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Master of barbecue and brunch, Starr now shines at night

Camp industry owners and directors enjoyed a preview dinner at Starr Teel's new Campfire Grill. Camp industry owners and directors enjoyed a preview dinner at Starr Teel's new Campfire Grill.

FLAT ROCK — Starr Teel is more than a barbecue cook.

He regards his restaurant ventures as tributes to the community. He’s made Hubba Hubba Smokehouse a go-to destination for outdoor dining, takeout and catering. The brunch place he co-founded up the slope on Little Rainbow Row, Honey & Salt, is a tribute to Carl Sandburg, the author, musician and poet who released a collection of poems by that name in 1963.
With the launch of his third dining venture, Teel pays tribute to the summer camps that have historically brought people to the area as campers and counselors who stayed or returned later as adult. That cohort of in-migration includes Teel himself, who grew up in Columbia, Missouri, in a family that represented summer camps. On Sunday evening at a preview dinner at Campfire Grill, Teel talked about his own connection to the area’s summer camps to an audience that could appreciate it best — summer camp owners and their families.
CampfireStarrTealStarr Teel describes the wood-fired grill that will give the Campfire food a signature smoke.“As the restaurant evolved I suddenly realized what brings me here, family and friends, is summer camps,” he said. “So I wanted to be able to tell that story because I truly believe this generation, you all, have brought more to the community fabric not only in your involvement in the community but also your willingness to support our outreach through Camplify.”
Teel is a strong supporter of Camplify, the nonprofit organization that raises money to fund summer camp scholarships for teenagers as part of a leadership program.

A gallery of summer camp photos

Teel has made Campfire, in the former Dean’s Deli space, into a virtual gallery of historic summer camp pictures. DSC 0014The walls are adorned with photos, mostly black and white, showing kids and counselors on horseback, sitting on bunk beds in pajamas, learning to sail and canoe, diving from high platforms into camp lakes.
The camp fraternity has been donating photos for months.
“The art work that you all have provided helped me document back to the 1920s and we come around and we’ve suddenly we turned multicultural,” he said. One of the goals of Camplify is to recruit young people of color to attend summer camp and work as camp counselors.
“So now the great story starts showing up on our walls here,” Teel said, noting that summer camp has brought young people here who have gone on to become doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs and politicians.
“I think what I ended up doing is building a clubhouse,” he said. “We built a wood-fired smoker. The food is going to be very grill-centric.” The menu offers starters, vegetables, sides and salads before the main attractions. “Great, great hamburgers, small steaks and grilled and smoked fish. For those of y’all we have catered with over the years, a lot of what will end up on the menu you have seen before.”
Thomas Haas says the Campfire Grill will have eight beer taps with six local craft brews plus 15 wine selections and, soon, cocktails.Thomas Haas says the Campfire Grill will have eight beer taps with six local craft brews plus 15 wine selections and, soon, cocktails.A full bar will have eight beer taps, featuring six rotating local craft brews plus Blue Moon and Miller Lite; 15 wine choices and, soon, mixed drinks, said bar manager Thomas Haas.
After the salads and appetizers, “We have the best burger in Henderson County,” said the chief chef, Mimi Alexander. “That’s what (Teel) wanted and we think we’re there.”
Made of a “craft blend of brisket, short rib and ground chuck,” the burgers are grilled over the wood fire and featured in different forms. At the private demonstration dinner, the Campfire grilled up a classic burger (lettuce, tomato, cheddar cheese and onion) and the Counselor’s Burger (onion-bacon jam, gouda cheese and arugula). The grill will also offer a portobello burger, chicken pot pie, Opening Night pasta, a 12-ounce angus ribeye and a six-ounce pub steak. Sides include mac & cheese, collard greens, seasonal vegetables and smashed potatoes. Among the starters are house hummus, smoked salmon shmear (cream cheese, picked red onions on crackers and Flat Rock Bakery breads), Sandburg Skillet (gat cheese, roasted tomatoes and smoke oysters with crackers and bread), pulled pork sliders and pimento cheese (with smoked pecans and a side of jalapenos and crackers).
Desserts will be seasonal cobbler and, of course, a S’mores Skillet.

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Campfire Grill is at 2770 Greenville Highway, Flat Rock. Hours are 3-9 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, with lunch hours likely to be added later. It opens Thursday, March 5.