Bar Exam: Dive Bar and Grille
What’s in a name? Even if the moniker chosen by Lawrenceville’s Dive Bar & Grille is a head-scratcher, there’s a sandwich on the menu that more than makes up for it.
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When I went to evaluate Dive Bar & Grille, I was majorly torn before I had a bite of food or a sip of beer.
I had heard good things, but I walked in as a skeptic. I’m not usually put off by the name of an establishment, for better or worse; it’s one of those details that easily can be overcome by a joint’s good qualities. But this is Pittsburgh — we know a few things about dive bars. Dive bars have tall, foamy stools older than most recent college graduates. Dive bars have two beers on tap (Coors Light and, for fancy folks, Yuengling). Dive bars are trying to get a few more years out of rear-projection big-screen TVs that have displayed four Steelers Super Bowl appearances. Dive bars limit their food choices to Snyder’s Potato Chips, Combos and — if you’re lucky — Slim Jims.
So the fact that Dive Bar & Grille, which opened on Butler Street in March (there’s also a Wexford location) is called what it is just seems like a bad miscalculation. The bar’s website claims that it’s named because the place “meshes the comfort and familiarity of a local dive bar with an upscale atmosphere.” Which is fine — and not a bad description of the place. But you’ll need to take the name a bit further, I think.
“The High Dive.” I just made that up, right now. It’s not tough.
But then, I got to the menu. It’s expansive; usually I can pick out a meal within moments of sitting down (“I’ll have the buffalo chicken bites/wrap/salad/with lots of ranch”) — but I had to survey the long list of appetizers, sandwiches, burgers and salads — that final category includes the “I Hate Vegetables Bowls,” which actually replace the lettuce with a mass of fries or chips — before settling.
And when I found it, it became an easy decision. Because Dive Bar & Grille has a grilled cheese sandwich named after The Ultimate Warrior.
I’m a big fan of the late WWE champion, who was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame this year just days before his untimely passing. I have two Ultimate Warrior action figures and an Ultimate Warrior mug in this very office. Want me to buy something? Put a ridiculous neon face-paint design on it. It’ll happen.
Oh, and the sandwich is really good, too. You pick your favorite three cheeses and they grill it perfectly with a slice of tomato. You can add bacon — which is referred to as a “performance enhancer,” obviously — for an extra $1. It would probably be my favorite grilled cheese sandwich, even if it didn’t hit me in the childhood.
For the record, Dive Bar also has a Reuben named for “Macho Man” Randy Savage, which means that you and a friend can recreate the best match from Wrestlemania VII with your meal.
So how do I settle this conflict? I don’t like the name, but Dive literally designed a lunch to my ideal specifications. I’d say those two cancel each other out, so I’m left to evaluate Dive Bar & Grille on its other merits.
Fortunately, the spot has plenty to offer. The menu bears further exploration but offers indulgent pub grub with thoughtful ingredients; the portions don’t seem to be overwhelming, and there are some fine options for non-omnivores, too. A fine beer list is balanced between varieties, and a laundry list of martinis, classic and collegiate cocktails will keep most drinkers happy. Both the bar and the dining areas are relaxing and welcoming, particularly a cozy corner of seats tucked into the rear of the restaurant, past the bar.
Dive Bar is a fine addition to Butler Street. It’s a place I’d be happy to go late at night and for lunch. Name the whole building after a certain sandwich, and it’d be perfect. They’d probably get sued, but who cares?