Last March the pandemic hit pause on everyone’s life, but for Michelin starred “Gypsy Chef” David Myers — a man who spent 50 weeks a year on the road, had been in 15 countries that month, and couldn’t recall life without jet lag — the stop was especially jarring.

Grounded at home in Venice for the first time in over a decade, Myers found it tough to reconcile his lifestyle of forward momentum with the confines of lockdown. So for himself and his sanity, he set three goals: get in the best shape of his life, learn Japanese, and launch a new restaurant.

The first goal has been a great success, the second proved trickier than Myers predicted, and the third is now a booming business on Abbot Kinney called ADRIFT Burger Bar.

The new joint is a far cry from Myer’s former Los Angeles restaurant Sona, known for its nine course tasting meals that offered an elegant indoor dining experience of a (temporarily) bygone time. Instead the humble burger bar and its tucked away alley space combines several elements residents are looking for in these disquieting times — community, comfort food, and a touch of whimsy.

This simplicity of the space and its menu should not be mistaken for blandness or unoriginality.

The decadent burgers and unconventional milkshakes combine fresh California meat and produce with surprising flavors drawn from Myers’s time abroad. The French fries are dusted in curry leaf and the chocolate caramel milkshake is elevated with a dash of miso.

“I love to bring in influences from my travels around the globe and put them into my food. That’s what inspires and motivates me as a chef,” said Myers. “ADRIFT has a California heartbeat with an edge to it, where unique flavor combinations come into play.”

The namesake ADRIFT burger, first dreamed up at Myers’s ADRIFT restaurant in Singapore, combines a medium-rare patty with pickled jalapeños, arugula, melted gruyere, and a tomato-ajwan jam. Ajwan is an Indian spice incorporated in a lot of Singapore’s Indian cuisine, and is used in this instance as a flavor packed alternative to ketchup.

The alleyway seating area is inspired by Tokyo’s back alley dining scene. Designed by Danny Gonzales, the space features earth toned bricks and tiling with lush greenery and dangling string lights. A living wall hosts a selection of air plants and succulents potted in hand-crafted ceramics by Japanese florist Yukio of BOZU Los Angeles.

“Walking in the back streets of Tokyo, you would happen upon a stunning little setup like this and think ‘oh my god this is the coolest thing’, then you keep quiet because you don’t want lots of people to discover it, so you can’t get in with your friends anymore,” said Myers.

Sprawled down the side of the alley is a chalkboard mural featuring a blind contour line drawing of a jovial dinner party. This oddly proportioned sketch brings an echo of pre-pandemic revelry to the space and is an example of the touches of whimsy Myers like to weave into all of the ADRIFT brand restaurants.

While the burger bar is centered around a simple space and simple ingredients, Myers tries to bring a bit of “that mystical travel note that makes you happy”. He draws a lot of his inspiration from his voyages and said he finds beauty even in the tougher parts of traveling.

“There’s something wonderful about jet lag, because it has you up at times when you’d normally be asleep and you get to think differently. It has you feeling a bit ethereal throughout the day,” said Myers. “We try to infuse that spirit, that essence, that vibe and most importantly that lifestyle into every one of our restaurants under the ADRIFT brand.”

Myers greatly appreciated the opportunity to reconnect with his roots, recenter and recuperate over the past year, but is now raring to recommence wandering.

“I’m definitely dying to get back on the road,” said Myers. “I’m ready to sprint.”

Clara@smdp.com