When the opportunity arose in 2007 for Tucker and Erin Curtin to take over the existing space, then a cafeteria style restaurant called the Slip Away at the Small Boat Harbor, they jumped at the chance, excited to bring a fun, full service, casual American Seafood restaurant to the Outer Harbor. They named their new venture at 1111 Fuhrmann Boulevard Dug’s Dive after William Douglas, a legendary African American freed slave who was a 19th century ships cook, known as Uncle Dug. Uncle Dug was the proprietor of the original Dug’s Dive, located at the Commercial Slip of canal side- a bar, a brothel, and all around gritty establishment that one actually had to go down a series of steps below street level (or dive) to enter it.
Once they had the concept and name, the Curtin family rolled up their sleeves and got to work. They brightened up the wood interior with a fresh coat of light, bright paint. With the help of his staff, Tucker built a custom wood bar reminiscent of a ships hull to echo the look of the boats outside on the water. Some decorative touches were acquired locally, such as a commissioned rendering of the Uncle Dug at the original Dug’s Dive by local artist Peter Fowler. Patrons were even encouraged to add their own personal touch by decorating and signing dollar bills to hang on the ceiling beams. Other quirky seafaring décor details such as the ship's bow mermaid figurehead (Lizzie Lake for all who don’t know her name) or the old harpoon hanging on the wall, came from as far away as the North Fork of Long Island, NY.
Counter service was done away with and the menu got a major upgrade beyond hot dogs and hamburgers. Dishes such as Cioppino, Lobster Rolls (the Lobster Dawg), Mussels Marinara, The Crabby Patty Crab Cake, Stuffed Banana Peppers, Chilean Fried Calamari, and of course serving the local favorite Fresh Haddock Fish Fry- prepared in a variety of ways- were now on the much more extensive menu. There was also the addition of Dug’s Dairy Ice Cream Shack with a pedestrian walk up service window on the outside.
The Dive became known as a fun, laid back bar and restaurant. A favorite for a summertime lunch for people working in the surrounding area, a popular place for locals to come together for a drink and socialize at the bar, a fun place to stop along the Outer Harbor biking and walking paths and grab an ice cream cone, and a great place to enjoy the sunset and have dinner, all while taking in the fantastic view of Lake Erie and The Small Boat Harbor.
It’s been a great 9 years, we have made some wonderful friends and have loved every minute of trying to make our customers happy- whether it be by providing the best possible food we could, serving a cold drink on a hot summer’s day, or just getting to know the patrons and their families who walk our door- but now it is time to say goodbye to our home at Buffalo’s Outer Harbor.
As we wind down during our last days- we hope everyone has a chance to come by and see us before we pack up that good ol’ pirate sign for a while. Our hours will be reduced after Labor Day: Monday-Thursday 4-9pm. Friday-Sunday Noon-10pm.
The Curtin Family hopes to find another jewel on Buffalo’s waterfront (or maybe even actually on the water…) that they can develop and polish into their own great vision of what is possible for our city’s shores. One that makes people happy they live in Buffalo and makes visitors want to come back again and again.
Thank you all for your patronage through the years. It has been our pleasure to serve you!
Things are really heating up at The Steer these days. I mean they are literally heating up. You can even smell it outside and around the restaurant. This is due to The Steer’s newly renovated wood-fired brick oven.
While renovating the inside of The Steer in 2012, a brick oven was added to the open kitchen. As with most commercial brick ovens these days, ours was originally fueled by gas heat, which is more economical to install, operate, and requires less of an investment in bringing it up to regulated fire codes. The brick oven became an essential cooking tool for turning out some delicious food, such as our flatbread pizzas.
While a gas fueled brick oven may be the standard, it isn’t necessarily the best. About two months ago the ventilation and fire protection system around the existing brick oven at The Steer were updated to bring it up to code in order for it to become a wood burning brick oven. “Why?” You may ask. (Good question, I’m glad you asked.) After all, as I mentioned before, gas is cheaper to use and still produces that “fire-kissed” look, but that’s not the point. Gas produces a moist heat and the temperature of the hearth was inconsistent. It needed to be better, and better sometimes means you have to invest a bit more and work a bit harder.
After installing the wood burning oven and using it for the past two months there is no looking back. The cooking staff at The Steer was ready for the change and up to the challenge. Anything cooking in the wood-fired oven needs constant attention, because it cooks very quickly under the high heat. Timing is essential. “Work the oven, don’t let the oven work you,” was owner Tucker Curtin’s advice to his staff. The hearth also needs to be cleaned and maintained constantly.
Once the wood is burning, the oven will easily and quickly reach optimal cooking temperature. The heat is more intense, drier, and more consistent throughout the whole baking chamber. The dry heat provides a crispier, bubbly, evenly cooked crust on our pizzas with charred edges, yet they are still soft and light on the inside. The toppings in a brick oven fueled by wood also cook very quickly and retain more flavor and freshness, as well as picking up a touch of fire and smokiness.
Of course a wood-fired oven isn’t only good for cooking the perfect pizzas. Let’s talk meat, Rib Eye to be exact. One of the latest specials at The Steer is the Wood Fired Rib Eye Steak served with a Cauliflower Gratin. It’s probably one of the best cuts of beef to cook using a wood burning fire. It has the perfect fat content to sizzle and char. The outside becomes crisp and smoky, while the inside stays tender and juicy. Also, imagine wood fired chicken or turkey with crispy skin or the charred fat on a thick pork chop. How about a cheesy gratin? Potatoes and vegetables fire roasted with bubbly cheese- the possibilities are endless!
With fall just around the corner, you can expect some cozy new wood-fired specials when you come in for a bite at The Steer.
When you enter The Steer on a weekday you can be assured you will be greeted with a warm smile from behind the bar. That smile and cheery welcome belongs to our daytime bartender Missy.
Missy started working at The Steer over a year ago. Like many of our other employees she attended UB and had many fond memories of hanging out and dining at The Steer during her undergraduate years. When she finished school and started out on her new career in marketing, Missy felt a second job could fit into her schedule (as well as help pay a few bills). A job as a server at The Steer seemed the perfect fit. After waiting tables for a few months, she heard the position of daytime bartender was going to soon be available. Having no prior experience behind the bar, she decided to go for it. “I showed interest and pursued the position. I hadn’t tended bar before, but I wanted to be given a shot, because I knew I could do it. Tucker and Erin (owners of The Steer) listened to me and gave me the opportunity.” That was 8 months ago and needless to say, Missy fit the bill perfectly. Since then she has honed her bartending skills. Learning this year’s new summer drink menu was particularly fun. The Cool As A Cucumber being her personal favorite. “It’s the perfect summertime drink!”
If you have been in to dine at The Steer lately you may have noticed the servers using iPads to take your order. It’s been a great technological upgrade for the restaurant. Wanting to take things a step further, rather than just using it to take patron’s orders, Missy wondered about using it to show customers pictures of the Weekly Specials. After being given the green light, she developed that idea into reality. “It is great to be supported and trusted with my ideas on how to make my job and workplace better. I feel very appreciated by my employers.”
When asked what her favorite thing is about working at The Steer, Missy doesn’t even have to think about her answer, “The people here, staff and patrons alike. When you work with your friends every day, your job doesn’t feel like it is actually work. I have worked in other restaurants and there is always a divide between the front and the back of the house. Here, that’s not the case. It’s like being a part of one big family!”
And then there’s the food…
Having been a long time fan of the menu before she even joined the team, The Steer’s salads have always been a stand out to her. The Detox Bowl, the Griddled Goat Cheese Salad, and any of the Topless Burger Salad options are her go-to meals. She finds the new Vegan Menu particularly exciting as well. “There is now really something for everyone on the menu,” she notes.
Missy also loves how the owners and cooks at The Steer develop and test new specials each week. She enjoys being a part of this as well, by tasting the new dishes and having her opinion really matter. The Buddah Tacos were her most recent favorite.
Owners Tucker and Erin Curtin love to bring new flavors and ideas into the kitchen from local inspirations as well as from their travels abroad. Even fun new bar games like Tiki Toss, a simple ring, rope, and hook game played in the Virgin Islands, have made it to the restaurants lively bar area. “I tried it, and it’s addicting,” confessed Missy.
So, what makes a restaurant great? Delicious food, would probably your answer. While it certainly is a major part of satisfying customers, it isn’t quite the whole picture. Here at The Steer, we have always believed that a major part of what can make us great are the people we choose to be a part of our team. The restaurant business isn’t for everyone- and it is always such a bonus when you find someone who not only does their job well, but also finds ways to help us improve and grow- all while having a good time doing it!
Summer weather is here in full force in Buffalo. Cold beer, hot lights, my sweet romantic teenage nights…Oh wait, this isn’t a Billy Joel song, but it is a food blog- so let’s talk summer dining. For your summer dining pleasure at The Steer, our Roof Top Patio opens daily at 4pm. Also, the big garage doors are open on nice days in the dining room and you can choose to eat out completely alfresco on the patio or enjoy the indoor/outdoor experience of the open doors while staying with in the dining room area. If you have visited The Steer lately, you may have noticed our ever-changing Weekly Specials. Each week we try to come up with some unique menu items, using seasonal ingredients. Some are original creations, while others may be a new take on an old favorite.
One popular feature last week was the Guacamole Sampler: fresh fried corn tortilla chips served with a selection of 5 assorted guacamoles. Or maybe you tried the Pepper Seared Tuna: Sesame crusted pizza topped with chili sauce, goat cheese, Sriracha cabbage coleslaw, and sliced seared Ahi Tuna. Of course, we would never leave out our Vegan friends. The Ginger And Mushroom Spring Rolls: Ginger marinated mushrooms, fresh micro greens, wrapped in rice paper, and served with Thai chili sauce were a sell out- as were the Roasted Cauliflower Tacos: Roasted beer and lime cauliflower, cilantro, coleslaw, sliced avocado, served in warm corn tortillas. Sadly, these items have come and gone, but fear not- we have a few new items to add to this week’s Weekly Specials List.
Craving a satisfying summer pasta dish? Say hello to the Mediterranean Chicken Pasta Entrée: Sliced marinated chicken sitting atop linguini with diced fresh tomatoes, ripe Kalamata Olives, creamy goat cheese, fresh oregano and lemon juice, sautéed garlic and onions, with a touch of balsamic vinegar. The tangy goat cheese just melts into the warm pasta creating a creamy sauce, which is complemented by the sweet taste of the tomatoes, the brine of the olives, the earthiness of oregano, and the light zest of the bit of lemon juice. Pair it with a chilled, crisp glass of white wine….heaven.
Looking for something with a little spice? The Stuffed Banana Pepper Flatbread Pizza is for you. Chill out and share it with a friend at the bar as an appetizer with a cold beer or order it as a meal on the patio. This specialty pizza features a crisp parmesan crust, topped with freshly made marinara sauce, sliced roasted banana peppers, our own three cheese sausage stuffing, chunks of our house made Italian sausage, and shredded provolone cheese.
Need something healthy, cool, and refreshing? This week we are featuring a chilled Rustic Gazpacho Soup (Vegan). A smooth puree of fresh local tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, cilantro, lemon and tomato juice garnished with freshly sliced tomatoes and snap peas, and topped with a dollop of basil and cilantro cashew sour cream. It is every bit as lovely to look at as it is to taste and it is the perfect warm weather lunch, appetizer, or light dinner.
Finally, my favorite Special Feature this week is the Vegan BLTA. Our own tempeh “bacon”, lettuce, sliced local heirloom tomato, and sliced avocado served on our house made grilled multigrain bread with a herbed cashew schmear. The sandwich is served with your choice of sides: A cup of the Vegan Rustic Gazpacho or Sweet Potato Fries. Everything about this sandwich in my opinion is spot on summertime eating- and you don’t have to be vegan to enjoy it.
Let's enjoy the flavors of summer now. Soon enough we will be hunkering down in front of a warm fire, sipping a hot toddy, and reminiscing about these hot and hazy days.
Ahhh- the many uses of the plain old potato. On its own it's not very exciting- but that's the beauty of it! Fry it, roast it, broil it, bake it- the possibilities are endless, as are the ingredients you could add or the sides you could pair it with. One such delicious incarnation of the basic potato is the potato pancake.
Whether you are of German, Jewish, Ukrainian, Irish Scandinavian, Swedish, Austrian, Polish, Czech, Russian, Iranian, Swiss, Latvian descent to name a few, a form of the potato pancake is probably a much loved part of your culinary history. The shallow fried pancake is made of shredded potato, egg, onion, and other herbs and spices. It has been made in kitchens around the globe and paired with all sorts of tasty accoutrements. Latkes are a smaller version of the potato pancake, traditionally eaten by Jews during Hanukkah. In Germany, Reibekuchen is a larger pancake that is usually paired with apple gravy. In Bavaria it is eaten with Sauerkraut and sausages. In Poland the Placki Ziemniaczane is served with meat sauce, pork crisps, or goulash as well as with sour cream, applesauce, mushroom sauce, cottage cheese or fruit syrup. In Ireland it is a popular side dish called Boxty.
On the menu at the Lake Effect Diner you will find three variations of the Potato Pancake: The Traditional, Classic Stuffed, and the Stuffed Florentine. At The Diner our potato pancake mixture is made fresh daily. The potatoes are shredded in house, and mixed with egg, flour, red onion, herbs and spices. Each is fried fresh upon order- this is the only way we have found to produce a good crispy, mouth watering potato pancake. The Traditional is our generously sized single potato pancake served simply with a side of Applesauce and Sour Cream. It’s a great little meal or side dish. Or maybe you are in the mood for something a little more filling. How about our Stuffed Florentine Potato Pancake? Eggs, Peameal Bacon, and Spinach stuffed between two potato pancakes and topped with our house made smooth and creamy Hollandaise sauce. Or go for the gusto with the Classic Stuffed Potato Pancake: Two Potato Pancakes stuffed with Eggs, Ham, Bacon, Onion, Pepper, Tomato, and Provolone Cheese. Every time I order the Classic Stuffed or the Stuffed Florentine Potato Pancake I swear I will never be able to finish, but somehow I manage it, every time…and then I need to put on some stretchy pants and take a nap.
When talking about food, the word “Buffalo” has come to mean a type of seasoning or sauce thanks to the popularity of the chicken wing, which was invented in our fair city by Teressa Bellissimo back in 1964. Traditionally anything truly Buffalo-style is tossed in a sauce made from melted butter and Frank’s Original Hot Sauce and served hot, medium, or mild. It’s tangy, spicy, and zesty flavor is so popular it has graced many a table and has been served with much more than just wings. I can’t even begin to describe what makes it so delicious, but it is the type of sauce that once I even smell it, I start to salivate and immediately crave it. You don’t even have to be a fan of chicken wings to want it. I mean let’s face it, the chicken wing itself isn’t the draw here- it’s just a vessel to deliver that awesome sauce.
Being true Buffalo food joints, chicken wings are on the menu of The Steer, The Lake Effect, and Dug’s Dive, but we also have used this wonder sauce at on a variety of other menu items, from the more common chicken fingers to burger toppings, flatbread pizzas, and even a more recent special: a Buffalo-style Guacamole at The Steer. For the most part, we stick to the simplicity of the classic recipe when delivering this flavor profile. Hey, if it ain’t broke….
But what about our vegan friends and family members? Don’t they deserve some Buffalove too? That was the question that plagued our own plant based cook and restaurant co-owner Erin Curtin. Sure vegan alternatives for Buffalo sauce flavor have been done before. Cauliflower “wings” for example, are pretty popular right now; But what about a healthy choice for those looking for a taste of Buffalo as well as the satisfying experience of biting into a creamy and spicy sandwich? Erin observed, “Even those who enjoy a plant based diet crave that comfort food feeling you get when you bite into something hearty, spicy, and juicy- I know I do.” So Curtin came up with a Buffalo Toasted Tofu Sandwich Special for the menu at The Steer. Of course, to meet vegan requirements, the butter in the sauce had to go. Instead some olive oil, lime juice, and a touch of cider vinegar are combined with the Frank’s sauce and the tofu is marinated in this Buffalo sauce version for at least 2 hours. The marinated tofu is then toasted on a flat top and served on a multi-grain house-made roll with romaine lettuce, tomato, avocado, our own tempeh bacon, hemp ranch dressing, and heaped with fresh micro-greens. It is served with either Sweet Potato Fries or a Balsamic Side Salad. If gluten is not your friend, try it Topless, meaning without the bun and on top of a salad, (keep your clothes on please) or ask for it on our house-made gluten free flatbread- just ask your server.
Currently this sandwich can be found only on The Steer’s Weekly Specials Menu- but fear not, due to overwhelming popularity it just may be around to stay!
The 4th of July is upon us. Time to celebrate our country’s Independence Day like our Founding Fathers did-with booze, BBQ, fireworks, and ice cream. Ok, maybe George Washington wasn’t grilling burgers and dogs while drinking Buds at Mount Vernon back in the day, but celebratory fireworks have been a long-standing tradition to mark momentous occasions, so that part rings true. Also, GW was a huge fan of ice cream. He even owned his own “cream machine for ice”. It is documented that he had quite the love of this tasty treat, spending $200.00 (about $3,500.00 today) for ice cream during the summer of 1790. Washington wasn’t the only Founding Father that loved ice cream. Thomas Jefferson was said to have a created an ice cream concoction that resembled a Baked Alaska and to have his own recipe for vanilla ice cream. In 1813 Dolly Madison served ice cream at James Madison’s second inaugural banquet. While James Madison is known as the “Father of The Constitution”, Dolly should be known as the “First Lady of Ice Cream”. She made ice cream a White House staple. It was an impressive and luxurious treat to be served since modern refrigeration methods had not been invented yet. Her preferred flavor was Oyster Ice Cream (thanks Dolly, but I will pass.) Other 18th century White House flavors were Asparagus, Parmesan, and Chestnut. (no and no, but maybe on the Chestnut)
Summertime is finally here and so is the 4th Of July. Let’s celebrate Independence Day like our Founding Fathers did- enjoying this indulgent treat. Stroll, bike, jog, or drive down to the Buffalo Harbor State Park at 1111 Fuhrmann Blvd to enjoy Buffalo’s remarkable water front (a National Treasure in my book) and pop on by Dug’s Dairy for a cone, a bowl, or even a sundae or a shake. Dug’s Dairy’s ice cream walk up window is located right at Dug’s Dive and is open daily this summer from 12pm-9pm (cash only). While you wont find Oyster Ice Cream on the menu, we do serve Turkey Hill hard ice cream in a variety of flavors: Cotton Candy, Salted Caramel, Mint Chocolate chip, Chocolate, and Vanilla, as well as Upstate Farms Soft Serve flavors: Vanilla, Chocolate, and the ever popular Vanilla and Chocolate twist. If you time your visit just right this weekend you may even catch a view of some canal side fireworks- what could be better than that?
Jellies, Jams and Marmalades are things that almost every household in the U.S. keeps on hand. Whether you like to enjoy them on toast with your coffee or tea, or they are your go to for a lunchtime favorite- like the classic PB&J. Most of us may buy the standard mass produced brands like Welch’s and Smucker’s from the local grocery store, others may enjoy going to the farmer’s market or specialty store to seek out smaller artisanal brands, and there are those who take on the task of tediously preserving and jarring fruit themselves.
Fruit preserves were most likely first created as a way to extend the shelf life of summer fruits through the long barren months of winter. The process of preserving fruit using sugar began in the Middle East and was brought back to the western world by soldiers during The Crusades. Jams became something fit for a king to enjoy, as Louis XIV would end his extravagant feasts at Versailles with sugary sweet jams and jellies served on silver trays. Another royal, Mary, Queen of Scots traveled with marmalade to keep her seasickness at bay.
In 1795 a chef named Nicolas Appert figured out how to extend the storage life of food by experimenting with the process of heating food to very high temperatures to kill off bacteria and then sealing it in airtight containers. This method was applied to sugared fruits and now preserves were shelf stable and safe enough to serve as sustenance for troops traveling far away from home during war time, as seen from the Napoleonic Wars to the later World Wars.
Anyone who has attempted to create homemade jams and jellies knows that it is a labor of love. At the Lake Effect Diner we serve Orange Marmalade, Strawberry Jam, and Grape Jelly. All 3 are made in house and in small batches. The Orange Marmalade is the most time consuming and labor intensive to make. The oranges and lemons must be thinly sliced and seeded by hand. Then it’s a slow simmer until the fruit is soft. At this point we add copious amounts of sugar and it is all cooked down to an evenly distributed 222-223 degrees (no more, no less). Once this is achieved it needs to sit at room temperature for an hour. Our Strawberry Jam and Grape Jelly follow a similar cooking process, both needing to be heated to certain temperatures evenly, but differing in the times needed for each to set. Our Strawberry Jam must sit and cool at room temperature for 24 hours, while our Grape Jelly once cooled is stored in airtight containers for a week to set properly. This is science people! If any of the measurements, heat distribution, or setting time is wrong the outcome will not be pretty and it’s back to the ol’ drawing board, as they say. It is a ton of work, but we think it’s worth it in order to serve our customers something homemade-even something as small as a serving of jam. A great way to sample all three flavors is to order the Toasted Bread and Jam Basket. Enjoy portions of our Marmalade, Strawberry Jam, and Grape Jelly with Whipped Maple Butter served with a selection of our toasted house made breads: White, Multigrain, Rye, and Sliced Baguette. It is a simple, yet indulgent and tasty treat, fit for royalty, but no, we don’t serve it on a silver tray.
In today’s world the term Happy Hour applies to the late afternoon hours after work when one heads to a local watering hole to kick back and relax with some friends or colleagues, have a few drinks, laughs, maybe some appetizers, and get "happy" before continuing on home to dinner. Who cares if it is basically a marketing strategy used by bar/restaurants to drum up business during the slow weekdays? You’re offering discount prices on booze and food? Count me in!
The history of the term Happy Hour however, has nothing to do with cosmos or potato skins. It actually comes from an American Navel term used during the First World War that described the allotted period of time that the sailors were given to take part in forms of entertainment and blow off some steam, thus breaking up the drudgery of life out at sea and boost morale. Alcohol wasn’t even part of the program- just some organized boxing, wrestling, or other athletics that could be done on a ship.
During the darkest period in American Drinking History known as Prohibition, from 1920-1933, the manufacturing, sale, and transport of any alcoholic beverage was illegal. This attempt to dry out our country of course completely backfired. Americans are a wily and crafty bunch who don’t like it when you mess with their hooch, so our country’s citizens found ways to consume more spirits than ever before. One way was to gather at secret speakeasies or to stay home and pre-drink and get “happy” on the sly before heading out to dinner.
Thankfully, the days of Prohibition are long gone and at Dug’s Dive you can order up an array of specialty cocktails to wet your whistle, and you don’t have to wait until the late afternoon to do so. We naturally offer an array of wines and bottled beers, but may we tempt you with one of our Signature Cocktails this summer? Consider sitting outside, watching the boats go by and sipping on a Margarita, Piña Colada, or a Strawberry Daiquiri…Or try one of our own original concoctions. Feeling fancy? There is the Tidal Wave: Laird’s Applejack Brandy, orange juice, and a splash of cranberry juice; or the Buffalo Boardwalk: Buffalo made Lockhouse Vodka, Peach schnapps, Grand Marnier, cranberry juice, and a splash of pineapple juice. These two cocktails are served up-in martini glasses…Or maybe you are more of a Toasted Fisherman: Crown Royal, amaretto, sour mix, and a splash of 7-Up. For those who crave show stopping colorful drinks, we have the Ocean Breeze: Captain Morgan Spiced Rum, Malibu Coconut Rum, blue curacao, and pineapple juice; The Grand Island Iced Tea: Vodka, rum, tequila, gin, triple sec, sour, and a splash of curacao; and the Scorched Sunset: Bacardi Torched Cherry Rum, Fireball Whiskey, lemonade, 7-Up, and grenadine.
Come on down to The Dive and let us mix you up something refreshing and make any hour a happy one this summer!