Next door to Mawuhi African Market in Burlington's Old North End, Drifterscafé and bar soft-opened at 156 North Winooski Avenue this Monday, June 27. From the outside, little remains of the Psychedelicatessen, which previously occupied the space. But the new café has retained its predecessor's laid-back, welcoming vibe. Overhead, lights dangle from a birch tree, and co-owner Michael Lucey (who also owns the Burlington Hostel) made the driftwood tables out of boards pulled from Lake Champlain.
Though Drifters is open breakfast through dinner, the menu starts slow: Mornings bring pastries and espresso from Speeder & Earl's Coffee.
As the day wears on, that menu — designed by Lucey's good friend and Drifters co-owner Andrew Ryan — grows to include sandwiches and small plates, such as root vegetable "fries"; sweet-pea-Parmesan fritters with lemon crème fraîche; and sliders cradling pork — both pulled and belly.
Ryan makes most everything in-house, including the tortillas and the smoke-tinged grilled-habañero aioli for the confit-duck tacos. Other evening fare includes parsnip gnocchi and flatbreads bearing arugula pesto, blue cheese and oven-roasted tomatoes; or crisped pork belly, Korean chile sauce and carrot kimchi. "Andrew is a great cook," Lucey says. "I basically hired him so he would have to cook for me on a regular basis."
To drink, the new café offers wine and local draft beers; current pours include Little Wolf and Green State Lager from Zero Gravity Craft Brewery, Fiddlehead Brewing's IPA and Havoc Mead's Bitter Bee. Lucey will add outdoor seating to the 25-seat spot in the next few weeks.
This post has been updated to reflect that Andrew Ryan is a Drifters co-owner.