I spent many a late night at The Steer while attending college, but unfortunately never had a chance to eat there. The Steer has been a North Buffalo landmark for over 43 years, and is presently finishing a series of renovations that will bring different generations of Buffalonians together under one roof. When Jonathan Casey, interior designer at Innovative Design, invited me to check out the remodeling that is nearly complete I jumped at the chance to reminisce.
When I entered I almost didn’t recognize the eatery. The Steer is open, warm and inviting – a lot different than the days when I was heading there for beers. The first change that I noticed (how could you not) was the removal of the staircase as you make your way into the restaurant. That alone is quite a shock. Upon entering, customers now have a 360 degree view of the space, which transmits into great energy. The central focal point is a modern ceiling cloud above the bar. The walls have a light warm finish, resembling a tan rawhide that really complements the darker woodwork nicely. The restrooms have also been reconfigured and modernized – something that will go a long way to draw in the older clientele who look for the creature comforts in a restaurant.
With the colder weather upon us, The Steer is the perfect place to escape from the chills of winter. There are lots of different places to grab a seat within the establishment, each one with its own charm and character. It’s almost like being inside a ski chalet with the fire burning and the overall rustic atmosphere – again, a far cry from the place that I knew during my college days. The brand new Rigidized Metals counters add some pizzazz to the decor, offering a dash of industrial shine.
Tucker and Erin Curtin are the owners of Curtin Family Restaurants which also includes: Lake Effect Diner, Dug’s Dive and Woody’s Beach Club & Taqueria (great spot!). Tucker, who is well versed (over 20 years) and very passionate about the restaurant business, pointed out that The Steer has gone from 14 to 20 draught beers on tap which includes a new glycol system. In addition, the owners installed new high efficiency bottle coolers which keep the beer at a favorable and steady 34 degrees.
The open kitchen is equipped with a wood burning charcoal grill that sears their famous burgers and steaks at 650 degrees. “The Steer has matured,” Tucker told me. “I was 23 years old when I bought the place. I’m 42 now. We are interested in fulfilling the needs of our diverse clientele. Instead of just focusing on one crowd, we are now servicing a broader group of customers. It’s quite warm and fuzzy – there’s a nice mix of people… with age diversity, different races… it’s a mixed crowd. Gone are the days of the high end customers upstairs and the college kids downstairs. The University Campus has changed and moved towards more of a graduate school – we are evolving with those changes. The older folks are coming back to the place, and they are surprised to find a different experience with the same friendly Steer charm. The facility needed some upgrades in order to get to the standard that we were looking to achieve. We have a high demand for craft craft beers, so we upgraded the equipment. We’ve always had good burgers and steaks, and now we’re getting to be known for our pizzas. The pizza oven allows sharing among groups. We’ve brought back the potato skins, pizza logs… the bar food. We serve made-from-scratch products, so even the artisan pub grub is quality. You can take something that is simple and add a special profile to it. We’ve embraced the fact that we have a nice bar crowd, and a relaxed atmosphere. You can see your pizza being made while enjoying a craft beer. There’s low music in the dining room and more energy in the bar, with higher booths in the barroom so you can look around and see what’s going on.”
After exploring the first floor, I made my way upstairs and must say that I love the changes that are in progress. The booths have been removed, which increases capacity from 65 to just over 100. There is a new floor that mimics the one on the first floor, updated restrooms and soon to be (if not already completed by the time that you read this) wainscoting installed. In January Tucker and Erin hope to utilize the upstairs for comedy shows, a jazz night, group events et cetera.
Although I have written many articles about the food scene in Buffalo, I have never claimed to be a food critic. I am single, eat out often and appreciate good food. I like to write about the whole experience. The fare that I sampled at The Steer was very good. I went with the Bacon Jam appetizer (bacon made at Lake Effect diner – braised off with figs, sugar and apple cidre vinegar with a dollop of goat cheese and lemon zest), the Knuckle Sandwich (super hearty braised shank meat – brisket served on kummelweck French bread) and the Caprese Artisan Flat Bread (fresh basil roma tomatoes, garlic spread). I honestly can’t wait to return for a medium-rare wood grilled New York Strip. The menu looks very appetizing and is moderately priced.
There is a warm, comforting campfire scent as you approach The Steer. It welcomes and transitions you to the newly renovated space filled with character and charm. The gratifying cuisine is merely the exclamation mark to a welcoming and enjoyable dining experience. Have you been to The Steer lately?
3151 Main Street
Buffalo, NY 14214
Hours of Operation:
7 Days a Week
11 am – 4 am