The steak-house: a consummate example of a relatively formulaic restaurant that can be tricky to get just right. Distinctly American, though somehow removed from the normal informality that American food tends to have, a steakhouse must choose a fine balance between elegance and grit. With the pun fully intended, for as long as I’ve lived in Pueblo, a proper steakhouse is rare to be well-done.
At Twenty-One Steak, though, something unusual and quite delightful has occurred. Tucked away at Pueblo’s Historic Riverwalk, it’s going for the high-end steak market in Pueblo with prices more in line with steakhouses up north. Whether you’re looking for a fancy night or you simply want a great steak without a drive, a visit to Twenty-One Steak is definitely worth the money.
The first thing you may wish to know about the place is that if you’re on a budget and you want steak, you should definitely reserve the trip for a special occasion. The second thing is that the money you end up spending will be unquestionably worthwhile—every time. It is evident that there is not a detail of this restaurant that has been overlooked or unaccounted for. For instance, the salmon in one of the appetizers is cold smoked in house using a process that takes four days. Every server has an etched nameplate on a light grey shirt so that guests know whom they are speaking with. Even the steak sauce is made from scratch, starting off with a ketchup that has to be made before that.
Over a salmon terrine with dill cream cheese, asparagus, gherkin pickles, hard cooked eggs, and fried capers, I spoke with the general manager. Having left the Broadmoor on amicable terms to work for Twenty-One, he has ensured that every metric of the standard of service has been met or exceeded. For instance, six glasses adorned a two person table at the beginning of the service as well as an impressively heavy set of cutlery. Nearly every option in the bar has been chosen to complement a menu item in some fashion or another, by way of his experienced palette.
The service is top notch, for reasons including that every server is limited to a number of people they can serve in an evening. Surprisingly (and unlike places up north), Twenty-One is fueled by 23 staff members, most of them students. Even the kitchen is fueled in part by local college students as, after dinner, I was told my steak was the first a student had procused for a customer. It was delicious.
Just as the service is top notch, the entrees also receive close attention to the minutest of details.
Out came the steak: 18 ounces of USDA certified, New York Prime, explosion in your mouth, you probably just lost your sense of direction, cut of perfectly prepared beef. For steak lovers, a great sense of calmness and relief that the world is going to be alright may swell over you. The complements I chose were a beautiful local herbed butter and the house steak sauce, which had already been dressed.
Knowing now that the simple meat and potatoes of the steakhouse environment had been mastered to near perfection, the sides could begin to show their colors as well.
A lemon vinaigrette on a mixed green salad started things off. The side of asparagus was cooked to the proper crisp-crunch and seasoned with just the right touch; it surpasses the bar as well. All the while, the chile, bacon, and pepperjack mix in the potato croquettes took on their own personality and provided a nice respite.
After dinner, the chef came out of the kitchen to explain the philosophy of the food. Ben Bedard, the only Certified Executive Chef in the city of Pueblo, created a menu using the highest grade ingredients, found as locally as possible.
That said, as little as possible of what he finds is wasted in the kitchen. What is trimmed from the house cuts is ground and made into the Twenty-One burger. Even the fats and drippings are saved for sauces. Many ingredients come straight from the farms in Pueblo County. The espresso (normally an afterthought) is bought from a local roaster.
Chef Ben knows his menu well and is proud of what has been created, and it shows.
I finished off dinner from a choice of handcrafted desserts by a dedicated pastry chef. With red velvet cheesecake on cookie crumble crust and a citrus-mint medley, as well as another espresso, the true meaning of a fine dining experience settles into one’s mind, stomach, and pocket book.
Twenty-One is all about the experiences, and flavor is an experience too. It’s another sign that Southern Colorado foodies want more options and restaurants are aiming to satisfy their cravings.
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