I’m in Starbucks again. It gets pretty cold in here; I’m considering buying some thermal underwear for the duration of january just so I can stay comfortable sitting in Starbucks. I need to be on the lookout for more Cosi or Caribou Coffee shops; I’ve been to more than a few of those and sat down by a fireplace (and I would actually consider buying the coffee there).
Jen Bernstein (site) and I arrive at nine and the place is hoppin’. We’ve been reserved two seats at the corner of the bar and we draw Jenny (pic) as our bartender; what a sweetheart. She’s excited to see us. When Lee (the owner) let the staff know that two food critics were coming, she’d envisioned a couple of stodgy, bow-tied, sexagenarians.
“Oh, so you guys are just bloggers?” She asked.
Jen started her blog to coincide with a blossoming culinary career and is trying to kick a nasty habit of reviewing case files. I made sure to ask Jenny to keep plying her with booze so I might get some better audio fodder, so she took us on a Beer Flight.
There’s no actual beer flight at Dive Bar, but there should be. We had the Dive Bar Unfiltered Ale, Dick’s IPA, a Pumpkin Ale I can’t remember the name of, Delerium Tremens, and the Goose Island Seasonal. From #1 to #5 – Delerium, Pumpkin, Chatham, Goose, Dick’s (I’m not a big IPA guy). The Delerium, how much can you say about this one? There’s a reason why it’s so popular and it’s not just the cool logo (pic), bright and peppery with a strong citrus presence. The Pumpkin Ale was spicy and a bit sweeter than I’ve had most pumpkin ales. The Unfiltered is Dive Bar’s white label from Chatham Brewery (site), malty and fruity. The Goose was the last beer of the night, so I wasn’t really paying attention to specifics, but I remember it complimented our dessert pretty well. After all of these high ABV beers, I commend Jen on hanging with me.
Our three courses: Fried Pickles (top), Macaroni and Cheese (above), and The Muffaletta (right).
The fried pickles were very pickley. I’ve never had these things before, so I didn’t know what to expect; I might have been thinking fried zucchini in slice form. If you like pickles, you’ve got to at least try these; they weren’t quite my cup of tea, but they were interesting.
We put some of the Dive Bar Hot Sauce on the mac and cheese that just made it pop. Puncturing the crispy top to get to the beautifully creamy inside, I knew that the next time I made my macaroni and cheese, I’d be using the pasta they made it with here. It held the cheese better than most. The hot sauce Idea was Jen’s; I’ll hereby decree that from this day forward, I’ll be putting hot sauce on my mac and cheese.
The muffaletta was the dish I was looking forward to most of all. Holy crap, this is a meal and a half – you could easily feed a family of four on this $12 plate. The olive tapenade and arugula balanced with the spicy Italian meats nicely. This was my first muffaletta experience. Jen asked if I had been to New Orleans, I had to say no. She started to tell me that the sandwich was supposed to be more flat, and from the wikipedia article (link), I can see what she’s talking about. I don’t think it took away from the tastiness of the sandwich; for me, the crispy bread was a big win.
I had pictures of the other desserts, but by this time, we were good and sauced, so the other pictures came out blurry. The Chocolate Chip Blondie (left) was our favorite, anyway. It was supposedly made with some kind of beer (see how good my note taking was at this point in the night?) and we could kind of taste it in the blondie, but not in the Guinness Brownie. The cupcake was iced with M3 Blue frosting (pic) and had those flower shaped sprinkles (pic – go figure, you type in flower shaped sprinkles and hit “I’m feeling lucky” … ). The icing wasn’t so sexy, but the cupcake was made with bourbon and cream cheese. Another undiscovered flavor first by The Foodie.
Nearing the end of the meal, a lady who was missing a few teeth and a few more brain cells tried to squeeze past a few of our new friends to the nonexistent corner seat next on the other side of Jen and I. I saw this whole thing going down and said to our friends, “Do NOT let that lady in here.” Apparently, I’d said it a bit too loudly because the girls couldn’t contain their laughter. Local flavor – You gotta have it.
Just the experience I expected to have, maybe even a bit friendlier. This ain’t Le Bernardin, and they don’t try to be. Generous portions fried to perfection, cold beer, bartenders and waitresses who are cute and attentive; I didn’t see anyone who looked unapproachable or didn’t seem happy to be there. If I lived in the neighborhood, Dive Bar would be my neighborhood bar.
The IRL Arts Foundation and The Wandering Foodie thank Dive Bar for providing this meal.
723 Amsterdam Ave.
New York, NY 10025