Review: Wexford’s Dive Bar & Grille has low-rent name but tasty bar food a cut above
When you think of typical “dive bar” cuisine, what usually comes to mind is baskets of deep-fried provolone sticks, onion rings, chicken fingers and zucchini planks. And, of course, sides of ranch dressing for dipping.
But Dive Bar & Grille in Wexford is not your typical dive bar. Here, you are going to find better bar food prepared with more thought and creativity than the frozen variety.
The first thing you will notice about this casual bar and restaurant is the very large menu, done on purpose by the owners as to not alienate anyone from eating here. Five pages are filled with tasty listings of small bites, salads, fry bowls, sandwiches, wraps, burgers, sliders and heartier entrees like roasted red pepper pasta and chimichurri tacos.
What surprised me most about the menu is not just its length, but the option of ordering many healthy items beyond the standard salad. Wraps are filled with grilled vegetables, and sandwiches are stacked with grilled fish. You might be confused as to what to order, so let me offer up my (mostly unhealthy) suggestions.
For starters, the Buffalo Chicken Eggrolls knock it out of the park. A creamy mixture of grilled chicken, blue cheese and buffalo sauce is stuffed inside a wonton wrapper and deep-fried to a crispy golden brown. These eggrolls come three per order and are served with a side of ranch dressing, of course.
Nachos are a bar-food staple and the ones served at Dive Bar are worth ordering, only if you eat them fast because they cool quickly. Tortilla chips are smothered in a homemade beer cheese that would even make dirt taste delicious, then topped with traditional fixings of shredded cheese, black beans, pico and freshly sliced jalapenos.
For a “healthier” appetizer, the Hummus Plate is a solid choice. Two scoops of house-made hummus (a traditional and a specialty variety) are served up alongside warm pita bread, plus carrot and celery sticks. The night I dined, the specialty hummus was a mint and chevre cheese blend. This hummus definitely packed a punch of flavor from the pungent chevre and mint leaves — a combination I was wary of, but grew to like after a few bites.
One of my favorite items on the menu is the “I Hate Vegetables,” a bowl filled with a heaping of fresh-cut fries and your choice of over 50 toppings. If you have trouble deciding on whether mac ‘n cheese, a fried egg and onion straws will make a tasty bowl, you can choose from one of the pre-made bowls. The Pittsburgh Bowl, for example, has shaved steak, grilled onion, mushrooms and the intoxicating beer cheese.
These bowls are a meal in and among themselves.
If looking for something to eat with your hands, try the BBQ Pulled Pork sandwich. The pork is roasted and pulled in house, topped with a slightly spicy and tangy barbecue sauce, and served on a grilled bun with melted cheese and fried red-onion straws. The pulled pork makes its way into other menu items, too, accompanying the nachos, on top of a burger, and in a breakfast burrito served during brunch.
Brunch is a meal you won’t find at the average dive bar, but you will at this one. The signature item on the brunch menu is the funnel pancakes: house-made pancake batter fried in swirls like a funnel cake.
Dive Bar uses these funnel cakes as the base for its take on chicken and waffles, called Chicken ‘n Funnel Cake. A large panko fried-chicken tender�is served on top two large funnel cake pancakes and served with a side of maple syrup.
I recommend ordering a side of sriracha because the perfect bite of this dish is when a maple-syrup soaked piece of funnel pancake is topped with a piece of fried chicken, drenched in sriracha. Trust me.
Another item worth ordering is the Morning Mac: housemade, five-cheese blend mac ‘n cheese mixed with pieces of sausage, bacon and scrambled eggs. A weird, but oh-so-delicious, combination.
Dive Bar & Grille is a nice addition to an area filled with strip malls and chain restaurants. If you can’t make it to the Wexford location, Dive Bar has recently opened up a second location in Lawrenceville at 5147 Butler St. The menu in Lawrenceville is slightly different and does not include brunch. No matter what location you go to, be sure to get something drenched in that beer cheese.
Sarah Sudar is one of the food-savvy ladies of eatPGH.com, who contribute a weekly Dining Out column to Trib Total Media.