The Diver - Chicago
You want to fly away to somewhere cool…but let’s face it: many of us won’t be doing any international travel for some time. River North’s The Diver, however, gives you good-time Mexican vibes and food in a space that makes you feel like you’re chilling on a beachfront far away.
Designed to convey the spirit of a tropical getaway, and reflecting the casual and relaxed comfort of seaside Mexican towns in places like Nayarit or Baja, the menu at The Diver features lots of tasty seafood and vegetarian options, as well as some meatier preparations, all accompanied by cocktails you may have had poolside, south of the border, in the before times.
In a space that recalls an urbanized beach shack dropped into the center of River North, The Diver has wood siding and colorful murals, cedar lining and seagrass fixtures, and it serves up dishes and drinks that go way beyond what you might expect at one of Chicago’s many other fine Mexican restaurants.
The ceviche section of the menu is a good place to start, and The Diver features tangy vegan, tuna and mahi variations, but you’re probably going to want to try the aguachile ceviche with shrimp, mango, blood orange, habanero, onion, mint and microgreens. One bite and the cool breeze through the open windows on Ohio and Wells will make you think you’re on a Baja beach.
In the Beach Bites section of the menu, you’ll find mussels in coconut milk and tostadas topped with tuna and mahi-mahi. Looking very inviting is the Playa Salad, with kale, watermelon, jicama, cucumber, beet, pumpkin seed, all dressed with orange/lime vinaigrette.
In the mood for a taco? The Diver, of course, has lots of them: there’s a Baja taco of beer-battered cod and another of chicken pibil, which is the bird prepared in the style of the Yucatan peninsula. Minds will be blown with the Lobster BLT, with the eponymous crustacean, pork belly, avocado crema and house slaw.
For bigger appetites, we’d suggest the Surf & Turf Torta, a sourdough baguette filled with pacific shrimp, skirt steak, and avocado, drizzled with chipotle aioli. If you prefer fowl, there’s the Chicken Milanese Torta, composed of very lightly breaded chicken breast, a juicy beefsteak tomato, avocado and aioli…and sure, fries come with that (think beachside resort!).
Chicagoan Jasmine Diaz heads up the bar program. Having spent several years at La Negra Rosa in Mexico City and Gitano in Tulum, she knows her stuff and she knows how to make cocktail ingredients sing with a Mexican accent. Must-tries include lightweight options like Tropical Spritz (watermelon, mint/lemongrass purée, cava, and Aperol) as well as more spirited options like Night in Oaxaca (mezcal, Campari, vermouth, mole bitters, and cherry) and Pacific Rose (mezcal, wild berry purée, basil, lemon, agave syrup, and jasmine bitters).
The Diver has currently limited itself to just 38 seats to enable safe social distancing. Plates and cutlery are single-use, eco-friendly and biodegradable Leafware products, which increase your safety and contribute to the overall tropical atmosphere of this new and fun bar/restaurant. The tightly focused and well-curated menu means The Diver can serve you with fewer staff…and thus decreased social contact and increased safety for both staff and guests.
The Diver is set up to take walk-ins, or you can make reservations at their site.