It’s always crushing when a beloved neighborhood restaurant departs. Park Slope residents have understandably felt the void looming in the empty Thistle Hill Tavern space since its shuttering last fall. Fortunately, newcomer Camperdown Elm, which reopened the doors at 441 7th Avenue, on June 23, is off to a promising start as the new local favorite.
Inspired by the striking willowy elms that grow in adjacent Prospect Park, the 60-seat concept features elegant and eclectic dishes with a casual neighborhood vibe.
“The Camperdown Elm tree is a mutation of the elm tree, and unique in that it can’t reproduce from a seed. Every Camperdown tree was grafted from another existing [tree],” says chef Brad Willits. “To me, cooking food is similar in that I’m always trying to create something unique, while at the same time, drawing inspiration from other chefs and mentors from the past.”
Willits has plenty of inspiration to draw from as a vet of acclaimed New York restaurants Agern, Lupulo and Aldea. Featuring a mix of original New American dishes with coastal influences, make sure to take note of the ridiculously good fried English muffin hush puppies, “key lime” pie made with sea buckthorn, and squid crackers and mackerel—a riff on a fish dip nodding to the chef’s Floridian roots. If you’re not spotting something on the streamlined menu, don’t sweat it: There’s also a number of off-menu alterations for vegetarians, gluten-free folks and kids.
Despite his impressive résumé, the vibe is entirely low-key for rolling in after a day at the park for small plates and wine at the bar or lining up a hot Friday night dinner date on the 20-seat patio (hello, Bumble!). The restaurant is now open seven days a week for dinner (5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday.; 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday), with brunch expected to start within the upcoming weeks.
And if you’re scratching your head at what a Camperdown Elm is (I certainly was), the restaurant is peppered with images alluding to it, from the logo to a prominent platinum photograph by Richard Rethemeyer.