By Atlanta Food Critic / Posted on February 18, 2018

Drift Fish House & Oyster Bar is certainly of the most anticipated new restaurants openings of the year, and for good reason. When Chefs Brandon Keenan and Doug Turbush, of Seed [Read our review of Seed, Jan 15 2016], announced their intention to open another restaurant in fashionable East Cobb, the word spread quickly. Atlantafoodies, who might believe that real dining can only occur ITP, had their interests piqued and they waited to see what the East Cobb suburbanites might soon realize.

Wait no more! Drift is open and is doing a gang busters business at The Avenue in East Cobb. It’s strategic location also makes it a convenient destination from both North Fulton and Roswell, but its worth the drive from anywhere in the metro area. As I explain to friends who live ITP, the road runs both ways.

Drift was PACKED on a Sunday night!?! Of course, we had reservations. Those who did not have reservations, were offered seating at the bar because this restaurant is BOOKED SOLID.

We arrived with high aspirations considering the acclaim and experience of these two chefs, but Drift really exceeded our expectations. From the moment we arrived, there was a feeling of superiority. Its boastful, yet casual; but confident that the world, is indeed, your oyster.

We were seated and then met by our server who provided us concierge-like service throughout the meal. She was an excellent communicator and was very endearing to us. When we left, we felt as if we had made a new friend! Our every need was anticipated, our questions were answered thoroughly – even questions related to the preparation of items we were considering. Our server was a gem!

We had a late lunch so we skipped the appetizers and went straightaway to the main course. I ordered the Swordfish and asked if I could have that prepared blackened. This was a special request that was honored by the kitchen – thanks guys! Melanie chose the Frogmore Chowder which we assumed, incorrectly we found out later much to our delight, was like a Low Country Boil (a.k.a Frogmore Stew). For sides, which come ala carte; we chose the Crab Fried Rice, Smoked Tomato Grits, and Hushpuppies. The menu is fantastic and the only problem is that we had to limit our selections because we just can’t order everything (like we wanted to), right?

The menu at Drift is provides enough to offer diners to return on multiple occasions, exploring additional menu options on each visit. With Drift‘s zeal for providing fresh seasonal offerings using a farm-to-table/locally sourced methods, I would expect that the menu to be fluid over time.

One of the many things we loved about Drift is that they create some really unique and interesting dishes without it coming off weird or “out there”. Case in point, Melanie and I visited a restaurant to review not long ago. We were seated and began to look over the menu that we could not decipher without the aid of our server. It was so far out on a limb it lost had its appeal. Here you have a diner wanting to spend their hard earned dough on a great meal, but you’ve alienated them with “your vision”. Sometimes I think chefs spend far too much time trying to create a vision on their menu rather than wondering how the patron might receive it. No worries such as this at Drift. While the menu has enough complexity to draw interest from the most discerning palates, even the casual diner will feel comfortable. Kudos for having such a refreshingly fantastic menu!

Drift is top-down hands on management. During on visit, we saw Chef Doug Turbush in the kitchen that night inspecting meals prior to being served. Our meals were delivered by a manager, not a food runner. Speaking of managers, one of the managers came to our table to thank us for dining with Drift and spent a few moments just chatting. Later, this same manager came to check on our food (after our server had made sure everything was fine) and got a chance for us to provide some initial feedback on our dinner. Perhaps it should have been considered just a taste of what is contained in our review.

During our visit, neither our server nor the managers knew who we were; yet our hosts were so kind and gracious. They just treated us like an average customer – this is exactly how you create long term customers in the restaurant business. The entire staff was friendly, personable, and authentic from our initial reception until our departure.

This meal just reminded us of one of the many reasons why we love writing about food. From that first bite, when we look into each others eyes and you know… “yes, she thinks this is as amazing as I do”. Its even better when we realize that we’ve taken bites from different dishes and now we’re looking to see where one another’s fork came from so that we can try that dish next!

The Crab Fried Rice was just so unique. I cannot recall seeing that offered at many restaurants and Melanie and I love hibachi fried rice, so we just had to try it. When our server informed us that it came with egg on top, I think both of us thought of the scrambled egg from the hibachi and were surprised to see a poached egg when it arrived. I really wondered to myself if that would work, but it did and it worked marvelously. The rice had just the right amount of butter so the rice wasn’t sticky and still wasn’t greasy or oily. The huge pieces of lump crab meat were my absolute favorite about this dish – every bite was rice and crab meat. Very nice!

The Smoked Tomato Grits was another dish that Drift hit out of the park. Even if you aren’t a grits lover, you’ll love these grits. In fact, you may not even realize you’re eating grits. The smoky tomato flavor is powerful on both counts and is so rich that it’ll wow you.

Melanie raved about the Hushpuppies because she really has a fondness for them. What I thought was really different was the nice hard fried crunchy shell and the flavor inside was out of this world. A little whipped butter and its really, really dynamite.

My Blackened Swordfish did nothing to slow down this hit parade. This was a wonderfully prepared piece of fish that was light yet dense, as swordfish is. The flavor was fantastic with the proper amount of blackening seasoning topped with a melting dollop of garlic butter. Served on top of a bed of sautéed vegetables consisting of peppers, squash, and onions; the dish was complete and I was ready to stand and applaud.

One dish stood out though as a super star, even among these all-stars. The Frogmore Chowder was delightfully unexpected as a creamy chowder and full of bite-sized pieces of meat and vegetables – nothing like the Frogmore Stew we had envisioned. It was rich and filling, making it perfect for Melanie’s entreé even though its listed as an appetizer. This is a dish with some complexity, that is a delight to taste these element come together in such perfect unison.

I would be remiss if I concluded this review without mentioned how refreshingly affordable Drift is. For the quality of the food and service that you receive, diners gets one heck of a bang for their buck at Drift. Great food doesn’t have to be pricy and Drift proves it!

If we weren’t already head over heels in love with Drift, when a manager returned with our boxed leftovers he hung the bag on a small hanger on our table. What a cool thing to do! This was just another stunning display of the small attention to detail that seemed to prevail during the course of our evening.

Our sole regret for the evening was being unable to try dessert, but we were just so full that it just wasn’t going to happen that night. We’re looking forward to dessert the next time we visit because Drift Fish House & Oyster House is definitely on our MUST VISIT list of Atlanta restaurants. Guten appetit!