California to Dubai: celebrity chef David Myers on bringing Adrift Burger Bar to Expo 2020

Expect dishes such as curry leaf fries and the famous DM burger from this pop-up that channels Los-Angeles-meets-Tokyo vibes

While 2020 was a hard year for most in the food and drinks industry, Michelin-lauded chef David Myers decided to put his excess free time to good use.

Myers, who previously spent as many as 50 weeks in a year travelling, earning him the moniker Gypsy Chef, suddenly found himself grounded in his Los Angeles home for the first time in more than a decade – far away from his restaurants, colleagues and friends. As he puts it, it was a “shock to the system”. But “after a few weeks of binge-watching”, Myers decided to roll up his sleeves and put his time to good use – creating Adrift Burger Bar.

“It was a long-term dream project, based around a signature burger that has followed me around the world, making appearances on menus at all my restaurants. Adrift Burger Bar was the perfect recipe for a pop-up that could be launched mid-pandemic. It was a simple formula of great-tasting burgers and epic shakes in a predominantly takeaway format.”

From start to finish, Adrift Burger Bar was created in a mere month, something the team even captured in a YouTube series called How to build a burger bar in 30 days. This included gathering friends and colleagues who were “as eager as I was to get the LA dining scene back on its feet," says Myers, and finding a location right on Abbot Kinney Boulevard. The result is a takeout window with a 20-seater patio, featuring a menu with Californian roots that still pays tribute to his many travels.

When the chef got the opportunity to bring his hit concept to Dubai, launching in partnership with Naim Maadad’s Gates Hospitality company, he jumped at it. Myers is no stranger to Dubai’s food scene, having opened three venues in the emirate in 2017. He will now be bringing Adrift Burger Bar to Expo 2020 Dubai as a six-month-long pop-up.

“I can’t think of a better place to launch the second incarnation of Adrift Burger Bar,” he says. “After most of us spending a lot less time travelling over the past 18 months, I know many people are eager to engage with the rest of the world and get back to exploring different countries and cultures. Expo 2020 is an exhilarating world stage that is set to bring people and cultures together through food, and I am ecstatic to be a part of it with Adrift Burger Bar. Together with local operator Gates Hospitality, we will be bringing a slice of Venice Beach fused with a Tokyo vibe to all the visitors at Expo 2020.”

The Dubai venue will keep most of the Venice Beach menu intact, so guests can expect dishes such as the Adrift burger, the Earth burger and the Good Morning burger, as well as the famous DM burger (a must-try, says Myers). Other intriguing dishes include curry leaf fries and chocolate miso caramel milkshake.

Myers has also taken local tastes into mind and added two dishes to the menu: roasted cauliflower with dukkah, and cucumber, tomato and whipped feta salad. For those with a sweet tooth, two new desserts – baked cheesecake, and chocolate and caramel popcorn sundae – will accompany the myriad milkshakes that are available in regular and “grown-up” sizes.

Unlike the original Adrift Burger Bar in LA, the sister venue at Expo 2020 Dubai will feature both indoor and outdoor seating, and table service. Visitors can also expect floor-to-ceiling windows, an open ceiling, wood effects that follow the ancient Japanese architectural technique of shou sugi ban, which preserves wood by charring its surface, and an antique oak communal table.

“I had always envisioned for Adrift Burger Bar to grow into a fully fledged licensed restaurant with space for people to come and enjoy breakfast, lunch or a great night out with friends,” says Myers about the concept's expansion.

Dubai truly does love its burger venues, and there’s also no dearth of creative restaurants that serve the American staple in the city. But Myers believes Adrift stands out in part because of his travels.

“When I create a new concept or a new dish, I draw upon my own encounters with different food cultures and indigenous ingredients around the globe. These encounters also play into the design and aesthetic of each venue, adding to the overall experience. With each concept, my goal is to give guests a taste of travel and hopefully even inspire them to hop on a plane to explore a destination.

“What I hope to bring with Adrift Burger Bar is both a slice of my home town, Venice Beach, with its effortless vibe and fun-loving spirit, as well as a window into my love for travel, in particular to Tokyo,” he says.

Adrift Burger Bar may only be here for six months as part of Expo 2020 Dubai, but Myers says there are “absolute” plans to make it a permanent fixture in the UAE. “I love spending time in Dubai and being a part of the city’s vibrant dining scene.”

There are also plenty of other regional plans for Adrift. “The Middle East continues to be in focus for Adrift as you’ll see us team up with Le Royal Meridien by the luxurious Place Vendome in Doha to launch two signature concepts early next year. This will be closely followed by the opening of another exciting Adrift concept in New Delhi.”

Updated: September 21st 2021, 4:06 AM