I have no idea why it’s called Otto’s High Dive, but the new “neighborhood rum bar” with a Cuban food menu is eminently likable.
There are no clues as to who Otto is or was at the restaurant or on its website (which has precious little information besides its location and hours of operation). And the decor is not swimming pool-themed; one presumes the name is suggesting a tonier type of divey bar, oxymoronic as that might be.
And there is nothing divey about the place – especially the prices, but we’ll come back to that.
The building, formerly an office space, is compact and features a beautiful underlit alabaster bar and a backbar with Spanish tiles that echo the ones on the floor. The open-ceilinged room is bisected by a sort of chicken-wire grill and each side has tables and booths as well as seating at the bar.
Which is where I sat when I visited. I was greeted warmly by one of the bartenders who asked if I preferred my cocktails shaken or stirred, a question usually posed to secret agents. I said I preferred stirred and that my go-to drink was a negroni, but knowing I was in a rum bar I had no intention of ordering anything without rum. He recommended a Bronze Titan, made with overproof Jamaican rum (which has a higher ABV than your basic Bacardi), white vermouth, verjus and a grilled pineapple garnish. It was the most negroni-like rum cocktail I could have hoped for.
The menu is as compact as the space and has few starters. My first choice, pastel de carne, was not available. (The other pastelitos were sweet varieties.) So I went with a half dozen of the raw oysters, Raspberry Points from Prince Edward Island. They were perfectly shucked and slid easily from the shell into my mouth. They had a lovely briny note and were flavorful enough without the mignonette or hot sauce. (They were also served with a lime instead of a lemon, whcih really aren’t interchangeable; I prefer a lemon.)
For my entree I chose the ropa vieja, which translates to old clothes, which might be confusing because there’s another menu item called old clothes. (That, apparently, is a vegetarian version made with mushrooms.) Instead of the usual flank steak, this ropa vieja was made with braised short rib meat, which gave it a wonderful fatty mouthfeel. The meat was blended with the usual green olives and the unusual sliced carrots and was accompanied by a timbale of white rice and a small dish of black beans, plus a slice of Cuban bread. There was a ramekin of sauce, but the person who served the dish also brought what she called Otto Sauce. I don’t know whether it was made with freshly squeezed Ottos or not but I liked its spicy garlicky notes.
All of the staff were gracious and friendly, just like you’d expect in a neighborhood bar.
But you don’t expect the bill in a neighborhood bar to come in at just under 70 bucks. (Cocktail $14; oysters $18; entree $22; automatic 18 percent gratuity.) It was a lovely experience all around, but more than a drop-on-for-a-bite kind of place.
But food prices are crazy everywhere right now; maybe things will settle down eventually. In any case, it’s nice to have Otto’s High (Quality) Dive join the Milk District’s lineup.
Otto’s High Dive is at 2304 E. Robinson St., Orlando (map). It is open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday and lunch Sunday. The phone number is 321-231-7902.