WILMINGTON — Have you ever wanted a side of culture with your cup of coffee? According to brothers Michael and Ben Powell, that’s exactly what you’ll get at their new Wilmington restaurant, Drift Coffee and Kitchen.
Growing up near Ocean Isle Beach, the Powells always had a passion for surfing. But, for Michael, it was more than just a passion. His dream was to become a pro surfer, and in his early 20s, he achieved that goal.
“I thought my life was complete, like this was all I’d ever wanted,” Powell said. “So many people had devoted time, including myself, to get this. What I wanted, what made me happy.”
But, after a few years of travel, Powell began to miss home. After discovering a love for coffee, he began to veer away from the professional surfing side of things, instead focusing the on the culture that surrounded him around the world.
“Now, looking back on it, I feel like I was being super selfish,” he said. “Trying to get what I wanted, to make me happy. So, I decided to do something else.”
Finding warmth and a sense of belonging in cafés scattered across the globe, the brothers decided to try their hand at the business, opening their first store in Ocean Isle Beach a few years back.
“That’s where we started, a little over three years ago,” Powell said. “It’s definitely turned into something that we are very happy to share with people. We’re just so excited to care for people through good food and coffee.”
The new restaurant, located off Eastwood Road, opened a little over a week and a half ago, taking the “simple” menu they perfected in Ocean Isle, and expanding it, offering not only breakfast, but a full menu that can be enjoyed throughout the day.
“We were super inspired by the café culture in Australia, and that’s where our head chef here, Mikey Wiseman, actually learned,” Michael Powell said. “So, he spent time, about three years, working at two cafes there in Sydney.”
Powell describes the Australian café scene as the “epitome” of cafe culture. With “vibrant, lively” shops serving a variety of “well-made food and proper coffee, in the same atmosphere.”
These restaurants also serve as a social space, with people coming in to enjoy “cordial” interaction, while enjoying “fresh, homemade” meals.
“We really want this to feel like a ‘lived in space,’ but, we want it to be clean and functional,” he said. “But also, we want people to stop and appreciate the beauty of simplicity and natural elements, because that’s what we’re consuming too.
“You’re consuming coffee, your consuming food, and we put a lot of time and energy into making the food and drink tasty, while making it beautiful at the same time. It makes it a lot of fun for us,” he said.
Something for everyone
The restaurant offers everything from lattes, smoothies and cold brew coffee, to things like grit and acai bowls, sandwiches and even vegan items like the “roasted shrooms on toast” or the “shredded veg salad.”
“We source our bread from Great Harvest Bakery, and some of our staples include the classic avocado and toast, which is a big seller for breakfast,” he said. “For lunch, we have a grain bowl, which is sort of a diverse dish made with a house-made butternut squash hummus, black rice, some pickled vegetables and soft boiled egg.”
The restaurant also uses North Carolina sourced pork from heritage farms for things like the grit bowl, which features pork shoulder, a runny egg, onion, and heirloom tomato. There’s also the pulled pork sandwich, which is served with house made barbecue sauce on a brioche bun.
According to Powell, Drift aims to cater to all walks of life, offering a range of products that range from cheap, to upscale, without compromising the hand-made quality they pride themselves on.
“We want to create the option for people who really want something souped up and nice,” Powell said. “But, we also want a few things that are sort of bare bones, because we do encourage that ritualistic form of visiting, establishing relationships with us, and others in the community.”
But, according to Powell, it all comes down to delivering a quality product, in a comforting environment.
“I really believe when we pause and we see that there is beauty and there is function kind of intertwined together, then we feel much more fulfilled in the experiences we have,” he said. “And that’s what it’s all about.”
Drift is open Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. The restaurant is located at 110 Dungannon Blvd. in Dungannon Village, next to the Autumn Hall neighborhood off Eastwood Road.