The Dive, an eatery by any other name, sets the standard for the genre that includes cafe, diner and greasy spoon thanks to its burgers, barbecue and homemade desserts.
The exterior of this old, one-story house on the city's west side is only remarkable for the smoky aroma that emanates from the smokers in the front yard. The interior doesn't have much in the way of looks either, but it feels like home.
Once seated, we were asked if we were "divers." Our server laughed at our confusion as she explained the frequent- diners program offered to those who regularly eat at The Dive. It seemed we were in the minority as those around us claimed their diver status - discounts on the bill.
Although breakfast is served all day, we focused on the lunch/dinner menu items. Burgers comprise the majority of the offerings. Ribs, brisket and pork also warrant a lot of attention.
The choice of burgers ranges from simple patty melts and cheeseburgers to sloppers (open-faced burgers flooded with house-made red or green chili). I had trouble deciding between The Dive ($11.99) and Cali ($10.49)burgers. I was tempted enough by the avocado on the latter that I ordered it on a subsequent visit. Grilled onions and red peppers helped cinch the choice for The Dive Burger. This half-pound namesake also was topped with melted provolone and bacon. Heck, most of the burgers include bacon. Served on a brioche bun, there is no way to politely eat this two-handed mega-meal. Cutting it in half only partially helps one preserve some semblance of dignity.
Still, this is one good burger. The brioche is able to contain all of the elements without falling apart. It provides a good balance to the beef and those grilled onions, better described as caramelized. A small side of herb mayo was a flavor bonus. I also enjoyed using it as a dip for the french fries.
The creamy addition of avocado on the Cali did not disappoint.
The barbecue sandwich meal is another hefty portion. We opted for the brisket ($13.99). Piled high and oozing from under the top portion of a bun, this was nearly impossible to eat with hands alone. This is not a complaint about the amount of meat, which was more than plentiful, but the bun. The issue may have been that it wasn't toasted enough, because it fell apart all too quickly. This sandwich required a fork and knife due to the sheer amount of tender, hickory-smoked infused brisket.
Sides include cole slaw and fries, but we substituted slaw for baked beans. Given the portion sizes of everything else, the small serving of beans was not only surprising, but disappointing.
I should have known better than to order a salad at place called The Dive. The emphasis here is on meat. It was unfortunate that the Blackened Chicken and Blueberry Salad ($12.99) didn't reach its potential. Served with house-made spicy honey vinaigrette, diced chicken breast along with fresh blueberries, diced red bell pepper and diced red onion cover a bed of lettuce. The peppers were fine, but red onions on a salad should be served in slices. When diced, it's nearly impossible to determine how much onion smack you want in every bite. I like red onions, but not in such quantity that they overwhelm my taste buds. The vinaigrette wasn't particularly spicy, but it did add moisture to the dry chicken.
Several homemade cakes were offered on my two visits. The slices are so generous they're more like slabs. The flavors change daily, but on my visits they included devil's food, carrot, cherry chip, spice and triple chocolate chip.
We joined the diving club before we left.