Campfire––a farm-to-table restaurant from the owners of Ironside and Craft & Commerce––nails their camping concept in highly refined ways.
One of my favorite things about coming home from camping is jumping into the shower and rinsing the campfire out of my hair. The scent of smoke brings me right back to sitting around a fire pit with a plate of grilled meat in my lap and a glass of red wine in my hand (yep that’s how I roll).
As I wash the smell of blazing embers out of my hair I reflect on fond memories one last time before sliding back into the real world of living and cooking indoors.
Campfire, the hottest restaurant to hit Carlsbad three years ago, aims to spark memories such as these, taking the term “glamping” to a whole new level. Two roaring Santa Maria style wood burning grills, and a smoker big enough to crawl inside, sends smoke up into the sunny San Diego blue sky and charred goodness down on to your plate. Almost everything on the menu is prepared over an open fire. Combine that with an inviting communal vibe and you’ve got a campground fit for a foodie.
Fire and locally grown ingredients fuel the majority of the menu. Blistered wax beans, piled high, act as a base for succulent spiced hamachi garnished in micro cilantro. Smear the 63 degree poached egg that’s thoughtfully placed on top with your fork for an instant rich and creamy sauce.
That brisket sandwich though… If I close my eyes, the aroma and feeling of buttery, fatty meat melting between my teeth brings me back to Taylor, Texas eating salt and pepper brisket off butcher paper in a smoked stained BBQ Shack like Louie Muellers. That peppery bark hanging out of two chargrilled slices of baguette, chili aioli oozing, will make any Texan smile.
The Peruvian style ceviche is refreshing and delicate. Chunks of mild rock fish swim with chunks of crunchy cucumber, creamy avocado and shaved onion in a lightly spiced “leche de tigre.”
The mixology program at Campfire is reason alone to camp out. If I could have one thing every time I visit, it would be the Roasted Beet cocktail.
Roasted beet infused gin balances pungent house made ginger syrup, a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of honey brilliantly. The aromatic thyme sprig placed strategically on top of the glass, so that your nose is in direct alignment on every sip, makes the drink pure perfection.
The Big Texas is also stellar. It comprises ingredients like brown butter, vanilla and cinnamon in a way that makes you feel like you are eating a rye bourbon infused cinnamon bun. If you’re the type who orders your dessert in a glass, this one’s for you.
And speaking of dessert, what could be more fitting than a S’more Sundae? Chocolate ice cream settles into a paint stroke of torched, creamy marshmallow. Drizzled chocolate sauce, crumbled graham cracker and a few sprigs of woodsy thyme seals the deal. I was on cloud nine.
If chef were to throw a disc of meringue into this dish I would have immediately been transported to my favorite dessert in San Francisco––the Vacherin at Loretta Keller’s Coco500 (now closed). These two desserts remind me of the home made Sundaes I used to make as a kid. I’d lay on the couch swirling Hershey’s chocolate syrup, ice cream and nuts around in a bowl until the concoction resembled soft serve.
A glass of Cryptology––a mystery varietal red wine blend from Cloak and Dagger–– pairs perfectly with the S’more Sundae. We loved it so much we bought a bottle to bring home.
My hair didn’t smell like smoke in the shower the day after we dined at Campfire, but the memories of that meal lingered just the same. I thought to myself how well the owners have managed to transform a rustic kitschy concept into pure elegance. I didn’t want my meal to end.
I bet these guys have created a problem for themselves. Their concept is so dialed in they probably have campers sticking around every night.
**Pro tip: Check out Campfire’s new sister restaurant one block down the road––Jeune et Jolet. This 1920’s themed novelle french bistro, named after the owners’ daughters, looks like a cozy, romantic spot. And if it’s anything like Campfire it has amazing food to match.
Campfire, 2725 State St., Carlsbad, CA 92008, (760) 637-5121
Sarah Burchard is the author of The Healthy Locavore, a natural foods chef and experience host whose writing focuses on cooking, holistic health, supporting community and eating locally grown and made foods.