8125 E. Lamar Alexander Parkway
Campfire Grill in Townsend has been open since 2012, but I evidently have been blowing right by it every time I’ve passed through that town. It’s easy to miss, a small space tacked on to the end of the corner gas market near Townsend’s lone traffic signal.
I happened to stumble across overwhelmingly positive online reviews of the restaurant, which was enough to send me and The Grub Spouse back to Blount County — this time, making Campfire Grill our sole mission.
They specialize in burgers, Southwestern foods and hot dogs, and offer limited selections of each. Burgers start with the basic Campfire Classic, made with an all-beef patty, mountain mayo, onion, pickles, lettuce and tomato. From there, you can add cheese or try the Big Bacon Camp Burger with smoked bacon and their house-made Mornay sauce.
I got the Spicy Baja burger featuring pepper jack cheese and guacamole, in addition to the regular garnishments. I also ordered some homemade onion rings.
The Spouse got one of their eight hot dog variations, the Campfire Chili Dog. Other options include a Chicago dog, the New Yorker, bacon and cheddar, the Tennessee Slaw Dog and the Santa Fe Dog, made with coyote queso, bacon and a whole passel of other condiments and toppings.
For good measure, we also tried one of the Southwest favorites, the Campfire Burrito — a large flour tortilla filled with a meat, cilantro lime rice, choice of beans, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, onions, peppers and sour cream. I chose chicken and black beans as our variables.
The colorful interior has some character but offers only four tables. Several picnic tables sit outside, but it had just rained that evening, and they were all doused. Fortunately, one of the interior tables came free just as our order came up.
Yes, the place was hopping. Many of the customers were picking up to-go orders, possibly on their way to or from the nearby national park. The frequent opening of the main entrance let a lot of flies inside, but I guess that’s to be expected when you have so much foot traffic coming and going.
Big thumbs-up to all the items we tried. The reviews we read were well deserved. The huge burrito was one big, hot mess of South-of-the-border goodness, and the hot dog and its homemade chili were likewise superb.
I felt the burger wasn’t quite on the same level as the other items, but it was still quite good, featuring a thick, juicy patty and a great blend of fresh veggie toppings and sauces. The guac and jack cheese didn’t give the burger quite as much kick as perhaps advertised, but it was still an enjoyable sandwich, and the onion rings were tastily top-notch.
One of the owners was hard at work at the grill and was very friendly in his interactions with us. His teenage sons were helping out for the summer, and both young men were polite go-getters who handled many of the service-related tasks. And by the way, we got all that food for around $16, making this eatery an outstanding value as well.
Campfire Grill also carries a wide variety of drinks and some locally supplied desserts, making it a great place to grab some grub on the go for anyone headed into the park for a picnic lunch or early dinner. My prediction is that even more travelers will warm up to this food spot on the peaceful side of the Smokies.
Address: 8125 E. Lamar Alexander Parkway, Townsend
Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays and Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. or 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays
No alcohol service
Bottom Line: This Blount County snack shack serves up mountains of burgers, dogs and Southwest fare at a price that’s more than fair.
© 2013, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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