The Blackstone District’s Kamp makes grown-ups feel like kids again

Reviewed by Sarah Baker Hansen
November 9, 2023

It didn’t take me long to decipher what I think is the through-line between all four restaurants — Nice Rollz, Angelwingz, SingleDouble and Los Rollies — at Kamp, the food hall and bar in the Blackstone district.

As we dined and drank down a path of Takis-dusted elotes; crunchy, ground beef filled rolled tacos; messy but delicious cheeseburgers; big bowls of just greasy enough fried rice; and ordered drinks from the glowing neon bar that prominently features a shot glass carnival game, I realized it: Kamp isn’t for kids.

It’s for grown-ups who want to forget about tasting menus and wine pairings and have a bit of fun during dinner, no questions asked.

Kristina Lee, who blew many of us, myself included, away with her bulgogi burger pop-ups at Archetype coffee during and after the pandemic, is the creator of three of the four concepts inside Kamp, which is run by Extra Credit Group: culinary director Lee; president Michael Sanchez, who runs Mula, Benson’s Taco Co. and Maria’s, in Ralston; operations director and long-time restaurant manager Sammy Pattavina; and creative director Jake Dawson.

Lee said the foursome came together with the goal of creating something that didn’t already exist in the Omaha dining scene that was also a place that they themselves want to enjoy.

“It doesn’t look like any other places I have gone to,” Lee said. “It makes Omaha feel like a bigger city. We are really proud of that.”

I will guess that the main reason I (and I bet a lot of other diners) initially tried Kamp was for that aforementioned Nice Rollz spicy bulgogi burger, but you won’t find it on the regular menu. Instead, Lee has pushed Nice Rollz beyond it, with a lineup of fried rice bowls that can feature beef, chicken, pork, shrimp, kimchi or vegetables, along with fried egg rolls, crab rangoon nachos, cold sesame noodles and Korean corn dogs, among other items.

Lee told me that the bulgogi burger is set to return in November, part of a regular lineup of Sunday burger nights that will take place the last Sunday of every month beginning November 26th. She said there won’t be one in December because of the holidays, but she plans to pick up again in January and continue from there.

Lee was raised in her Korean parents’ Chinese restaurant in Hastings, Nebraska, and at Nice Rollz, she’s taken the classic dishes of Americanized Chinese food and made them her own.

Her fried rice comes packed with protein — Pattavina recommended beef when I ordered, so that’s what we got. I remember eating what seemed like hundreds of pounds of fried rice from the Imperial Palace Express in the Nebraska Union on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus when I was in college, so I feel experienced enough to say that Lee’s rice is much, much better than that.

It’s just greasy enough, flavorful, packed with pieces of tender beef. Salty and savory, it has what my grandma called a “moore-ish” flavor: all you want to do is eat more. The cold sesame noodles had the right amount of sauce; it’s not dripping off, but the noodles get evenly coated and the sauce packs a flavorful, peanutty punch. Egg rolls look basic, but the crisp skin absolutely shatters with each bite. They come served with a neon red sweet and sour sauce for dipping.

That night we also tried the single burger from Single Double — as the name suggests, each burger on the menu comes with either a single patty or a double pair. The house burger patty comes topped with American cheese, caramelized onions, house made pickles (quite good), SD sauce and a side of either fries or onion rings.

The SD sauce, a thin, spicy-sweet concoction, reminded me of the bottled Ssam sauce that Momofuku used to manufacture. It’s kicky and bright but also sweet, and shines through next to the rest of the ingredients. Thickly breaded onion rings are a fine companion.

Kamp will accept substitutions on its menu if a diner has a food allergy, but otherwise, it asks customers to try the food as it is; I did not request any substitutions during our visits and found few issues with their creative combinations. Lee said the menus aim to include something that virtually any diner can enjoy: For example, she described the Single Double All-American as the “bulgogi burger’s American cousin.” It definitely gives off a Big Mac vibe.

Another night, we returned to find Los Rollies, the newest concept, open for business. It has only been open a couple of weeks, and replaced Concessions.

Concessions’ best-selling menu items, including the Korean corn dogs, have been distributed through the menus of the rest of the concepts to make room for something new. Lee said Los Rollies features the rolled tacos that, in my opinion, have been a hidden gem on the Mula menu for a long time, in several flavors.

I still like the super crispy beef rolled tacos, which come topped with fresh, cool pico de gallo, lettuce, tomato and a drizzle of sour cream. The side of green salsa is great, with plenty of spice. I wished our side of chips had been a bit warmer, though, and a bit less greasy.

I will say that I might have mis-ordered at Angelwingz in an effort to be adventurous instead of going with my gut. I probably should have ordered the chicken sandwich, but instead I ordered wings with the “Taki Elote to me” sauce and the “Buff Baby” sauce. Angelwingz does not skimp on toppings or sauce, and the wings come absolutely loaded with both. In the case of the elote wings, they come topped with elote corn salad, crushed Takis and a drizzle of sauce.

Are the wings good? Yep. Would I order this one again? Nope. It just isn’t to my particular taste. Simpler, spicy Buffalo sauce was more up my street.

The drink menu at the bar is simple, and features a few cocktails — I really liked the margarita — along with tap beer, canned wine and several shot and beer combinations. There are also personal-sized pitchers available, and the “Ring my Bell” game: order an ice shot, toss it back, then toss your glass at a tiger shaped bell on the wall. Hit the bell with the glass and join the Kamp hall of fame. (No, I did not try this. I would have failed miserably.)

I’ll be back to Kamp. Its fun and lighthearted take on food doesn’t skimp on quality or interesting twists. They have the kind of food that, somehow, hits the “something for everyone” category and does it successfully. That’s not easy. Kamp makes it look fun.

Kamp

https://www.kampblackstone.com/

3618 Farnam Street

Hours:
Mon – Sat:
11a – 10p
Sun: 11a – 5p

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