Thank Guy Fieri for the Lake Effect Diner’s ham and red-eye gravy - The Buffalo News
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Thank Guy Fieri for the Lake Effect Diner’s ham and red-eye gravy

Red-eye gravy is a Southern specialty, a thin sauce made with ham drippings and a jolt of coffee, another example of a home cook making the most of ingredients on hand.

Unlike other Southern dishes, there hasn’t been much red-eye gravy in Western New York restaurants. But thanks to the Food Network’s Guy Fieri, who visited in 2009, hungry Buffalonians can enjoy a pretty good plate of ham with red-eye gravy at the Lake Effect Diner (3165 Main St.).

It’s a platter of diced home fried potatoes, two eggs, toast and thinly sliced ham awash in stuff that looks like thin coffee but tastes a whole lot better. Traditional Southern preparations use country hams, cured and smoked until they need no refrigeration, like a whole prosciutto.

The Lake Effect doesn’t use country hams, said owner Tucker Curtin. But the company does cure and smoke hams for Curtin’s restaurants, using mesquite chips, in its central kitchen on Clinton Street. That’s where the red-eye story starts.

“We were already doing our own hams, and when the Food Network came in, they said, ‘Guy Fieri loves red-eye gravy,’ ” Curtin said. “So we started making red-eye gravy.”

He’s been working on it in the years since, and tinkering with the ham smoking, until he’s happy with the results, Curtin said.

His red-eye gravy is built on a broth made from smoked pork bones, ham trim, ham drippings, thyme and mirepoix, “a smoked pork stock, basically,” he said. Then it’s hit with coffee brewed double-strength, and maybe a dash of bacon fat.

“I’m pretty happy with it,” Curtin said. It costs $9 and is available all day.

For information, call 833-1952 or visit


Foodie find:

Potluck Vegan Thanksgiving Dinner.

Bring a vegan dish to pass and join others in celebrating a turkey-free holiday at 5:30 p.m. Sunday in Unitarian Universalist Church of Amherst (6320 Main St., Williamsville). A fundraiser for Buffalo Vegetarian Society, the suggested donation is $5 adults. Reservations required; call 839-0062.

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