Much anticipated Camper opens in Menlo Park
Chef-Partner Greg Kuzia-Carmel had just returned from the Palo Alto farmers market when we encountered him last Saturday at his new restaurant, Camper, which officially opens Labor Day weekend in Menlo Park. But if you go to OpenTable you’ll discover a few reservations available starting today and over the next few days (at least as of this writing early Tuesday morning — they were being snapped up quickly).
During our visit, he showed us what will be the opening menu, with the caveat that “it will change with the seasons and with what’s available at local markets.”
A quick perusal of the menu revealed dishes both creative and intriguing, not surprising given Chef Greg’s pedigree. He worked at Per Se in New York and Quince and Cotogna in San Francisco and is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America.
There are “little bites” and mix and match meats and cheese, because he said: “I want people to feel they can just drop in for a small something. They don’t always have to have a full meal. We want this to be a gathering place where friends can meet for a bite.”
Working with local farms, he will serve a selection of hand cut pastas, fresh vegetables and simply prepared proteins, including Pescadero Butter Beans, Ginger Oil Poached Rockfish, Roast Chicken and two premium cut steaks. “If it’s local, and in season, it will be on your plate at Camper,” he said.
There are a number of beers on tap and wines from around the world.
The interior of the restaurant, designed by the Martin Group of San Francisco, is airy and casual. In the main dining room, which will seat 68 guests, lanterns hang from wood beam cladded ceilings. The Heath tiled bar is paneled with an antiqued mirror that reflects light throughout the dining room. Scattered around are collections of outdoor and camping nostalgia, landscape paintings, mirrors, pottery and large-format photography.
One particularly fun — and fitting — photo is of an older model VW van, the kind where the top popped up. Our companion thought the photo was taken in the California Delta, given the water and oak trees, but Chef Greg said it was actually taken back East.
Camper’s Managing Partner is Menlo Park resident Logan Levant, a former PR executive, co-author of The Kitchen Decoded: Tools, Tricks, and Recipes for Great Food, and former owner of the Buttercake Bakery in Los Angeles. “We have assembled a team that will bring our collective culinary experiences and travels to your table,” she said, “We want Camper to feel like an extension of your home.
Camper will initially be open for dinner (along with those small bites) Tuesdays through Saturdays from 5:00 to 9:30 pm, eventually expanding to lunch and an all day Sunday brunch. It is located at 898 Santa Cruz Avenue at University.
Photos by Linda Hubbard (c) 2018; photo of Chef Greg courtesy of the chef