The sign on the clock above the door reads, “A cool place to eat 24/7”. While the clock no longer keeps time, they aren’t open 24/7, and there may be a few dings on the old car-style diner, the Lake Effect Diner is indeed a cool place to eat.
According to their website the “diner is a circa 1952 Mountain View Diner Vin. # 446. It was saved from demolition and moved from Wayne Pennsylvania to Buffalo in 2001. Restored and equipped with a modern state of the art kitchen and a knowledgeable and passionate staff”. In truth Lake Effect could be housed in a beat up ’47 chevy because the key here my friends is the food, home-made, well-made and oh so good. The Lake Effect was featured on the Food Network program Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, but it was well known in the western New York area long before that. They were also way out in front in the locally sourced and house-made fronts. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that this was my first, definitely not my last, trip.
You enter from the side and are met with the classic diner look of round stools (attached and spin able) at a counter that runs the length, booths opposite and on the ends, with the kitchen in the back. With great food and a great menu comes great problems, like what to order. The Lake Effect makes matters worse by offering three meals served anytime. I was there for lunch so clearly all three menus were in play. Solution – order something from each.
I started by ordering the Meat Loaf dinner – baked with house ground beef, a tangy tomato brown sugar glaze and beef gravy ($14), which comes with two sides. Although not really a side they were nice enough to let me try the House Cured Country Corned Beef Hash [breakfast], and I got the side Greek Salad [lunch]. I hate to utter these words, but I think this was the best meatloaf I’ve ever tasted. Is it the chucks of carrots, the fact that they slice the meatloaf and then throw it on the grill giving it a real nice char, or is it the splendid gravy tinged with an essence of red wine? I don’t know. Sure, everyone has a great meatloaf recipe bla, bla, bla – you need to try this one.
After tasting the meatloaf the corned beef hash was merely outstanding. Slices of corned beef they cure on site mixed with chunks of potato, onions and green peppers, all fried to perfection. This rivals the corned beef hash they once made at the Otesaga in Cooperstown NY, but I digress. My companion ordered the Steak Sandwich – 8 oz. of hand-cut NY Strip steak on a garlic toasted baguette. -$13.
One of the neat ideas at Lake Effect is the add-ons for sandwiches. The menu reads “Preparations – give your sandwich a kick”. This includes things like: In The Grass – garlic toasted bread with sautéed spinach and melted provolone $2, Swiss Family Mushroom – simply sautéed mushrooms and melted domestic Swiss $1.50, Black and Blue – seasoned with blackened spices, sautéed onions and blue cheese crumbles -$2, Philly style $2, Melt -$2, Western BBQ -$2, Bruschetta -$2, Breakfast Style -$2.50. The steak sandwich comes with any of these at no charge. We went with the Black and Blue. The steak is one solid strip steak cooked to order, in this case a perfect medium rare. WOW! Is that any good? For a dessert to-go we had to try a milkshake- Banana Chocolate ( highly recommend).
I wasn’t joking about the difficulty ordering from so many great options. Here are just a few. Some of the standouts under breakfast would be the double smoked bacon, the house-cured and smoked ham, House-Cured Country Corn Beef, house-made turkey or pork breakfast sausage, omelets, Eggs Benedict, Eggs Chesapeake…waffles, pancakes, potato pancakes, French toast etc. Appetizers – bruschetta, provolone wedges, chili cheese fries, crab cakes, wings, baked shrimp. Sandwiches they have a house burger $7, grilled chicken $7, Italian sausage $8, vegan burger -$7, steak -$13; French dip -$8. tuna melt $9, Ruben $9, haddock $9, barbecue meatloaf bomber $10, crabby patty $9, BLT $6. They also have wraps for $9 – Veggan, Buffalo, Smoked Turkey, Chicken Souvlaki; and five different club sandwiches for $10. Under dinners they offer Chicken Moutarde $14, Meatloaf Dinner $14, Roast Beef Dinner 14, Fried Chicken 14, Steak Diane 16, Smoked Ham With The Red Eye Gravy $14, Fresh Haddock $14. As if that isn’t enough they have a long list of great looking desserts, not to mention beer and wine. I have my eye on the apple crisp on the next visit.
To many Buffalonians The Lake Effect Dinner is old news, but to some of us it is excitingly new. The old style diner car is cool, but it’s the food that will bring you back. If you haven’t been there, and even if you have, get there soon.
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3165 MAIN STREET
BUFFALO, NY 14214
Open: Sun.-Thurs. 7 AM-10 PM; Fri. & Sat 7 AM – Midnight