If there are any two things that Californians love, it’s a hearty meal and lots of sunshine. The Hyatt Regency La Jolla’s newest installment, DRIFT Eat + Drink, offers plenty of opportunity for both. After a $1.8 million overhaul of Michael’s (the lobby’s former lounge and salsa club), DRIFT has emerged as an upscale hot spot with fare that focuses on a variety of healthy, locally-sourced meals and an upgraded cocktail program.
Inside the eatery, expect an aesthetic that is equal parts airy and charming. Inspired by Southern California’s laidback surf culture, the open floor plan and native plant-adorned walls invite diners to kick back and relax. The indoor space features wide, wooden tables and wire-frame chairs, which aid the overall modern feel. Outdoors, couches are spread around small fire pits, which keeps the area communal and cozy for guests. Though it was dark when I arrived at the restaurant, it was clear that daytime would be the optimal time to dine in, as guests would be able to take advantage of the sunshine and ocean breeze streaming through the floor-to-ceiling windows.
Fresh is the name of DRIFT’s cocktail game; each hand-crafted cocktail is creative, but still manages to keep with the rest of the Baja-influenced menu. The unique flavors in the Strawberry Jalapeno Margarita pair the tartness of the berries with a gentle kick of spice. Watching the cocktail being made is a treat—the bartender artfully mixes a bit of fresh fruit puree with the rest of the ingredients, and is sure to add a spring of mint or two to the drink for extra garnish. Every detail was considered, right down to the colorful paper straw that matched the accents in the décor. Guests with a sweet tooth should opt for the Blueberry Sage Whiskey Lemonade, which is perfect to sip while lounging on one of the cozy outdoor couches on a warm evening. DRIFT has also kept its San Diego roots in mind with an elevated craft beer program that pairs a variety of local brews with different dishes.
Though the menu is focused on healthy eats for vegetarians, vegans, and organic produce die-hards, there is plenty of comfort food to be found. Mac and cheese, a giant meatball, and stout-braised short ribs are listed as entrées, but don’t let this fool you. Just to drive the point home about health, it should be noted that nothing on the menu is fried. You heard us right. Diners have the option for individual entrées, but the litany of shareable flatbreads and appetizers make it easy to order a few dishes and have a tapas-style meal. The Baja Shrimp Ceviche Tostada was the standout among the shareable plates, while the Smoked Salmon flatbread made perfect snacking for those that believe a Lox bagel shouldn’t be just a breakfast food. Dessert fiends, take the opportunity to treat yourself. The blueberry-lemon panna cotta ended the meal with a light, but still delicious note that had us digging to the bottom of the dish.
One of the best things about the restaurant is its location. Not far from the 5 freeway, the Regency gives guests quick access to the rest of San Diego as well as the attractions of La Jolla. After spending time out at the Birch Aquarium or La Jolla Shores, a meal at DRIFT can be a dreamy cap to the end of a perfect California day.