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Drift Kitchen and Bar in Delray Beach.
When it came to Delray Beach’s big charity functions and society galas, what is now the Opal Grand Oceanfront Resort & Spa was always the place. Catering was king when the venue was known as the Marriott Delray Beach.
Now, as Opal, the hotel is casting a line for elevated cuisine with Drift Kitchen & Bar, a new 240-seat restaurant across the street from the sand and ocean and smack dab in the center of the buzzy part of the beach’s dining/drinking/shopping scene.
“It’s a little bit Mediterranean flavor, local inspiration, local flavors, local products,” explains Opal’s executive chef, Charles Carpenter. “We want everything to be kind of approachable but also maybe a little something you’re not necessarily sure what it is but you’re willing to try, not too out there.”
Formerly the restaurant space, which has been totally redone as part of a multi-million dollar makeover of the entire property, was called Seacrest Grill. Drift’s general manager Sean McCusker says the cuisine is designed, in part, to stand out among the other food options on the beach where Atlantic Avenue ends at Ocean Boulevard (a.k.a State Road A1A).
“If you go up and down Delray’s beach, you see a lot of varying concepts, some lean [toward] seafood,” McCusker says. “You start to see … a new Greek restaurant that pops up. There’s a lot of Italian inspirations. And then for us to be able to offer a great broad range of all those concepts, to hit a Mediterranean ideal, I think that’s really exciting. Especially being in the head of the avenue, closest to the ocean. The location kind of sells itself. It’s hard to not want to go to a restaurant that’s so close to the water.”
Both men admit construction took a lot longer than planned due to the pandemic. Though Drift has been open for only two weeks now, Carpenter likes what he sees of local support.
“It’s been good,” he says. “I think it’s been very well received. I feel like we’ve had a nice strong mix of local and hotel guests. It’s been going well … trying to compete with [Atlantic] Ave, but do our own thing as well.”
Chef Carpenter also adds, “I do try to use purveyors that source things locally whenever possible. That is a strong part of our philosophy. We do work with a couple of local people that are local orchards and things like that to get some stuff in. We also have some other people that we’re using, like more artisan guys, a local baker, a local chocolate maker. So I was proud of that, to bring those guys in and be able to offer some of their products.”
That chocolatier is 5150 Chocolate and the bakery is EastWest French Pastries Corporation. There are also local breweries represented at sister food and beverage offering adjacent to Drift, the Monkey Bar and Beach Market Cafe.
Beach Market Cafe and Monkey Bar
McCusker adds, “[Beach Market Cafe] is primarily our breakfast concept that leans into the late evening, so it kind of transitions. To start you can get a coffee there, there’s a myriad of different coffee drinks you can get grab-and-go style. There are handhelds that are sold for both breakfast and lunch. But then as the evening goes on, it almost can turn into more of a cafe style where guests can have dinner here and then go there for a coffee drink after. So if you’re not looking for necessarily an upscale dining experience, you can go there to you know, kind of hang out.”
The former Marriott had a non-descript hotel lobby bar. Now the Opal Resort has Monkey Bar, which has a smaller menu of tapas and shareables.
“Just kind of some small bites,” adds Carpenter. “You know, a couple of small plates if needed and a burger, you can’t be a bar without a burger.”
The Mediterranean fare at Drift starts with dips and spreads such as stone oven-roasted halloumi with tomato fondue, roasted eggplant, young arugula, tapenade, extra-virgin olive oil and 25-year aged balsamico for $12 or skillet focaccia with rosemary, roasted garlic, smoked sea salt, wild blueberry butter and parmesan fonduta for $11.
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There are also stone-fired flatbreads for $18 and $19 as well as bowls and salads ranging in price from $18-$26.
Six shareables include lobster and avocado toast made with preserved lemon aioli, American caviar, cured egg yolk, petite greens on toasted brioche for $18 or maple and pomegranate-glazed Brussels sprouts for $14.
The five handhelds include choices such as spicy fish taco or a signature Drift burger, both for $19.
Seafood entrées range from coastal shellfish stew with charred fennel and tomato broth, mussels, lobster, shrimp, local catch, grilled toast and lemon saffron aioli for $35 to crispy branzino with saffron fregula, warm asparagus salad, lemon parsley chermoula, tomato cumin butter and crispy shallots for $42.
Other entrées include pollo al mattone (brick oven) with Bell & Evans free-range chicken served with baby potatoes, roasted root vegetables, lemon raisin marmalata and a natural pan sauce for $29 and an 8-ounce center-cut beef tenderloin made with a goat cheese & basil crust, parmesan whipped potatoes, grilled asparagus, red onion agrodolce and 25-year balsamico for $50.
“We’ve all worked very hard to be able to open this … to the public,” adds McCusker. “And I think that it’s an experience that everyone should at least try once. And I find that if you do try it once, you’re going to want to try it a second time and come back even more.”
- Drift, Beach Market Cafe and Monkey Bar are all located in the Opal Grand Oceanfront Resort & Spa at 10 N Ocean Blvd. (SR A1A), Delray Beach.
- For Drift, call 561-274-3289 or go to DriftDelray.com. Hours are 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily with bar service until midnight. Sunday brunch is served from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.