopold Bros. summer gin, Q and Fever Tree tonics, orange, lime and basil. Served on an antique tray, the happy hour staple goes well with the grilled artichoke ($8).
Perhaps the most exciting addition is the month-long fried clam special. A pint ($19) is a delectable tray of Ipswitch clam belly fried to perfection and served with a lemon, slaw and a house-made tartar sauce. The seasonal tradition is a favorite of Wolkon’s, having enjoyed the delicacy during summers growing up on the East Coast. While the other menu additions are here to stay, the clams will only be available until the end of August.
All photography courtesy of Anna Regan.