Casual Elegance and Great Eats Abound at Driftwood David’s

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Driftwood David’s transformed the former space in the Lumberyard with an inviting dining table, above, and bacon wrapped shrimp skewers, below.

David Baysden first visited St. John years ago but didn’t stay long that time.

“I came to St. John many years ago and thought I could find a better island,” said Baysden. “But I never did.”

This time around, Baysden is here to stay. He recently opened Cruz Bay’s newest eatery Driftwood David’s in the old Find de Spot nightclub location on the lower level of the Lumberyard.

Between his Love City stints, the entrepreneur spent time on St. Kitts and Anguilla, where he ran Reggae Reef, a restaurant in Sandy Bottom. At Driftwood David’s, Baysden opened up the formerly shuttered space, which is now flooded with light and air.

The first sign things are different at the former nightclub location is an inviting table and chairs set up in the space just in front of the eatery. Step inside the freshly painted interior where huge windows open to a view of the Cruz Bay Creek area below, letting in Caribbean sunshine and breezes. The transformation was no easy task, explained Baysden.

“It took us six months to get this place ready,” he said. “We had to come in and demo everything. We opened it all up and we want people to feel at home.”

An open kitchen is situated in about the middle of the space, helmed by chef Mike Hammond. The nearby bar area is run by Ben Martinez and Casey Taylor makes sure table service is top-notch.

Get settled in one of the roomy tables and get ready to enjoy a scratch-made meal with nods to the Caribbean and comfort food. For now the restaurant is open for lunch and dinner daily starting at noon — Baysden expects to close on Mondays in the future — and the menu offers a little something for most palettes.

While Baysden created the menu and concept for Driftwood David’s, he insisted the restaurant is not about him.

“This is really more about the employees than it is about me,” said Baysden. “Driftwood David’s is about the food and the people who work here, not me.”

And Hammond’s food certainly spoke for itself. The lunch menu offers a salad, fish sandwich, hamburger and curry chicken salad, but the slow roasted pulled pork sandwich and baby back ribs are the stars, explained Hammond.

And it’s easy to see why. The ribs are fall-off-the-bone tender thanks to a dry rub and four hour roast before being bathed in Hammond’s tangy home-made barbecue sauce. The pulled pork gets a similar treatment with a Boston butt slow roasted until it falls apart, then slathered in Hammond’s barbecue sauce served on a roll with coleslaw, rice and peas or a side salad.

The Dangerous Dog, an all-beef hot dog wrapped in bacon and topped with chili and coleslaw, is another popular lunch menu item. Lunch items range from $8 for a vegetarian salad to $16 for the fresh fish of the day sandwich, which on a recent visit was a beautiful flaky mahi mahi.

Driftwood David’s doesn’t scrimp on portions and all salad dressings and dips are house-made. The place has a casual feel, but the napkins are thick linen and drinks are served in glassware, not plastic.

The restaurant has a full bar and impressive wine list with a range of prices from casual to high-end. Frozen concoctions like bushwhackers and pina coladas are available and Driftwood David’s serves up a signature Strawberry Paradise. With coconut rum, Baileys and strawberry puree, the Paradise tastes like a strawberry shortcake and certainly goes down easy.

Hammond starts serving dinner at 6 p.m., but is willing to take special orders during lunch hours, so just ask. Dinner items, most in the $20 range, include a chicken marsala, stuffed mushrooms, fresh catch of the day, seafood pasta and a ribeye steak. Hammond also offers an appetizer and entree special nightly as well.

Liz Lowe of Queen of Tarts supplies the exceptional dessert offerings, which recently included a tart key lime pie and a decadent flourless chocolate almond torte, each for only $5.

Baysden is also determined to make Driftwood David’s the place to go for live music. The restaurant features musicians most evenings from 7 to 10 p.m. and Carl Powell is bringing back Jazz on Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m.

Stop by Driftwood David’s for a fantastic meal at a great price and sit back, relax and watch the world go by from one of the over-sized windows. For more information call the restaurant at 777-4015.