Relaxed, Refined Beach Restaurant – Town Square Delaware LIVE

Drift’s “dressed white stones” are oysters topped with yuzu mignonette, shiso oil and trout roe.

At the end of the 19e century, Methodists traveled to Rehoboth Beach to renew their seaside spirit.

These “campers” stayed in rudimentary wooden houses called tents. However, they spent most of their time listening to Reverend Robert W. Todd’s sermons in the tabernacle.

Things have changed. Zealous foodies have replaced the faithful, and the modern getaway in Rehoboth has as much to do with restaurants as it does with the beach.

So it’s fitting that one of the newest restaurants in town is a renovated camp reunion cottage on Baltimore Avenue.

Drift opened its doors on August 10 and the establishment quickly demonstrated that it will be a culinary anchor on Baltimore Avenue, which is saying something. The street has no shortage of well-known restaurants, including Blue Moon, Eden, The Pines and DiFebo’s.

The new restaurant manages to pay homage to the high-end cuisine that has made Rehoboth a gem on the culinary coast. But it also has the relaxed sensibility that modern diners demand.

Rooted in experience

Derivative is the first effort of the new Second Block Hospitality Group. Next up is the Square One Grill space on First Street.

The team includes David Gonce, Bob Suppies and Tyler Townsend, owners of Pines and Aqua Bar & Grilll down the street – and Lion Gardner, former owner of Blue Moon and an opening chef at Eden.

Gardner, however, is not in the kitchen.

This work belongs to Tom Wiswell, who worked at Port and the station on kings in Lewes and critically acclaimed Food and drink in Philadelphia. Ad at famed mixologist Alan Watterson is behind the bar.

The team has talent, but it also took patience. The old cottage, the former home of the Seafood Shack, sat on sand and required a block foundation. The infrastructure was in poor condition. Newspapers from the 1930s served as insulation, and there was a hodgepodge of additions.

Shipping issues kept Drift stuck in the dock for months, and there were permit approval delays. But in August, everything came together.

The Drift Tent Cabin

The outline of the old tent lodge remains, but the structure has undoubtedly been updated.

There is now a breakfast bar-like opening in the front, allowing patrons to sit outside with their backs to the pavement and look into the main bar. They can have a drink or choose from the full menu.

There is also an outdoor dining area at the back.

Inside, a central aisle divides the dining room which is slim but still carefully designed with the help of Rebecca Fluharty.

Wallpaper with a metallic sheen features silver whales and turtle fish on one side, while the other features built-in shelves that hold old books, lush plants, statues, an hourglass and other finds from charity shop.

Although the white marble and wooden tables don’t have tablecloths, there’s still a warm feeling thanks to the plush pillows, tufted banquettes, seat cushions, and wainscoting.

Whimsical otters in top hats adorn white plates.

“Otters are kind of our spirit animal,” Gardner explained. “Legend has it that humans first discovered oysters by watching otters crack them open and suck them up while floating on their backs. I guess we might have figured that out anyway, but we thought it was a cool connection, so we made the otter our mascot.

No shortcut

Like the decor, the menu mixes the refined with the affordable. Indeed, Drift is no ordinary oyster house; the raw bar is an accent but not the only objective.

Instead, the food is elegant with a discernible connection to classical techniques.

The black bass ($36), for example, is served with a scintillating American sauce poured at the table. You can taste the buttery richness of the lobster broth as it builds up on your palate.

Instead of plain oysters on the half shell, try “dressed white stones” ($5 each) – Virginia oysters topped with yuzu reseda, shiso oil and a salty touch of trout roe .

The shiso oil also created the decorative swirls around our Tuna Tartare ($22), made with Maine bluefin tuna, a scoop of avocado and a dusting of nori furikake rice seasoning.

RELATED STORY: 9 restaurants in Delaware are recognized by the Wine Spectator.

I would like more plant-based options on the menu because the kitchen is so clearly about using fresh ingredients.

For example, a sun-kissed tomato salad ($15) comes with local grilled corn, chopped cucumbers and marinated pink shallot with a sherry vinaigrette. Whipped ricotta is a cool counterpoint to the tangy and sweet elements.

In general, expect the unexpected at this seafood restaurant.

For example, the Maine Lobster French Toast ($24) — made with homemade brioche — is served with braised leeks and tarragon. The swordfish schnitzel ($36) gets a briny punch from candied lemon and capers.

All goes well with the cocktail menu that customers seem to favor. The pounding sound of shakers was constant at the bar.

Ask for stones on the side and the glass comes with tiny clips.

This attention to detail – from ingredients to presentation to ambience – shows that Drift is run by professionals who have learned from the innovators who have transformed Rehoboth into a culinary destination.

For those of us who miss those very experimental days, Drift is a welcome stopover.

About the author