Dug’s Dive didn’t make it as a restaurant operating on the lake.
Now the owner hopes to make it work as a restaurant operating IN the lake – and any other place where there’s water.
Tucker Curtin, the Buffalo restaurateur who operates The Steer and Lake Effect diner with his wife Erin, has purchased a 45-foot yacht that he is turning into a floating restaurant that he plans to operate during the winter in Fort Lauderdale and during the summer in Buffalo. He’s calling it Dug’s Dive.
“This is an opportunity to combine things I love, not only cooking but boating,” said Curtin. “The water offers a lot of different aspects. With this little concept, it’s kind of fun that we can chase the sun.”
Since it seats only six, dinner will be cozy, Curtin said. But he also will be equipped and permitted to dock or drop anchor and start serving hamburgers off grills perched on the swim platform. When it’s fully outfitted, his restaurant will be able to cruise at 20 knots behind twin 450-horsepower Cummins diesels.
Summers in Buffalo, winters in Fort Lauderdale. That’s the future for Dug’s Dive, Curtin said.
On Sunday, Curtin will start south, taking Dug’s Dive through the Erie Canal. He’ll pick up Erin in New York City and head south. He’ll park the boat someplace like Hilton Head until hurricane season passes, then head for Fort Lauderdale.
There, Dug’s Dive will have the rest of its culinary equipment installed and graphics applied, Curtin said. He’ll offer it to the charter and catering market, and see what happens. “This way we can always be where the boating weather is perfect, and generate some revenue to do more.”
He expects to have Dug’s Dive back in Buffalo in June. The plan is to do chartered dinners, dock where invited, or simply drop anchor in Buffalo waters and run up the “soup’s on” flag. Catered dinners would be cooked on the galley stove. The retail operation would include ceviche, burgers, chili and chowder served from electric grills and induction burners stationed on the space that currently holds an inflatable launch.
Curtin said he is close to completing the voluminous permitting and regulatory requirements for operating a food service operation in multiple jurisdictions. “It’s kind of involved, but I’ve been working on this for a couple years,” he said.
The original Dug’s Dive operated as a seasonal restaurant in the Small Boat Harbor from 2007 to 2015. Curtin closed when he said his plans to invest in infrastructure upgrades didn’t jibe with harbor’s management.
After running establishments that serve thousands of people a week, it’s an attractive notion to serve intimate meals to small groups, he said. “That’s what it does for me,” Curtin said. “Bigger isn’t always better.”
Curtin declined to say how much he paid for the floating edition of Dug’s Dive.
“On a nice day, I want to load up the boat with food and go out there, do some business and have some fun, see some of the people out there,” he said. “Boaters are some of the best people, almost like they’re always on vacation in their minds.”