The latest addition to Old Town’s restaurants is Happy Camper, a pizzeria and sister restaurant to Homeslice. It’s a welcome addition to the Wells Street dining scene which has many restaurants, most of which are unfortunately not very good. The casual restaurant occupies a large space, divided into two dining areas each with their own bar.
When you walk through Happy Camper’s doors you enter a large area with long communal tables, small round high tops, and a long bar along the wall. Vintage campers decorate the space. A small hallway leads to a second room with its own bar where the chairs are tire swings hanging from the ceiling. It’s the type of restaurant where you go for a casual dinner with friends or a relaxed (perhaps hungover) brunch.
The menu features the same pizzas you love from Homeslice, but with different names (not quite sure why they did this). On weekend mornings, Happy Camper serves a brunch menu in addition to the full menu. The brunch menu includes things like pork hash, pizza with eggs, and omelets. You also have the option to add eggs to any pizza.
We began our meal with an order of the potato skins, which Charles happily devoured. The potato skins are stopped with pulled pork, cheddar, bacon, sour cream, and green onion, with honey mustard on the side. While I thought that the honey mustard might not be the right fit, I was proven wrong. It complimented the pork and cheddar wonderfully.
I ordered the Green Eggs & Pie, a breakfast pizza topped with smoked ham, pesto, hash brown potatoes, buttermilk ranch, and perfectly runny eggs, served with salsa on the side. The crust was thin and crispy and the runny egg yolk and the buttermilk ranch created a nice sauce for the pizza. The salsa that was served on the side was great for dipping the crust. Charles helped himself to half of this, which was fine since the potato skins were a bit filling.
Charles had the “Crust Free Pizza” which is basically a messy omelet with eggs, spinach, onion, artichoke, roasted red pepper, and goat cheese. It’s basically the healthiest thing on the menu, and I was surprised when Charles ordered it, and not surprised when he didn’t love it. Ordering an omelet the Happy Camper is like ordering a veggie burger at Kuma’s, it just isn’t why you go there.
Overall, Happy Camper offers a fun atmosphere, excellent pizza, enough space to accommodate large groups, and plenty of tvs if you want to catch a game while you eat. This will certainly become a hangout for recreational sports teams in the summer, as well as hungry Old Town residents.
Happy Camper‘s address is 1209 North Wells St, and it is between the Chicago and Sedgwick Brown Line Stops. They do not accept reservations, but you can order online. The staff told me that brunch gets busy at noon, but it is easy to walk in before then.
Five months after the first word, The Happy Camper finally has their neon sign up on Wells Street, and on Friday the folks behind Homeslice will soft open in their new Old Town pizza spot. They've taken over the former Refinery space, bring over the same love for the outdoors that's present at their Lincoln Park restaurant.
Co-owner Clay Hamilton reiterates that he feels Old Town lacks quality pizza, which is trapped in a triangle of nearby chains (Domino's, Sarpino's and Papa John's). Happy Camper's menu is familiar to Homeslice fans; Lincoln Parkers can still laugh at the Trixie salad. Many of the items are named after friends of management, which Hamilton compares to giving pets human names, saying spending time with your favorite pizza is as rewarding as spending time with a lovable pet.
For example, there's the Josh (pulled pork, pineapples, jalapeños and barbecue sauce), or...the Clay (roasted chicken, bacon, diced Roma tomatoes, onions parley, cheddar and ranch). There's more room in the kitchen so there's a deep fryer that will give the Camper more options. There's a take-out trailer inside for customers to make their to go orders, and Hamilton said they'll utilize a third-party delivery service.
The space won't be 100-percent finished this weekend, but workers are doing their best. Check out the full menu below.
Happy Camper Chicago
1209 N Wells St, Chicago, IL 60610(312) 344-1634
Happy Camper Pizzeria
1209 N Wells St, Chicago
by appointment only
staff wears masks
many vegetarian options
accepts credit cards
good for groups
good for lunch, dinner
tire swing bar
jalapenos and barbecue sauce
good for a late night
good for dates
Reviews for Happy Camper Pizzeria
|Monday||10:30AM - 12AM|
|Tuesday||10:30AM - 12AM|
|Wednesday||10:30AM - 12AM|
|Thursday||10:30AM - 1AM|
|Friday||10:30AM - 2AM|
|Saturday||10AM - 3AM|
|Sunday||10AM - 11PM|
Hours or services may differ due to COVID-19. Please contact the business directly to verify hours and availability.
Everybody knows Fall means football. So what do you do in the Fall if you, despite noble efforts, actually hate football? You go to a place like Happy Camper. Because even if you can't get behind football, you can get behind the things that come along with it: beer, flannel, and food covered in cheese.
Between the beer, pizza, and TVs, Happy Camper has all the makings of a cool Old Town sports bar, except for nobody here seems to actually be watching sports. That’s cool with us though, because it provides a much-needed service to Wells Street – a non-weird drinking scene and good food.
The menu is practically identical to its sister restaurant, Homeslice. The Happy Camper could’ve done more to shake things up, but at the same time, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Both restaurants are known for creative pizza toppings, and the crust is neither thick nor thin, but a non-offensive middle ground – crunchy on the outside, soft and airy on the inside. Appetizers are mostly cheesy, which, by definition, can’t be bad. The food might not be revolutionary, but there’s nothing to dislike about it either.
Unlike Homeslice, you can actually get a table here. The indoor space is huge and includes tire swing barstools, a rehabbed Airstream camper, and an enormous neon outline of the Great Lakes. It’s a weird combination of decor, but it succeeds in making the entire experience feel like good, wholesome adult fun. We suggest grabbing a spot at the communal high table, where side conversations are common and most likely end with “what a small world!”
The lack of die-hard sports fans is probably a surprise to no one, which is why we have a feeling Happy Camper knew what they were doing when they built a mirror-lined “selfie room.” And to be fair, even the sportiest of patrons can be easily distracted by the exceptionally good-looking crowd and space perfectly designed for socializing. That’s why Happy Camper is worth your time, even if you’re not a football fan.
Our pick of the cheesy apps. It could use a little more goat cheese, but the flavor is bold and it’s easy to share.
You always need a bit of salad to go along with your pizza. That's just a rule in order to ensure pizza is healthy. All of the salad options are pretty solid, so take your pick.
The main event. The cornmeal crust is pretty “medium” in texture—not too thin, not too thick. As for the toppings, do your thing. If the options get overwhelming, we suggest going with the Tony or the Chris.
Who said you can't get pizza for breakfast or brunch? Put a couple eggs on it and you're good to go.
For those of you with a healthy friend, don’t scoff at splitting a gluten-free pizza. We actually enjoy it, and love skipping the conversation about their alternative lifestyle.
Keep an eye out for this dessert on special. It’s piping hot and the dough melts in your mouth. It’s basically a light, edible pillow, and it’s also only $1.
Town menu happy camper old
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