Cooking something, then putting part of it back inside the food from whence it came, has always fascinated me: twice-baked potatoes. Stuffed turkey. And, of course, deviled eggs.

The egg white forms a handy cup for a mustardy, salty, creamy yet chunky hard-boiled yolk filler. Plus, the elliptical half-orbs are usually inexpensive and good for all parties the year round, from picnics to old-school potlucks—a gathering that's become increasingly popular as our wallets continue to shrink. But where do you get a good deviled egg around town when don't wanna wait for an invitation?

To me, a perfect deviled egg demands a few criteria: non-rubbery egg white and filling that's a precise trifecta of non-slimy mayonnaise, egg-yolk bits and mustard with a dash of vinegar tang. There should be a dusting of paprika for color, but not enough to make you sneeze. And the filling should coat the roof of your mouth in the way you wish peanut butter would.

I went out to meet the best devils Portland has to offer. And this is what I found.

JUDGEMENT: All eateries were rated on a scale of 1 to 4 devil-horned eggs—1 being "meh" and 4 being "mmmm."

Rontoms is empty on a recent Monday night, with both a vibe and a room temperature that's very, very chill. Even its deviled eggs, four halves to an order ($3), are cold—or at least the whites are. I prefer my eggs around room temperature, I guess, for that cocktail-party vibe. The halves look textbook neat, the yolk filling nicely piped into the white, a smattering of paprika across the top. The filling tastes more of mustard than mayo, which I appreciate, but I'm still having a hard time with the whites so cold and the yolks warmer. On the whole, however, I'm pleased—even more so when I realize how well a deviled egg goes with one of Rontoms' Manhattans ($5.50). 600 E Burnside St., 236-4536.

Gold Dust Meridian:
I stop by Gold Dust Meridian right after Rontoms, to continue my '70s rec room-themed evening. But I'm let down a bit, both by the bar and the eggs. Service takes a while, and when the eggs finally show up, they're…kind of bland. They've used a spicy Dijon mustard for the filling, which is fair enough, but the eggs themselves need a splash of vinegar. There's no kick. The four egg halves ($3.50) are served on a tear of iceberg lettuce, with tiny cornichon pickles on the side. I wish I'd had a knife to cut them up and sprinkle them on the eggs—maybe that was what was missing? 3267 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 239-1143.

Connected to PastaWorks on Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard, Evoe is sort of like an annex for those of us who lack the restraint not to eat our purchase in the grocery line. It offers quick bites like sandwiches, salads and, happily, deviled eggs. While Evoe's deviled eggs are crazy fresh-tasting, interestingly crisped on the grill with a hint of something I think is tarragon, I kind of wish they were just a few ducats less—$5 gets you three halves. But it's a small price to pay to read my paper and look up every so often to watch outside shoppers in a frozen hell while I stay cozy inside with my old-school food in a modern setting. 3731 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 232-1010.

Heathman Restaurant Bar:
On Thursdays, the posh Heathman Hotel's bar boasts happy hour all night (but you gotta run a bar tab of $2.50 or more to order food). On my visit, the deviled eggs, which are $7 nor0mally but just $2.50 at happy hour, arrive after 25 minutes—two halves on a plate, with crabmeat chunked on top. While I normally enjoy crab, in this case I want more egg. That said, points for smoothness and creaminess of the yolk blend, and no temperature differential between white and yellow. But for the time and money spent and amount of jostling involved, I'd rather take home a dozen eggs and a six-pack of hard cider from Fred Meyer. 1001 SW Broadway, 790-7752.

Half & Half:
At this funky coffee shop the eggs, tattooed red with paprika, are premade and kept under plastic wrap in an egg plate in the deli case. And when I try a few (75 cents each), I have to say: Deviled eggs shouldn't try to be high-rent. Because the ones here are just about perfect: a great, even consistency, enough paprika—and all at just the right temperature. I also like that I can order as many as I like (and there were many) and not have to suffer through a watered-down happy-hour drink for them. There are fewer quicker, easier protein fixes around town. Maybe I'll just have one more.... 923 SW Oak St., 222-4495.