If upscale fast casual is the new fine dining, then Dive Coastal in Snider Plaza has its sights set on becoming the new French Room. Franchesca Nor, the chef and owner, has the right interior design and a menu full of organic, seasonal, and local ingredients, but she has yet to elevate the food to regal status. The vibe is California-meets-the-Caribbean cool. The seafood-centric menu, with a couple of entrées close to $20, includes ceviche, salads (big and small), dips (hummus and cucumber yogurt), seafood entrées (salmon, scallops, mussels), and a kid-friendly selection. Don’t like fish? The restaurant offers a fancy pulled pork sandwich with barbecue ragu and a mustard-ginger slaw. We ordered at the counter and received a number clipped to a tiny soccer ball—which was fitting, since half the customers in the restaurant the night we dined were coaches, parents of players, or players of little league soccer. We enjoyed the Park Cities people-watching as we sipped a wheaty Pyramid Hefeweizen, but the fun stopped when the food arrived. A chopped salad was anything but chopped. Long strips of iceberg lettuce flopped off the sides of the plate. The romaine and garbanzo beans advertised on the menu were MIA. The “chopped” chicken was in fact seven inch-sized cubes that had to be tackled with a knife. Fish tacos served “three ways” (soy-, ginger-, and lime-marinated grilled fish, classic fried Baja fish, and spicy shrimp) were bland and almost indistinguishable from each other. (Okay, we didn’t have trouble recognizing the shrimp.) Pan-seared grouper covered with a salsa of mango and avocado fared better. The mild, thin fillet oh-too-lightly scented with garlic and orange is served with hot and spicy black beans. Two drinks, two salads, and two entrées came to $64. Welcome to upscale fast casual, folks.
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