Dive In: A New Tulum-Inspired Eatery Makes Waves In Chicago

Elizabeth Harper | November 30, 2020 | Food & Drink

New restaurant The Diver makes a splash in River North.

Diver6.jpgMuch of The Diver’s decor was sourced from owner Adolfo Garcia’s travels to Tulum, including the macramé that hangs from the ceiling.

With travel inhibited, escapist culture has become all the rage. To soothe the urge, seafood-focused Mexican eatery The Diver has arrived in River North to deliver you to Tulum’s sandy shores—no passport required. “I don’t think seafood has taken center stage in Mexican cuisine in Chicago yet, at least not in this type of setting,” says chef Sergio Sanchez. Among a backdrop of custom painted murals, warm wood panels, macramé and a pseudo jungle overhead, the space is an urban beach-shack oasis with an organic, curated feel. “I did my best to bring an authentic experience to River North,” says owner and concept developer Adolfo Garcia, who sourced much of the decor during jaunts south of the border. “We were inspired by the beaches of Tulum and our travels along the coast.”

Diver.jpgA tropical paradise in River North, The Diver features custom painted murals.

For the menu, the chef keeps his eye trained on sustainably sourced fare served in an environmentally friendly manner. With dishes like crowd-pleasing Baja fish tacos, Pacific shrimp, ceviche and aguachile, Sanchez says, “We wanted to bring our interpretation of how the locals eat through ingredients and flavor,” adding, “We want to broaden people’s perception of Mexican cooking and the uniqueness of the coastal region. The beaches are beautiful, but the culture is equally special.” The scores are in: Food, bev, environs, hospitality—it’s a 10 out of 10 for this tropical newcomer. 601 N. Wells St.

Jasmine Diaz’s bar program references her time living in Tulum, during which, she says, “I learned the freshness of the tropical environment, and the simpler, the better.”


It’s cold out there. Warm up with bar manager Jasmine Diaz’s go-to, Tulum Mio. Here’s how to whip it up.

1 1⁄2 oz. pineapple juice
1 oz. white chocolate liqueur
1 oz. cream of coconut
1⁄2 oz. agave
1 1⁄2 oz. your favorite spirit (We use mezcal.) 3 drops chocolate bitters
5 mint leaves

Combine all ingredients, shake and serve over ice for a cocktail that “would be perfect to keep me in that tropical mood,” Diaz says.

Photography by: Ethan Jollie