September 12, 2012

Grub Notes

Hamming It Up

The Camp

No Frills: Most people still have no idea that The Camp (2467 Jefferson Rd.) exists, but the Southern cooking restaurant has taken over the digs of the former DePalma’s in the Homewood Hills shopping center. Even if you know the general locale, you may have difficulty locating it. Just look for the Honey-Glazed Ham sign, which is far more prominent than the one with the restaurant’s name.

Once you’re inside, you may feel that The Camp is some sort of pop-up eatery, ready to pack up tables and chairs at a moment’s notice, and the furnishings are indeed spartan at best. Folding chairs and mismatched tables combine with the steam-table ordering system, the Styrofoam plates and the self-obtained plastic utensils to create the suggestion of a nomadic lifestyle.

Carl Campbell runs the place and cooked for years at Charlie Williams Pinecrest Lodge on Whitehall Road. The name of this restaurant comes from that one, and the iconic waterwheel adorns the menus. Even the ham is apparently linked. I never ate at the original Charlie Williams, so I can’t say how the food compares, but I do know Campbell is proud of its healthful leanings. Signs proclaim the lack of oil in the food. Whether this asceticism pays off is another question.

Some of the items on the menu are tasty. The smoked chicken, for example, is juicy and good, sprinkled with some paprika more ornamental than crucial to its flavor. Listen to the guy behind the counter and get a biscuit rather than cornbread. Big and flat, not fluffy, but not dense, with a thin layer of crisp on their exterior, they’re a highlight. The macaroni and cheese certainly doesn’t taste less bad for you than usual. The BBQ, on the other hand, is best avoided. A plate of wet chunks of bland pork doused in sweet sauce, it has no place in your order. The meatloaf is decent, not great, and comes slathered in ketchup (HFCS is clearly not verboten). The squash casserole is a big disappointment. If ever there were a dish that needs a bit of oil, or a bit of salt, or, you know, more than a bit, it’s this one. The collard greens need vinegar or hot sauce, which is what happens when you don’t cook them with pork.

The Camp is great if you want to eat in a hurry, or if you need to order a ham and get lunch at the same time, but much of it serves as an argument for the kind of food that does clog your arteries. Currently, it’s open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., with Sunday brunch coming up soon. The restaurant serves no alcohol, but does take-out and takes credit cards.

Frills: In comparison to The Camp, the newish From Scratch Cafe (135 Cherokee Rd., Winterville), in the former Cafe Marigold, is a veritable tearoom. The space is as cute as it ever was, bathed in golden sun, and with (admittedly fake) flowers on the tables. All the more amusing, then, that its customer base should turn out to be mostly burly dudes who drive big trucks. Rather than browsing the restaurant’s website, which is fulsome in its self-praise, it’s better just to arrive and be pleasantly surprised by its offerings, which are nothing fancy but, on the whole, well executed.

For one thing, it really does seem to make a great deal of what it serves, from large, tasty biscuits to its own hamburger buns. A case houses treats including Kool-Aid cookies, thick sugar cookies frosted with tangy, brightly colored icing. The coffee is roasted nearby, in Bethlehem, GA. Most everyone who stops by in the morning orders a biscuit, and that’s probably the best option, but a plate of pork tenderloin, eggs over-easy and grits had things to recommend it. The eggs and the grits were light on salt, but the choice of smoked Gouda for a cheese on the latter was a nice one.

At lunch, there’s a daily hot entree, which includes a couple of Southern-style vegetables. The hamburger steak was nothing to be ashamed of, and the green beans that accompanied it were genuinely tasty. The burgers are likewise, even if the menu overpromises a little. “Grilled to your liking” seems to mean “well done,” as it does many places, and the caramelized onions never showed up. Macaroni and cheese includes an array of dairy products and is baked with plenty of breadcrumbs but needs more zip. The menu seems a bit expansive on the whole, and perhaps the results would be more consistent if there were fewer options, but there’s no question it’s a fine addition to a town that has been sorely lacking in restaurants.

From Scratch Cafe is open from 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday. It bakes and retails bread as well as breakfast, sandwiches, salads, wraps, etc., serves no alcohol and takes credit cards.