If you’re in your Smith Mountain Lake vacation rental and wondering where to go for a meal, why not go to an award-winning restaurant right on the water? Drifter’s is the recipient of multiple gold and silver awards, including Best New Business, Best Cocktail, Best Outdoor Dining, Best Place to Come by Boat, Best Place for a Night Out ,Best Restaurant Experience, Best Seafood, Best Wings, Best Place to Hear Live Music, Best Place to Meet New People, Best Place to Watch a Sunset, Best Customer Service, Best Lunch Best Sandwich/Burger, Best Place for Kid/Family Outing and Best Place to Take a Visitor; all from the Laker Media, Best of Smith Mountain Lake Awards in 2021. I’m a frequent visitor to Drifters and I can tell you, it’s all true. Whether you come by for drinks, a get-together with friends or to meet new ones, you’re gonna leave completely happy and satisfied.
Drifter’s is a family-owned business, owned by Ryan Walters and Jaclyn Westfall, who were both employees of the former iteration of Drifter’s, called Waller’s. While the name has changed, Ryan and Jaclyn insist that the restaurant and bar remain the same. And by all accounts, the locals of Smith Mountain Lake seem to agree, judging by the number of awards this popular eatery has earned!
Location & Environment
Drifter’s is located on Crystal Shores Drive, on the northeast side of Smith Mountain Lake at Mariner’s Landing. If you just go down Crystal Shores Drive and keep going past Smith Mountain Marine Service and Sales Building, you’ll come to the water and boat dock, where you’ll see the parking lot for Drifter’s. Because it’s right on the dock, a lot of people just pull right on up in their boat and come in to eat and have a good time. There is plenty of indoor and outdoor seating, so you don’t have to make a reservation.
The environment is completely casual and fun. Everyone is here to have a good time. You are even welcome to bring your well-behaved dog as long as you stay outside with him. In fact, the owners are so dog-friendly that they have some special dog-friendly menu items. Just ask your waiter. If you have kids with you, there’s popcorn you can feed to the fish that hang out by the dock.
Now, this is a super popular spot for both locals and tourists, so just know that it’s not exactly quiet here. It can get crowded and noisy inside and boisterous outside, especially when they have a live band playing. The good news is that whomever you bring to Drifter’s you’re sure to have a rollicking good time!
What's Good on the Menu
All I can do when telling you about the menu at Drifter’s, is to bring your appetite. Here’s what my friends and I do - We find a great seat on the deck and then order up three of the Munchies. We rotate which ones we order, but one that always gets ordered is the Peel-n-Eat Shrimp. I know it’s hard to get shrimp wrong, but I’m just telling you what we do. From there, my personal favorite in the Munchy department is the Bavarian Pretzel Braid, which is basically a giant pretzel bread, which comes with stone ground mustard. Just so you know, I’m also the first one to get a soft pretzel when I go to New York, and this reminds me of that.
For your main course, I highly recommend the Primeburger, which is made with ribeye. It’s like your dad grilled a steak and you told him you preferred a hamburger, so he ground it up for you and served it on a brioche bun because he loves you so much. If being within feet of the lake water is putting you in the mood for seafood, then I suggest the Pirate Panini. It’s grilled ahi tuna (sashimi-grade), with bacon, cheese and wasabi-garlic mayo, all pressed neatly into a panini. It is sooooo tasty.
At this point, I should tell you that Drifter’s also has catering available. You would have to contact them directly, but I think they cater for weddings, retirement parties and things like that. They also offer delivery, including boat-side delivery, which is very cool! Just call your order in and pick it up while you wait in your boat at the dock!
For drinks, the sky’s the limit. They have a full bar, and they have beer on draft and in the bottle. I’d be surprised if you were able to come up with something they don’t have in stock. They make a mean margarita, I can promise you that, plus they have a selection of fun drinks like rum punches and rum runners and Long Island Iced Tea.
- Drifters is open seasonally, refer to their website for the most up to date hours.
- This restaurant is dog-friendly! They even have a dog-friendly menu.