A Lady Walks into a Bar…Dive! Coastal Bar & Food Joint

Dive! Coastal Bar & Food Joint, Gabrielle Garofalo, Jersey BitesWhere I Was

Dive! Coastal Bar & Food Joint in Sea Bright, NJ

When, Exactly

Tuesday, May 15, 4:44 p.m.

Where I Sat

On this gorgeous day, I sort of wished I had chosen an outdoor spot as I pulled up to a parking space almost right in front of Dive! The double doors were swung wide, opening directly into the bar, immediately as if whispering, “Welcome!” As I entered the place, storm warnings were pinging on my cell so I figured I had made a good choice after all. I took a seat about a third of the way in from the end of the bar closest to the sidewalk. Not too close to the back, where the bar met a group of tables and the bathroom hallway.

Dive! Coastal Bar & Food Joint, menu, Gabrielle Garofalo, Jersey BitesDive! Coastal Bar & Food Joint, bar, Gabrielle Garofalo, Jersey Bites

Who Served Me

Dive! Coastal Bar & Food Joint, Gabrielle Garofalo, Jersey Bites

Steven—he owns the place. Dive! was devastated by Hurricane Sandy and shut down for two years while Steven and his wife and co-owner, Christina, worked to rebuild their savings and reopen in June 2014.

Doors open at 4 p.m. and I was just about the first person in the place. Steven was working behind the bar, drying glasses, and looked up, warmly saying, “Afternoon,” with a full-face smile—the kind that starts all the way up the forehead and works its way through every portion of the face. “How are you today?” I could tell he welcomes everyone that way, and as I sat and observed and enjoyed my time there, it was evident I was correct. He knew locals by name, greeting them smiles, bro-shakes, and over-the-bar hugs. It felt like home and I loved it.

Bartender’s Favorite Bite

“If you haven’t been here before, we make a really good burger. Seriously good.” Sadly I was flying solo on this little outing so I planned to try only light fare. However, I’ll be back to check out the Whiskey Tango Burger (made with whiskey glaze, cheddar, and bacon jam).

The Vibe & My Vantage Point

Happy. Bright. Welcoming. Homey. A lovely combo of brick and wood, and bright colors mixed with white and easy decor. Nothing that felt like it tried too hard, but rather it all just “came together.” Which I realize couldn’t have been farther from the truth given the blood, sweat, and tears it surely took to come back post-Sandy. I loved the surfboards, neon-chalked bar signs, and bright, local artwork hanging on the walls. The red circular overhang on the ceiling gives it a groovy chic look that’s super relaxing without a whiff of pretension.

Dive! Coastal Bar & Food Joint, local artwork, Gabrielle Garofalo, Jersey Bites

Dive! Coastal Bar & Food Joint, interior, Gabrielle Garofalo, Jersey Bites

Dive! Coastal Bar & Food Joint, dining space, Gabrielle Garofalo, Jersey Bites

What Quenched My Thirst

Dive! Coastal Bar & Food Joint, Tradewinds, Gabrielle Garofalo, Jersey Bites

Tradewinds $10
Deep Eddy vodka, ruby red grapefruit, St. Germain, cranberry and grapefruit juice, topped with soda
This gorgeously pink concoction was served up tall in a pint glass, complete with beautiful slices of lemon, lime, and orange adding more vibrancy to this I’m-so-happy-colored cocktail. The first sip—OK, let’s be real—gulp, was as tart and refreshing as I had hoped. The sky was still blue and could only imagine ordering this tasty mix by the bucket in the warmer months yet to come. It was nothing too fancy, yet perfectly robust in the flavor department, but then again, doesn’t grapefruit just do that so well?

What Fed My Soul

I am going to start with an apology, as I clearly didn’t show up with my A-game. When I started writing, I realized I had only ordered two dishes, compared to my usual culinary adventure of three or more menu items. It won’t happen again. My next piece will most definitely include three tastes, minimum. I’m not sure what happened there but it may have been a case of too many plantains followed by two tacos!

Dive! Coastal Bar & Food Joint, Pulled pork plantains, Gabrielle Garofalo, Jersey Bites
Pulled pork plantains

Pulled Pork Plantains, $12
Fried plantains topped with pulled pork, pico de gallo, and chipotle aioli
I dove into this super colorful dish with a full expectation of the flavor profile I was about to enjoy but as is often the way, looks can be deceiving. The plantains were much larger than I expected, and thinner, too. Each one was topped with splendidly seasoned pulled pork, fresh pico, and a hint of a creamy chipotle dressing—just a touch. As my taste buds absorbed the simplicity of the bite, the first thought in my head was clean: it was a clean taste, with each and every ingredient accounted for. Nothing fancy, nothing overdone. I almost wished the plantains were sweeter for a deeper juxtaposition of flavors, but that’s just me. What I learned from Steven (he doesn’t drop the “n”), was that this dish is highlighted in blue on the menu, denoting an authentic recipe that Chef felt passionate about offering. The menu includes several of these and I look forward to coming back to taste more!

Dive! Coastal Bar & Food Joint, beef taco, Gabrielle Garofalo, Jersey Bites
Beef tacos

Beef Tacos, $6 (on special)
Seasoned ground beef, lettuce, pico de gallo and cheddar cheese served on a hard corn shell.
This delightful duo arrived in a small basket. I was delighted by the colors before me—again so simple and looking super fresh. I was digging the red-and-white checkerboard paper that served as the perfect sheet beneath these taco pillows. As I picked up the first one and started to take a bite, I found the warm juices had dripped down my hand—a foreshadowing of the deliciousness about to greet my mouth. Mmmmmm. Again, the chef’s intention to ensure you taste every single ingredient both separately and as part of the overall flavor profile was profound. Not a trace of residual oil was left from the meat or shell, the pico punching through the tasty, fragrant ground beef.  When I looked up with a face full of taco and said, “Mmmmm those are soooo tasty, he’s got a lot going on in that beef,” Steven replied “Yeah he does!” I could taste what I think may have been cumin, coriander maybe—something that was so un-taco-y it was equal parts welcoming and off-putting. These are tacos worth revisiting another day—especially on Tijuana Tuesdays—see below for the scoop on that!

Beyond the Bar

At Dive!, you’ll find 18 beers on tap, including a craft beer selection and options from local breweries. You can also enjoy house-made, fruit-infused cocktails, rum buckets, coastal drinks, and, of course, wine.

What Else You’ll Find

  • Freshly popped popcorn
  • New menus (seasonal rotation)
  • Fresh, local ingredients
  • Kid-friendly atmosphere

What’s Happening When

  • Weekday Happy Hour: 4 to 7 p.m.
  • Tijuana Tuesdays: Specials, live music, local artwork on display
  • Wednesdays: Half-price burger night
  • Thursdays: Karaoke

When to Show
Monday through Friday 4 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Kitchen Hours
Monday 4 to 10 p.m.
Tuesday through Thursday 4 to 11 p.m.
Friday 4 p.m. to  1 a.m.
Saturday 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.
Sunday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Know Before You Go!
Prices, hours, and menu items are subject to change. Please check the restaurant’s website for the latest information available.

Dive! Coastal Bar & Food Joint
1072 Ocean Ave
Sea Bright, NJ

This article was not paid for, nor influenced by, the restaurant/bar featured in this column.

A Lady Walks into a Bar is owned and trademarked by Gabrielle Garofalo.