Diver Surfside Cafe, a family-run business offering coffee, fresh-pressed juices, smoothies, bowls and bites, is run by a longtime local and a couple who are newer to town.
In a pink building just across the bridge in Surf City is one of the area’s newest additions to the food scene, Diver Surfside Cafe. With its two levels and beach house-like exterior, visiting the waterfront cafe feels a bit like being inside someone’s home. And in a way it is, at least an extension of one. Diver is co-owned by three family members: husband and wife Matt and Brittany Shaw and Brittany’s sister, Emily Lara.
“I know a lot of people say they feel so much love when they walk in here,” Emily says. “We put a lot into this place, and it makes me happy to hear that because we try our best bring to bring that feeling to people.”
Each of the owners has a background in hospitality and knew they wanted to go into business for themselves. It was not a question of if they would open something but what? And where? Residents of Nashville, Tennessee, for 12 years, the Shaws had been looking to move to Topsail Beach full-time to be near Brittany’s family, including Emily, who has lived in the Topsail area for 20 years. The Shaws are hardly strangers to the area, however, having vacationed in Topsail Beach since 2007.
In fact, it was a moment during one of the Shaws’ trips that inspired the concept of what would eventually become Diver. A search for fresh-pressed juice nearby made them realize that they would need to go to Wilmington to find what they were looking for.
Having recently decided they wanted to trade Nashville for beach life full-time, it seemed like the right moment to make their dreams come true.
Emily, who worked at Sears Landing off and on for seven years, had been scoping out local real estate when the perfect opportunity appeared right across the street. When the space at 809 Roland Avenue opened up, it seemed like a good sign.
On the Diver menu, there is a small illustration of a shell and cursive writing proclaiming, “The Pearl of Surf City.” Although the owners may have given the restaurant the moniker, one visit to the cafe verifies it is a gem of an addition to the area. While the cafe is a team effort by its owners, Matt, Emily and Brittany each have an area they are most passionate about — menus, coffee and cocktails, and creative design, respectively. The confluence of these talents is evident in every detail of the design and the food and drink offerings.
Counter Culture coffee is brewed and offered in all the classic coffee drinks from cortados to macchiatos.
Punch up the flavor by adding a house-made syrup in vanilla, chocolate or caramel. Not into coffee? Try one of the jewel-toned juices, pressed from fresh fruits and vegetables, or a smoothie like the Lifeguard, blended with homemade almond milk, bananas, cashews, kale, spinach, dates, vanilla, flax and spirulina. For a more substantial bite, try an açaí bowl or Emily’s favorite, the B.L.A.T. (organic grain bread, Bibb lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, crisp bacon and paprika aioli). “It’s simple but it’s so good,” Emily says.
In the years since they have opened, Diver has added a counter-service bar on its second floor.
It’s not a late-night kind of spot — after all, Topsail Beach has plenty of options for that — but it’s the perfect waterfront location to enjoy craft cocktails and a view of the sunset.
The best of Diver, according to Matt, is “having a little bit of a sense of a place in the community like I never had before. I value taking ownership of what we built and sharing that with our staff here and then also sharing it with the people of Surf City. We moved here without knowing anybody besides family really, but we’ve been meeting people who have been here for years; they come in and talk to us and accept us for being the new kids on the block.”