In the recent past I bestowed on Courts and Sports the singular, completely subjective honor of naming their fried Kobe beef dog the best hot dog in Wilmington. I can’t say I was thrilled to hear the place had been rebranded as Dig and Dive for franchising reasons. But, upon a recent visit, I learned the renovations and a revamped menu aren’t to be feared. The 2.0 version of the popular volleyball bar is every bit the draw as its previous incarnation.
In addition to a more muted, darker wood interior, speckled by copper, Dig and Dive features a new menu that puts a heavy emphasis on North Carolina products. In fact, an asterisk denotes which products are made/grown/raised within our borders. There’s an interesting comfort in placing focus on our local economy.
I opened with one such appetizer: the pork wings. (I admit: I worked for 10 solid minutes on a joke about pigs flying, but I just couldn’t manufacture one.) The “wings” themselves are small pieces of pork shank, served on the bone. They are similar in size, if not shape, to a chicken wing. As well, they appear a little dry, but looks can be deceiving. The crispy exterior gives way to a particularly juicy piece of pork. The most interesting part is the sauce, described as “Bourbon Barrel Kentuckyaki.” It’s a fun blend of smoky barbecue sauce and salty teriyaki. The salt can be a bit much from time to time, but, ultimately, the sauce marries the flavors nicely and adds a lovely bit of spice to the rich pork meat.
I couldn’t shake my fear that my beloved hot dog was a thing of the past, so I ordered another to be sure. I looked over my options and decided on the Chihuahua, a deep-fried beef hotdog with avocado, Heritage Farms’ Rooster Relish, diced onion, and Lusty Monk Burn in Hell Chipotle Mustard. That’s a lot to discuss, but I’ll skip to the end: Dig and Dive keeps its crown for still offering the best hot dog in Wilmington.
The fried dog itself is a delight thanks to its rich, oily flavor. Plus, Dig and Dive doesn’t make the classic mistake of skimping on the bun. The bread is high quality and adds a great deal to the overall satisfaction of this dog. However, it all pales in comparison to my new favorite product: Lusty Monk Burn in Hell Chipotle Mustard, straight from NC. The smoky/spicy treat is so good I paused in the middle of writing this sentence to go online and order some for my home.
The avocado was sliced thickly and, given the slippery nature of the fruit, it cruised a bit as I tried to eat it. I eventually took off the remaining slices and ate them separately—though I’m not convinced that was my best course of action. They did a nice job of mellowing the heat of the mustard.
The fried andouille appetizer, also from NC, is a great example of the wonders of excess. The first bite is a spicy, greasy treat; the third starts to feel like work. Much like an extra-large pizza, the fried andouille sausage is delicious but best enjoyed with friends.
The Frito Bandito burger defied expectations. Instead of one burger, it’s actually two very thin patties served with cheese, avocados, chili and Fritos. As someone who always stuffs tortilla chips into fajitas, I have long loved the idea of adding crunch to sandwiches. The chili could have used a bit more heat. Overall, it was a likable burger. But, if anything, it suffers in comparison to the Chihuahua: like a little brother who can’t live up to an older sibling’s accomplishments.
Dessert is worth a try as well. The peanut-butter pie is decadent. I knew immediately it wasn’t made in house, but so what? Some of my favorite restaurants get their bread from bakeries. There’s nothing wrong with knowing limits and outsourcing a few items. As well, the fried apple pie warrants attention. It’s not as cloyingly sweet as I was expecting, and the crispy exterior had a nice counterbalance to the gooey apple filling.
Sometimes I can’t tell if I’ve reached the age where I think price increases should have stopped 10 years ago. That being said, I thought the food was a touch on the high-end side, but it’s a gastro pub, essentially, where quality goes on the pedasta. Appetizers run between $5 and $10, dogs, sandwiches and burgers from $5 to $11, and salads up to $15 (if adding shrimp). Plus, they have a very large selection of craft beers, including NC brews. In the end Dig and Dive offers an interesting take on some classic preparations. It was nice to be reminded that change isn’t always a bad thing.
Dig and Dive
3525 Lancelot Lane
Sun. – Thu: 11 a.m. – 1 a.m.
Fri – Sat: 11 a.m. – 2 a.m.