When Campo in Oak Cliff opened in back November of 2011, the creative modern cuisine at the hands of chef Matt McCallister was widely praised. Yet, three months later when Scott Reitz learned that the Stephan Pyles-trained chef already had his eye on his own project, Retiz asked the question "Campo Modern Bistro Serves Up Poetry, But How Long Will It's Poet Last?"
Not long after, the poet left to start his own restaurant and despite being in the highly capable hands of Josh Black and Michael Ehlert, Campo customers just didn't bite.
In September of 2012, not even a year after opening, the owners shut it down and transformed the space and menu into what is now Outpost American Tavern (1115 N. Beckley), a much more laid back spot with a simpler menu than its predecessor.
The white walls and sleek industrial lighting of Campo are gone and replaced with dark wood paneling and retro lighting. It's sort of like grandma's old living room from back in the day. Two TV's now hang on walls above diners, with the volume muted with a mix of The White Stripes to Johnny Cash drowning out chatter from groups huddled at tables.
The mood is decidedly more neighborhood pub-ish and relaxed. As is the food. The new menu offers some crowd pleasers like fried pickles, cheddar corn bread, a BLT, chicken Caesar wrap, and even chicken tenders. Then, there's the "Outpost Ham and Cheese" that is a relic of the croque-madame per Campo, made with béchamel sauce and fried egg. Three other sandwiches on the menu include a Reuben, French dip and pulled pork, all denoted as *house favorites.
Heaftier plates include PBR fish tacos and beans, chicken and dumplings, beef stroganoff, grilled fish and baked eggs.
The small bar at O.A.T. has about 10 seats, including a cozy four-seat table at the far end. The cocktail menu, bound in soft leather, was designed by the bar tender, which is something he's proud of -- and should be. It includes classic cocktails like an aviation, an old fashioned and a Manhattan, some with unique twists. Peticola's Velvet Hammer is on tap, as well as some other craft beers from around the country, but you can also get a bottle of Miller Lite or Shiner Bock.
Nothing is too eclectic, nor mainstream. A compromise of sorts. And, hey, compromises can be a good thing, right? Regardless of the predecessor, it's an inviting place to hunker down surrounded by the dark wood, under dim lights with good tunes and a far better-than-average tavern fare.
A side note, the place was pretty dang chilly on a recent cold night. But, the bathrooms were a sauna - literally the hand soap was warm from stewing in the heat (which, actually was a great unintended amenity). One question: why not close the vents in the bathrooms to force more warm air into the dining room? Or prop the bathroom doors open on a slow night? The doors are down a hallway, so it's not like diners would have to stare at the loos. Another question, why don't we use the term "loo" more? Anyway, until the problem is fixed, if it's chilly out, grab a table back by the kitchen.