Not many of us, I suspect, can look back over the decades and pinpoint – right down to the minute – when a life changing moment took place. But Will Young can. He’s the founder and president of Campos Coffee Roastery & Kitchen and on Saturday, July 12th, 1997 at 1:40 pm – he discovered a passion for coffee.
It was in a small Sydney, Australia cafe, sipping coffee, when he had an epiphany. This cup was different. It was unlike anything he’d ever experienced before. It had a depth of flavour that was rich and complex and had an aroma that made him giddy with delight. This was a vastly superior experience. By the time the cup was empty, he knew life would be different. From that day forward, he decided to devote his life to coffee.” Which is precisely what he did.
During a visit to a coffee growing region, Young “saw the power and immense potential that coffee had to transform lives and communities. What started as a delicious cup of coffee in Newtown was now a heartfelt mission to create more good in the world.”
22 years later, there are 7 flagship Campos Coffee cafes – mostly in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. Last December, he opened a Campos location in downtown Salt Lake City, and boy is it pretty! To be honest, I didn’t have any plans to visit Campos SLC. I’m not a teetotaler, but I’m not a coffee drinker, either. It’s one of the few vices I never managed to acquire. But then a television show called Tasting America asked me to be a local co-host for an episode featuring a handful of SLC eateries, including Campos.
I was a little surprised at how gorgeous Campos SLC is. Maybe I remember too well the coffee shops and coffee counters that my parents would take me as a kid. They were pretty beat. This interior is sleek and modern – you could eat off the floor – and yet, it’s very warm, with lots of wood, brick, and a well thought-out lighting scheme.
I was also surprised – pleasantly – by the food menu and the excellent service staff. I’d expected some cookies and pastries and maybe some snack food, but Campos SLC is a legit restaurant with interesting menu choices such as the Campos Burger with fries ($14.50); Tomato-Watermelon Gazpacho ($9); Chicken Tabouli Wrap ($13); Superfood Granola Bowl ($13); and much more.
As I mentioned, I’m not a coffee drinker. You can investigate Campos coffee on your own. I’m told that Campos’ coffee second to none. But I came for the food. Along with Avocado Toast, Shrimp Toast and the like are ubiquitous in restaurants these days. However, Campos’ version is way above average, however. A thick slice of rustic bread baked in-house is toasted, and seasoned with dukkah – a Middle Eastern spice usually made by combining fennel seeds, coriander seed, red pepper flakes, black pepper, toasted nuts, and more. The Shrimp Toast at Campos is served topped with tender pieces of shrimp, Feta cheese, pine nuts, spinach leaves, and with a drizzle of tarragon vinaigrette. For a couple bucks more you can add bacon or a poached egg to that terrific toast.
Portions at Campos SLC are generous, so I recommend sharing items like Summer Squash & Burrata ($14). This is a dish which makes me wish we could have summer year-round. Thin shavings of squash serve as the foundation for this dish, which also includes kernels of corn, microgreens, and a big ball of burrata, which is made in-house. Drizzle lightly with tarragon vinaigrette and get this thing into your mouth!
Another sensational salad is the Summer Salad ($11), a plate with lots of greens, thin-sliced cucumber, Marcona almonds, stone fruits and plum vinaigrette. For a little added protein my wife ordered the Summer Salad with optional smoked salmon ($5).
Moving from salads and starters to entrees, I loved the Meat Pie ($13). Chef Amanda Huse braises short ribs in coffee and Vegemite before serving it in a perfect pastry “bowl.” When you order the Meat Pie, you also get a choice of side dish and a rich, homemade tomato dipping sauce. Now, Vegemite is an acquired taste – one that I’ve yet to acquire. But I wouldn’t have even known that Vegemite made an appearance in the Meat Pie had I not been told as much. The meat was tender and tasty and I could have eaten the pastry all by itself, happily.
I also really enjoyed the Pulled Pork Sandwich ($13), which is centered around slow-cooked, cochinita-pibil-style shredded pork with apple-jicama slaw and a choice is side. You know me: I couldn’t resist the twice-cooked fries.
So, remember how I said I never drank coffee? Well, I never drank a cup of coffee before my first visit to Campos. But with Gary Takle – the host of Tasting America – urging me on, I finally had my first ever cup of joe. Now, don’t take this the wrong way, but it was also my last cup of joe. I am assured that Campos’ coffee is other-worldly, but I just don’t care for the stuff. Thankfully, wine and beer are available.
I admire Will Young for all of the social good programs he and Campos are involved in, such as supporting and funding projects in places like Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, El Salvador, Guatemala, Korea and others. That makes enjoying a cup of coffee at Campos Coffee Roastery & Kitchen a not-so-guilty pleasure.
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Originally trained as an anthropologist, Ted Scheffler is a seasoned food, wine & travel writer based in Utah. He loves cooking, skiing, and spends an inordinate amount of time tending to his ever-growing herd of guitars and amplifiers.
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