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Mid Drive Dive

Written By Scott Joseph On May 16, 2024

Mid Drive Dive interior

I wonder about the etymology of the word dive, at least in its use to define a place. I assume it refers to an establishment, usually a bar, that was once reputable but has gone downhill, taken a dive, in quality. Personally, I’ve always relied on the clientele to be the real defining factor. Sleaziness isn’t required but it helps.

So can you declare yourself a dive? Is it something to aspire to? The owners of Mid Drive Dive apparently think so. It’s a new restaurant on Edgewater Drive in College Park that is a joint project of Jacob Zepf of Freehand Goods and Matt Hinckley of Hinckley’s Fancy Meats at East End Market.

It takes over the space that had been a Graffiti Junktion – the burger chain with its own aspirations of diviness – on the corner of Vassar Street (named for a tony college with few if any dive bars nearby). The space is open and bright – dives are notoriously dark – and any graffito from the previous tenant has been excised. A central bar is the focus of the room with seating there as well as at tables, high and low, about the room and out front. The floor features what was likely the building’s original terrazzo, some of it patched and in the sort of disrepair that would be the envy of any dive.

Mid Drive Dive floor

But enough harping on the semantics. Let’s agree that a bar or restaurant has just as much right to call itself a dive as one that adds Gourmet to its name. (And don’t get me started on those.) I’m guessing that the distribution of duties between the two partners has Hinckley in charge of the food and Zepf handling the merchandise. Yes, there is merchandise; I’ll come back to that in a moment.

In my book, Hinckley, with the snout-to-tail dedication and high quality of his Hinckley’s Fancy Meats (never had an issue with the use of the word Fancy in describing his products), is one of the area’s best culinarians, and I was delighted when I learned he would open a proper restaurant rather than a stall.

Mid Drive Dive pate

So it was wonderful to sit and enjoy his duck liver pâté, impossibly rich, moussey and smooth and spreadable on the crusty toasted bread, served with pickles.

Mid Drive Dive burger

And the mushroom burger, a big and juicy, delightfully sloppy patty, slightly under the requested medium-rare (no complaints), smothered with thick and chewy slices of mushrooms, sweet grilled onions, melted gruyere cheese and rosemary tinged aioli, all on a toasted onion roll. If the Michelin Guide inspectors ever switch their focus from sushi to burgers, this one is a real contender.

Mid Drive Dive tuna

Which made the tuna melt all the more disappointing. I had ordered it only because the “crispy fish” and fish & chips items were not available. I wouldn’t usually go for a tuna melt but I thought in Hinckley’s hands it would be something special. It wasn’t. The thin line of under-seasoned tuna salad was lost between the thick slices of toasted bread, and the swiss cheese – the melt of the name – didn’t cover the fish.

Screenshot 2024 05 16 at 11.35.43 AM

Now, about the merch. I applaud any restaurant that can develop another revenue stream to boost the low margins of food sales, but I’m always a bit wary of a new place that opens with a gift shop already intact. Mid Drive Dive has the usual t-shirts and caps but also beer, wine and cocktail glasses adorned with the 32804 ZIP code of College Park – smart to play to a sense of community. But the design, at least of the wine tumbler, was ill advised. Its round bottom made a short pour look even shorter. 

Service was prompt and menu knowledge was good.

Mid Drive Dive bar

Even in its short time, Mid Drive Dive has had multiple versions of its menu – I’d expect that from Hinckley. And I know that it will find a steady level of quality throughout.

Whether is will actually achieve divedom is up to you.

Mid Drive Dive is at 2401 Edgewater Drive, Orlando (map). It is open for lunch and dinner daily. The phone number is not published.

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