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The Real (and Original) Steve’s Place

I was named after my Grandpa: Steve Dasseos. My Grandpa was a Greek immigrant who came to the US when he was 14 years old. He built railroads and like many Greeks ended up in the restaurant business. I was blessed to have my Grandpa until I was 22 years old and my Grandma until I was 40, so I was able to get to know both of them really well.

For as long as I can remember my Grandpa always told me “If you want to get ahead, you need to be your own boss”. The key to my business success is the same philosophy my Grandpa Steve taught me: “give personal attention to each customer.

Now, the city we’re from is having a City-wide celebration. They are honoring my Grandparents as part of it. Here’s a copy of an article about my Grandparents – it’s called Steve’s Place Returns:

You can also read the article here.

Steve’s Place Returns

By Linda Tyssen
Staff Writer, Mesabi Daily News
Published: Tuesday, June 17, 2008

By today’s standards Steve Dasseos’ hamburgers could be called heart attacks waiting to happen.

But oh, the taste of those beef patties fried in lard in a cast iron skillet was, you might say, to die for, and for decades Steve’s Place was a mainstay on Virginia’s culinary scene.

Those good old days will be relived during the Great Virginia Get-Together when Steve’s Place will be recreated next to Bailey’s Lake between Natural Harvest Food Co-op and the Flags for Peace on Sixth Avenue North. The burger stand will be staffed by the Virginia Rotary Club from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, July 2-5, said Tom Nordling, a Virginia native who is helping organize the project. The burgers will be served from a trailer designed to look much like Steve’s Place in its final location. Steve and Katherine’s son Jim will be there helping out, too.

Now don’t go to the modern Steve’s looking for hot dogs or sloppy joes. And surely don’t go looking for ketchup. The burgers will be served just as Dasseos and his wife Katherine did: mustard and onions and no red stuff. “Mrs. Dasseos felt the ketchup made the burgers too sweet and the customers would fill up too fast, said Nordling”. The goal, after all, was to sell beef and lots of it.

The burger shop was opened by Greek immigrant Dasseos and his wife in 1930 after he had worked for other vendors such as People’s Cafe at Fifth and Chestnut and the White Castle burger place. Next door at a coffee shop he met future wife Katherine. Early on he had known what he wanted to do in life: to feed people and be his own boss.

When he wanted to build a place to sell his burgers, the lumber cost $35, but he didn’t have the money. Katherine’s father gave him the cash, and the building went up in a day or two. “The day we put the key in the door, there was always a line of people waiting to get in”, Dasseos said in a newspaper story of several years ago. Over the years it was located at three different sites.

It has become an institution in Virginia, a 1977 newspaper story said. Loyal diners have been raised on the ground beef fried in pure lard and smothered with onions, fried or raw, whichever the customer prefers. Dasseos said back then, “Our ears are burning all the time because someone is always talking about us.” The key to the business’s success was the personal attention they gave each customer. The prices in 1930: 5 cents for a burger, 5 cents for pop. Dasseos operated on the premise, Make only one thing and make it good, and he would say, Virginia has been good to us. Besides the burgers, customers got the coldest milk in town.

School kids would head to Steve’s after football games to get burgers and popcorn from the little shop painted orange and black. Simple and primitive as that little place was, Steve Dasseos was clean enough and gave his customers full measure with plenty of salty opinion at no charge, Virginia’s Chuck Pottsmith said in a newspaper story several years back. “He could handle rowdy kids or the boozy types in no hurry to go home. His big trade was the lunch crowd. That black fry pan was deep enough in grease to drown the patty, and the top half of the bun was just dipped long enough to get hot and spongy,” said Pottsmith. Dasseos would buy whole pickles, stand them on end and carve them in slices across a cutting board.

It was all part of the charm of “Greasy Steve’s,” as some would affectionately call the little burger shop. As years went by, meat prices went up and finally Dasseos had to charge a dollar for a burger. Then one day he said, “It’s not right to charge so much. The time has come for us to close.”

But for a time during Virginia’s celebration, Steve’s Place will be up and running again, so put your cholesterol concerns aside and enjoy.

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