With latest closure order, two North County restaurants reimagine their menus

The Inevitable Burger at Campfire restaurant in Carlsbad.
(Courtesy photo)

Campfire and Flying Toad make the best of second shutdown of indoor service


When John Resnick launched Campfire restaurant in Carlsbad four years ago, the one dish he didn’t want to serve at the 180-seat wood fire-focused eatery was a burger.

That would’ve been too easy, too obvious and not in keeping with the creative cookery plans he had with founding chef Andrew Bachelier. But things change, particularly during a pandemic. So last week, with its dining room closed for the second time due to a countywide public health order, Campfire’s Inevitable Burger was born.

Instead of keeping on the full staff required to serve the restaurant’s full menu to a maximum of 70 guests at outdoor tables, Resnick has once again furloughed most of the Campfire team and has just two cooks and two front of house staff serving up a grab-and-go lunch program from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. daily.

John Resnick, owner of Campfire and Jeune et Jolie.
(Lily Glass photo)

The menu has just two items, a gourmet half-pound cheeseburger for $12 and a grilled-cheese sandwich for $9. Each pre-packaged sandwich comes with a bag of chips, and no substitutions are allowed. Bottled cocktails are also available for sale. Diners can take the food to go or sit at any available outdoor table.

During the first two days of service on July 13 and 14, the burgers and sandwiches sold out and customer reviews were strong. Resnick said his daily goal is to sell at least 80 of the Inevitable Burgers, which include a half-pound of dry-aged beef, cheddar cheese, house remoulade, onions, tomato and pickles on a house-baked brioche bun.

“A burger is not the most unique thing in normal times, but these are not normal times,” Resnick said. “And who doesn’t love a cheeseburger? It was fun for me doing taste tests. That was the first time I’d done that in 10 years.”

If the county is able to flatten the curve on new coronavirus cases by the end of the month, Resnick hopes to reopen Campfire for full indoor/outdoor service. But he’s not planning to bring back full lunch service right away, so if the limited Inevitable Burger lunch service is a hit, it may carry on. He said it’s hard to make any long-range plans because the situation changes so rapidly from day to day.

“This could be for three weeks, or it could be for three months,” he said. “Everything is about keeping an eye on tomorrow and focusing on today.”

Campfire is at 2725 State St., Carlsbad,

Flying Toad hops forward in Escondido

Earlier this month, the city of Escondido allowed downtown restaurants to move tables and chairs to the sidewalks and street on Grand Avenue. That’s been a boon for many eateries without patios, but it wasn’t a good fit for Jeannette’s McBrearty’s fine-dining French restaurant Hunsaker at Vincent’s.

“It can be warm in the evenings here, and I couldn’t see people dressing up to come have a hot rack of lamb or beef Wellington on the patio,” she said.

The Flying Toad outdoor dining room in Escondido.
A new shade structure outside Hunsaker at Vincent’s restaurant in Escondido opened Friday, July 17, as the new dining room for the restaurant’s pop-up project The Flying Toad.
(Pam Kragen / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

So instead of reopening Hunsaker at Vincent’s, she has instead turned her pandemic-born takeout-only pop-up concept, The Flying Toad, into a weekends-only outdoor restaurant.

Created by longtime executive chef Brandon Hunsaker in April, The Flying Toad offers an internationally inspired menu of sandwiches, salads, soups, sides, pot pies and other items priced from $12 to $24.

The new outdoor dining room for The Flying Toad in Escondido.
The new outdoor dining room for The Flying Toad in Escondido, which opened Friday, July 17, has painted concrete barriers, curtains and chandeliers.
(Pam Kragen / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

“We’ve gotten a lot of great reviews on the food,” McBrearty said. “My chef is trained in French food and fine dining, so everything he makes, even if it’s a hot dog, is amazing. The flavors, textures and food profile is very fine dining-esque but not at a fine dining prices.”

The Flying Toad, open from 5 to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays only, is at 113 W. Grand Ave., Escondido,