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Sensi Magazine

The Diver Holds It Down

Apr 09, 2019 10:29PM
Eureka’s Henderson Center neighborhood is as unpretentious as they come. A collection of practical businesses, including the local Ace Hardware, a toy shop, and a bike store, straddle F Street. By day, the friendly, historic neighborhood is bustling and hosts a popular North Coast Grower’s Market each Thursday (10 a.m. to 1 p.m.) every summer. But come nightfall, Henderson Center gets almost too quiet; restaurants have always struggled in this pocket of town. So when The Diver Bar & Grill opened at 2834 F Street, everything about the upscale pizza and burger eatery felt like a keeper. As the restaurant sailed past its two-year anniversary this winter, the community has eaten its weight in approval, charmed by the blend of traditional tastes and modern style.

“We want to deliver a higher standard for Humboldt County,” explains Diver owner Shawn Stoops. An effusive entrepreneur, Stoops worked as a general contractor before diving headfirst into the restaurant biz. The mark of his hand can be seen throughout The Diver; Stoops built the custom wood trim adorning the wine-colored walls and oversaw the expansive build-out required to transform the former retail space into a restaurant. “We want ed to create a place for the community but still offer a unique experience for our area,” explains Stoops.

Stepping inside The Diver on a busy Friday night, smoky aromas waft across the dining room from the wood-fired oven where the chef expertly fires thin-crust pizzas to blistered perfection. Though designed with an open-concept layout, The Diver is still large enough for privacy between tables; locals wave across the room at friends. The metal-stamped ceiling and Tungsten light bulbs create an edgy, even urban, atmosphere, accented by large, colorful canvases of seafaring gangsters, mermaids, and dragons painted by local artist Sonny Wong.

“I like to call us ‘coastal industrial,’” explains Stoops, who branded his restaurant The Diver in honor of family members who served in the armed forces. Along with his partner, Dawn Watkins, Stoops feels strongly about paying respects, particularly in Eureka, a Coast Guard town. The Diver’s logo is the US diver insignia, a prestigious award given to sailors and Marines who earn their scuba diving certification. During the recent federal government shutdown, The Diver invited local Coasties to enjoy all pizzas at half price until payday. “We want to serve real people who are out busting their asses every day,” says Stoops.

 

The craftsmanship and community are matching bookends framing the heart of The Diver experience: the food. Leaning on a “less is more” mantra and quality ingredients, Stoops depended on Watkins’ years of restaurant experience to help fine tune a menu that lands between upscale Americana and funky NorCal. 

For pizza options, classics like the Margarita, $12, compete with the Donald, topped with sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, smoked duck, brie, smoked mozzarella, green onions, and hoisin sauce, $18, or the Sh*!load of Clams and Garlic with tomato sauce, mozzarella, fresh garlic, whole baby clams, and parsley, $15. On the burger side of things, the Calico Cowboy, $16, is a favorite heavy hitter, featuring smoked mozzarella, pork belly, spiced apple BBQ sauce, candied jalapeño, and fried onions, while the Ahi Burger, $17, satisfies lighter appetites with a fresh seared ahi tuna steak, sriracha coleslaw, and beer-battered fries (my go-to order).