When Camel’s Crossing returned to action in June, it did so with a mix of trepidation and hope.
Chef Gavin Haley prepared the same stylish cuisine that made the bar and restaurant one of the Idaho Statesman’s “Top New Restaurants” when it opened in 2017. The reservation book began filling again.
But Camel’s Crossing, 1304 W. Alturas St., unexpectedly closed again in July — permanently.
Haley had contracted the coronavirus. Owners Scott and Caitlin McCoy decided that the ongoing health risks for employees — and uncertainties ravaging the industry — made it a prudent time to reinvent.
“I had two good cooks, and we could have made it work,” Scott McCoy explained in a phone interview this week. “But I was like, ‘You know what? I can’t do this right now.’ Gavin’s my best friend, straight up. Seeing how sick he was, I said, ‘This isn’t worth it. I’m not going to put anybody else at risk right now. Let’s convert to a wine shop and see if we can make that work.’ ”
With about 550 bottles lining the walls, Hyde Park Wine Shop opened Oct. 6. The remodeled, 1,600-square-foot space replaces a four-course dining destination that North End residents undoubtedly still miss.
The good news? Chef Haley is back with familiar favorites and fresh ideas. And although options are limited — the new menu is half the size of the old one — prices essentially have been lowered across the board. Even the charcuterie board ($14).
“Pretty much everything we have went down,” McCoy said, “just because we don’t have any employees. It’s just me and Gavin right now.”
For wine shoppers, there’s a wall dedicated to value labels from $10 to $20. Looking for something super-rare? The most expensive bottle is around $400. But, overall, pricing should be the same as other Boise wine retailers, McCoy said, if not lower than some. “I honestly just want to find the right bottle for the right person,” McCoy said. “Whatever you want to pay and whatever style you want.”
On opening day, he was surprised by the significant number of customers who visited specifically to purchase wine. But plenty of others sat down to eat lunch or dinner.
Menu standouts include shareable Octopus Street Tacos ($12), a hit with Camel’s Crossing patrons. They’re made with grilled octopus, Iberico chorizo, marinated cabbage, herb purée, cotija cheese and cilantro, tucked inside sliced jicama shells.
Famished? Dive into a hefty Black Garlic Burger ($14). The 6-ounce patty, smoked five hours, comes with black garlic aioli, muenster cheese, greens, tomato, crispy shallots and house pickles, served with Caesar salad or soup.
Craving a traditional upscale steak? Drop $30 on a Petite Filet, the priciest of the menu’s four entrees.
Wine is available at $6 per glass. Beer also is sold.
“Gavin’s put together an amazing menu,” McCoy said, “and we don’t have expectations about any of it. I thought we needed to hedge our bets — because I’ve always taken the science of COVID really seriously, and I think it’s going to be a really tough fall for all of us in this industry, and we need to diversify.
“I don’t think it’s the time and place in our society to do fine dining. I don’t have a passion for that right now. We put an awesome burger on the menu, and you can get a $10 bottle of wine and pay a $5 corkage fee, and you can have an awesome little date or whatever you do for under $30.”
Hyde Park Wine Shop’s hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. By next week, an online ordering system should be up and running at hydeparkwineshop.com. Customers will be able to order takeout food or wine to-go. McCoy will even box bottles and leave them by the front door, if you’d like. “I want to have happy guests. I want to have a happy community,” he said.
That said, he might have to hire another employee to maintain his own happiness. With dinner customers socially distancing indoors and outside on the patio, this one-man service show is already “running, literally,” to keep up, he admitted.
He might sweat off a quick pound or two after his break from the service industry.
“I need to,” McCoy joked. “I put on that COVID 19, for sure.”
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