Summer sure isn't what it used to be. For a lot of us, summer meant heading to camp or taking camping trips with our families. While there's no Camp Crystal Lake on 7th Street in Phoenix, lucky for us, Chicago-born restaurant group Glass Half Full, LLC—lead by Jim Neumann—has established a camp out, in the city, in a way that can only happen in central Phoenix.
The Seventh Street dining scene welcomed another member when the camping themed restaurant concept Camp Social officially opened its doors to the public on June 23, 2017. The one of a kind location is the brainchild of Glass Half Full, with a menu from executive chef Dirk Flanigan.
Welcome to Camp Social
Camp Social patrons are welcomed by hostesses camped out in a refurbished camper, parked right between two different log cabin inspired bars.
One of the two bars services the tables inside and features tire swings, while the other is dedicated to the permanently shaded patio with huge televisions and a luxury misting system, making it the perfect spot to watch a game with friends, or just take a break from the summer heat. Half of the patio has community style tables, while the other half has more casual seating, with large coolers serving as the tables between couches. Even though it was 120 degrees the evening of our media event, the patio was still comfortable, which is tough to do in Phoenix.
The Camp Social Menu
The menu at Camp Social is as eclectic as it is delicious. The menu covers everything from pork rinds, to poke, to pizzas and poutine. If you're there with a group, my advice is to order a few of their “Trail Snacks” or sharable plates, featuring the house made pork rinds. Served in a paper bag and ripped open table side, the portion will feed you and a few friends, and you'll certainly want an ice cold pitcher of any of their beers on tap to go along with it.
A few other notable trail snacks include the smoked steak tartare, whose smoke isn't released until you uncap the mason jar at your table; spicy pork shanks that fall off the bone; and the hobo stew, which is just like mom used to make when you went camping.
The best part of the hobo stew was it's inspiration. Chef Flanigan told us that the stew was inspired by childhood memories of his sister wanting to cook dinner for the family, and it being the first time he realized how versatile food could be. So the hobo stew is a mixture of ground beef, vegetables, a whole mess of ooey gooey melty white cheddar, cooked in the fire in an aluminum purse and delivered table side with house made wood fired toasts. It's a hearty dish that you really get to dig into and have fun with.
If your camping memories included the sea, lake, or bay, don't miss the section of the menu devoted to bobbers and sinkers. This section includes the poke of the day, a mixture of raw fish of the day served with black forbidden rice and spicy ice, as well as the camp mussels, made with gochujang, a korean red chili paste, that adds both complexity and depth to a traditionally simple dish.
Almost hidden on the menu amongst the salads is the avocado toast. This is the avocado toast aficionados dream about, featuring house made wood fired toast, an obscene amount of avocado, sesame seeds and jalapeño dressing. All of that balances the PERFECTLY fried egg on top, and peanuts add some salt and crunch. Just go order the avocado toast.
Also notable on the menu is the black pepper cheddar biscuits and cheese gravy and the summer salad that is bursting with berries and sprinkled with the house made trail mix.
Pizza at Camp Social
If somehow you have room after all of that, Camp Social offers 12 different National Park Pizzas named for national parks from coast to coast, and ingredients inspired by their names. Like the Adirondack, which is the pizza Tony Soprano would make if he went up to the Adirondacks for the weekend. The Adirondack features pepperoni, n'duja, fiore di latte, house tomatoes, and ricotta.
From the Left Coast you have the Yosemite, featuring truffles, zucchini, asparagus, and caramelized fennel. This one tastes just like Spring—fresh and earthy.
If sailing through New England summers are more your style, the Cape Cod pizza is like clam chowder—in the form of a pizza—with house smoked clams, corn, potatoes and rosemary.
Finally, for the more adventurous, the Everglade pizza inspired by Southern Florida, spicing it up with garlic, hot peppers, tomatoes, and alligator sausage. Topped off with fresh parsley and parmesan, this pizza is delicious, but make sure to have a cold drink at the ready, because it does pack some punch. You're free to build your own pizza, but with these options, I'm not sure why you would.
Cocktails at Camp Social
Camp Social knew they couldn't move into 7th Street without an elevated cocktail selection to match their adventurous menu and they don't disappoint. Their signature “Lazy Sunday” serves two or more, features Old Camp Whiskey, freshly brewed tea, lemon and peach, and comes served table-side in your grandpa's thermos! This cocktail certainly tastes like summer, and stands out among the watermelon margaritas we all love so much, but tend to see repeated.
If you really want tequila, the La Paloma Loco is the cool, refreshing grapefruit cocktail you didn't know you needed, but are going to want every hot summer day. Maybe gin is your elixir of choice. If so, the Jumping Juniper, made with Hendrick's gin, elderflower, kiwi, and basil is sure to cure any ailment you might be suffering. Well maybe not, but it will certainly make you forget about it for a bit. Other notable cocktails include The Best Little S'more House in Phoenix, topped with a flaming marshmallow, and the Fig Mule, which uses Figenza Vodka, adding a sweetness to the traditional Moscow mule.
Feel free to bring your entire family, according to General Manager Anthony Geoorgoulis. The brains behind Camp Social want it to be a gathering space for everyone. If you decide to bring the kids with you, Camp Social offers a game room with shuffleboard and arcade games, and otter pops on the way out for the kiddos. No word yet on if the otter pops are also offered to kids at heart.
Visit Camp Social
If you're looking for something new on 7th Street, grab a bunch of friends or family and head over to Camp Social for the afternoon, and you may end up staying through the evening. They offer Happy Hour from 3:00-6:15 p.m. (in case you get stuck at work) and a full kitchen service nightly until midnight.
Camp Social is exactly what it's trying to be, a place to camp out and be social, and not take yourself too seriously. At this 7th Street establishment, if you're not having fun, it's your own fault.