Chef David Burke Returns to the Shore with Drifthouse in Sea Bright

At a wine dinner at Ama Ristorante in Sea Bright last year, chef David Burke got to talking with Bill Stavola, whose family owns the restaurant. By the end of the conversation, they had decided to turn Ama into a beachy New American restaurant called Drifthouse.

The gist of the discussion, Burke tells us, is that Ama “just didn’t have the right branding.”

After a redesign and a menu reboot, Drifthouse opened in late February. Its executive chef is Burke’s younger brother, Robert, who held that title at Ama. The Burke brothers have worked on projects together since 1982.

Burke, a Food Network regular, owns several restaurants, including Tavern 62 by David Burke in Manhattan and BLT Prime in the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. His most recent New Jersey venture was the Fromagerie in Rumson, which he sold in 2015.

“The menu [at Ama] was easy to fix,” Burke says. “That’s my strength, and they didn’t need training because the people in the kitchen have worked with me.”

The local, seasonal menu includes elements of Burke’s signature whimsy, such as strips of maple bacon hung on a mini-clothesline, a starter. Mains include ginger and black pepper salmon; bison short ribs; and house-made rigatoni.

Sunday brunch will begin Easter Sunday, April 1.

“I’ll be there as much as I need to be,” Burke says. “When the baby’s new, I’ll be around a lot. So this first summer, you’ll see me a lot.”

Drifthouse’s “beach chic” look has been augmented with art from Detour Gallery in Red Bank and from Burke’s own collection.

Sea Bright, a sliver of a town, faces water east and west. Drifthouse’s new dining patio affords panoramic views of the ocean and of the Shrewsbury and Navesink rivers, over which the sun sets.

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