Why deviled eggs, that most humble of cocktail party snack? They are, as foods go, fairly unremarkable. Their preparation is pretty simple, for one—hard boil eggs; remove yolks; mix yolks with mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, and seasoning; return yolk mix to egg; dust with paprika. Very little fire or flair is involved.
The modern deviled egg is also a far cry from its earlier iterations, which may have included, according to this History Channel report, "fig-peckers (small songbirds) marinated in peppered egg yolk and stuffed into peahen eggs." They weren't called deviled eggs back when the Romans were stuffing tiny birds into them, of course, and the story of how that term came into use only strengthens their bland reputation.
The famously flavor-averse British began using the word "devil" in the late 1700's as a verb to describe the process of making something spicy. Apparently dusting stuffed eggs with paprika was so exotic and dangerous that it had to be the work of Lucifer. In America, we got even more boring, frequently calling them "salad eggs" or "dressed eggs" to avoid angering the made up old man in the sky when serving them at church functions.
However, as bland as the classic preparation may be, I think there is no finer drinking snack than a deviled egg. They are fortifying but not overfilling, they're just the right amount of savory, and they can be consumed alongside a 5:30 pm cocktail with plenty of appetite left over for dinner.
In Seattle, we're blessed with a bounty of them. The multiple takes offered up at the Sovereign do wonders to spice up the genre, and the powerfully addictive pickled version at Good Bar could easily generate its own column. That crackly prosciutto paper they put on top is truly magical.
However, when it comes to deviled eggs and drinks, it's all Zig Zag all the way for me. The Zig Zag Cafe's preparation is about as traditional as they come, with just the substitution of ground Aleppo pepper for paprika, and it's a perfect expression of a classic. The filling is ur-creamy, and instead of being merely placed in unexciting dollops, it is whipped into intriguing, whimsical minarets. The egg white base of those minarets is as much of a marvel of texture as the structures it contains, and a dusting of finely chopped chives wraps everything up with a nice bit of herby crunch.
Though I usually think of deviled eggs as a thing you pick up between your thumb and forefinger and devour in one bite, Zig Zag's are a bit more ample than that. Divvying them into two bites with a fork is highly recommended, unless you enjoy having your nose adorned with deviled egg filling.
For a mere $8, you've got all the protein and fat you need to see you through any number of Zig Zag's fabled cocktails. The Staggerly ($12), with rye whiskey, aquavit, and Amaro Nonino, has a particularly pleasant bite to it, if you need a recommendation. Throw in some of their fluffy, airy fried pork skins, which arrive still audibly crackling from the fryer, and you've got all the sustenance you need.
Indeed, Zig Zag's menu is, to me, the perfect pantheon of bar food, from the bar snacks listed herein on up to the more ample stuff. Approachable, unfussy bar food that is done well is a treasure, and Zig Zag has been providing it since pretty much forever. Hell, an approachable, unfussy bar that is also still super classy is a treasure, and Zig Zag has been that forever too. My parents went to Zig Zag, I love going to Zig Zag, and—if I ever have children and the world hasn't turned into an arid, apocalyptic wasteland yet—I hope they go Zig Zag.