Food & Drink

Review: The Dive in Canton is Not Your Grandfather’s Dive Bar

Chef Jesse Sandlin’s latest project features inventive cocktails, disco fries, and pickle pizzas.
The pickle pizza at The Dive in Canton. —Photography by Justin Tsucalas

The Dive, the new restaurant on a Canton street corner, both is and is not a dive bar.

The exterior brickwork is painted cobalt blue and features a deep-sea diver, as if you’ve wandered into a marine supply shop. Inside, the purple booths are filled with families digging into hubcap-sized double pepperoni pizzas or smashburgers. Perched at the bar are men with cans of Natty Boh and a silver-haired couple sharing an Alfredo pizza, one with a glass of wine, the other a cocktail the color of swimming pool water called the Blue Hawaii.

The quirky menu is a blissful hodgepodge of bar standbys like chicken wings and cheesesteaks, and mash-up inventions including a sandwich loaded with peanut butter, potato chips, and Sriracha, and a pizza with cheese, pickled jalapeños, and “Dorito essence,” which is what happens when you pulverize a handful of the spicy chips and pretend it’s fancy seasoning salt.

Which is to say that The Dive is a dive bar, but it is Jesse Sandlin’s dive bar. The Baltimore native, Top Chef alum, and owner of nearby Sally O’s opened her new joint in November. On the surface, what her kitchen turns out may look like stoner junk food, but it’s thoughtful, well-orchestrated—and creative to the point of being goofy.

“There’s people walking dogs and baby strollers,” says Sandlin. “As much as we love the dive bar mentality, this was not going to be old men playing video poker by the bar.”

The turn-of-the-century rowhouse is nonetheless a bar, so there’s beer and wine, and a cocktail list as inventive as the food, often poured by Peter Enny, Sandlin’s life and business partner. There’s that Blue Hawaii, and the bright green Pinball Wizard, concocted with cucumber gin, fruit, and aquafaba, the name for the liquid remaining after cooking chickpeas and an ingredient that’s become a favorite for both bartenders and pastry chefs.

Here, the produce is from farmers’ markets and ingredients are used in pragmatic, cheffy ways, like the bowls of habit-forming crispy chickpeas—hence the aquafaba. Sandlin’s wings get a two-day bath in herby buttermilk, are blanched and double-fried, then tossed with garlic-butter and Parmesan. The fried bologna sandwich is actually mortadella, sauced and topped with fried pickles. Pickles are everywhere on the menu: fried as a bar snack, nestled into the smashburger—and on the wonderful pickle pizza.

Scattered across the top of a sturdy pie—built with Havarti, “tiger sauce,” and dill—the pickles give crunch and a hit of acidity. It’s one of those odd combinations that only seems strange until you try it.

There’s also a late-night “sausage party,” with foot-long hot dogs topped with bacon-jalapeño relish or crab dip. And the kitchen stays open till midnight, so you can order a pie with maitake mushrooms, ricotta, za’atar, and truffle honey with a last Dirty Bird martini.

Your grandfather’s dive bar this is not.


THE DIVE: 3123 Elliott St., 667-309-7501. HOURS: Tues.-Sat., 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. PRICES: Snacks and sandwiches: $4-14; pizzas: $12-16; desserts: $7.