MEREDITH, N.H. — You’re never too old for summer camp, gastronomically speaking at least. On a pretty site in the historic Mill Falls Marketplace across from Lake Winnipesaukee, Camp aims to transport guests to the summer camp of their childhoods, with bunkhouse décor and comfort foods such as “camp crackers,’’ buttermilk fried chicken, and an updated take on s’mores.
The concept came to Diane Downing, vice president of Common Man restaurants, while she was cleaning out her horse’s stall, she says. “The site is across from Winnipesaukee, and I was trying to figure out, how can I bring the lake into this place? Then it came to me — it’ll be like you’re in a camp on the lake.’’
From there, Downing was off on a campaign to collect the items and artifacts that would re-create the iconic summer experience, from a wood-and-canvas canoe suspended above the bar that doubles as a rack for stemware to a moose head over the fieldstone fireplace that’s on long-term loan from a customer.
There was a kerosene lamp on our pine table, which was inscribed with hand-lettered names — Dean and Tyler were here — along with sets of initials in slightly crooked hearts. Nostalgic photos of kids and families camping and canoeing decorate the walls, and red-and-black checkered wool hunting clothes hang from a hook. Servers wear black T-shirts with rolled-up sleeves and “counselor’’ stamped on the back. The restroom is, of course, the “outhouse.’’ Discovering the clever camp touches is half the fun of dining at Camp: In one corner, I saw a Scotch-plaid round cooler I actually remember taking on family camping trips around the middle of the last century.
Signature dishes, our server said, are “camp crackers,’’ classic mac and cheese, ale-battered fish and chips, and buttermilk fried chicken with apples and a gouda sauce. Camp crackers, wedges of cheddar and gorgonzola-topped flatbread, are served on a narrow board that is so long it has to angle across the tabletop. Crispy, chewy, and tangy, the crackers are an eminently shareable appetizer. The buttermilk fried chicken cutlets, set on a ridiculously large plate of mashed potato, are light and crisp; sliced apples add sweetness and pair well with the smoky gouda.
And what’s dinner around the campfire without s’mores? Camp’s deconstructed version consists of a mosaic of oven-puffed marshmallows atop Hershey’s chocolate syrup, served in a mini-skillet with a side of Nabisco Honey Maid Grahams. The trick is to use the crackers to scoop out a warm marshmallow, making sure to claim some of the chocolate sauce underneath.
The town of Meredith offers several attractions for visitors, not the least of which is the chance to tour Lake Winnipesaukee aboard the 230-foot M/S Mount Washington or another vessel in the Mount Washington Cruises fleet. A short boardwalk follows the lakefront to a gazebo over the water that affords a good view down the lake. The Mill Falls Marketplace has shops and restaurants, and a sculpture walk around historic Meredith Village features more than 30 sculptures by New England artisans.