New Surf Camp in Downtown Dallas Is an Instant Summer Hit | Dallas Observer

Surf Camp Is an Urban Oasis in The East Quarter

In true Nick Badovinus fashion, Surf Camp offers great burgers and a good time.
If you're allergic to sunshine, the outdoors or fun, Surf Camp may not be for you.
If you're allergic to sunshine, the outdoors or fun, Surf Camp may not be for you. Chis Wolfgang
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Fun is part of Nick Badovinus' DNA. Fun is what happens when you list a 1974 Ducati motorcycle on the menu (price: MKT) at your high-end steak house, Town Hearth. Fun is why there are shark jaws over the door of his seafood restaurant, Montlake Cut. Fun is all over the place at National Anthem, a veritable mix tape of Badovinus' greatest restaurant hits.

So this will come as no surprise, but fun is at the top of the menu at Surf Camp, Badovinus' rooftop bar and restaurant in the East Quarter, which occupies the third floor above National Anthem and Brass Ram. Self-described as a "rooftop refreshments and fair-weather snack bar," Surf Camp delivers on those promises from start to finish.
click to enlarge the pool atop Surf Camp
Surf Camp even has a rooftop pool.
Lauren Drewes Daniels
If you're allergic to the outdoors, Surf Camp is not for you. There's no indoor seating, but enough tables and chairs for 100 or more guests, with little more than a light mesh awning over a third of the deck. Artificial grass covers most of the roof, and the white tables with bright paint splatters may have been sourced from Jackson Pollack's gift shop. There are inflatable pools stuffed with floats with lounge seating throughout. Our mood instantly brightened as we posted up on barstools that overlook Commerce Street and dove into the menu.

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Ask your doctor if a Painkiller, a concoction of aged rum, coconut, orange and pineapple juices and a dash of nutmeg, is right for you.
Chris Wolfgang
On the drink front, Surf Camp leans heavily into tropical jams, with nearly a dozen cocktails and margaritas to choose from. We opened with a Painkiller ($12) with aged rum, coconut, orange and pineapple juices topped with a light dusting of nutmeg. The rum was subtle, the juices not too sweet, and our guess would be that more than one would indeed anesthetize any painful symptoms you're experiencing.

There's a copious selection of beer in cans available, and the nine different wine options by the glass may be the most expansive we've seen while sitting outdoors. If you're cutting out the alcohol, there's also a trio of mocktails available, as well as Hawaiian shaved ice flavored with house-made syrups that will beat back the heat.

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Teriyaki pork egg rolls are a solid snack option.
Chris Wolfgang
Our server made several food suggestions during our meal which were spot on. The teriyaki pork egg rolls ($14) come four halves to an order, and inside the crisp fried shell is a lightly marinated teriyaki and ponzu marinated shredded pork and Asian-style slaw. The egg rolls are flavorful enough to stand on their own, but come with a teriyaki or sweet-and-sour sauce for dipping, should the mood strike.

It's difficult to go to any Nick Badovinus venture and not get a burger, a longing that nods back to the original Off-Site Kitchen, which closed in 2015. At Surf Camp, the OSK vibes are strong, with the basic cheeseburger checking in at just nine bucks, dressed with lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles and mayo. We bumped our burger up to the "Goin Back To Cali" ($13), which added queso Oaxaca, guacamole, bacon and tajin.

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Nick Badovinus knows burgers. And Surf Camp delivers on the cheap.
Chris Wolfgang
Honestly, that many toppings are just asking for messy hands, but they're all well-executed, and the burger had a crunchy salty sear that lures you back for more bites. It also doesn't hurt that you're getting the same basic burger goodness that's being served one floor below at Brass Ram, on offer for an eye-popping $29. The Surf Camp burger may be half the price, but it's equal in flavor.

In a chat with the Dallas Morning News' Sarah Blaskovich last fall, Badovinus suggested that Surf Camp would be one of several themes that the rooftop bar might employ, and hinted that come spring of 2024, the Surf Camp concept would be retired. On our visit a few weeks back, our server knew of no such plans, which we hope is a sign that Surf Camp is here to stay. It's the urban oasis that we could all use a little more of.

Surf Camp, 2130 Commerce St., Third Floor. Wednesday – Thursday, 4–10 p.m.; Friday – Saturday, 4–11 p.m.; Sunday, 4–9 p.m.
click to enlarge The view of downtown from the rooftop at Surf Camp.
The view of downtown from the rooftop at Surf Camp.
Lauren Drewes Daniels
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