Campo Verde in Arlington, Inside a Kaleidoscope of Crazy

CampoDiningRoom.jpg
LDD
Hard to make out, but that's an entire dining room, mirrored walls on back. Just let it happen...
No, that's not a picture from inside a kaleidoscope. That's actually from inside a restaurant, one that is bejeweled within an inch of its life in hundreds (perhaps thousands) of strands of lights and tinsel. How festive, you say? Yeah, I took that picture last week.

In what might be called an Arlington "landmark," this unabashedly over-the-top, Tex-Mex den is a like jumping into the spin cycle with crazy. At then end, you're rinsed in melted orange cheese. Trust me. That happens.

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Best seat in the house if you're partial to flamingos (who isn't?).

James "Smiley" Williams opened this spot more than 30 years ago at the corner of Pioneer and Brain Spasm in central Arlington. Sticking to the circa-1970 motif, Campo Verde (not to be confused with the recently shuttered Campo Modern Bistro) lives in a bit of a decorating time warp, but it's actually sort of cool. Retro is back, right? Well, that just means Campo was always ahead of the game.

The food is iconic no-holds-barred greasy plates of tacos, enchiladas and gut-busting burritos. Free pre-dinner chips are tossed in spices and served with a side of bright orange, tepid cheese sauce, which you beg yourself not to eat, but usually do anyway. The beans are heavy, and I think contain ground meat. Everything else is just as it should be. With spoon half way to mouth, after four bites you'll probably ask "Why am I eating all this?" but then you don't answer because your mouth is full of beans.

(Side bar: It's a fascinating that Campo Verde is packed almost every night of the week and even overflows on the weekends. Yet, Campo Modern Bistro didn't even last a year. Simmer on that for a while.)

A feature that brings a lot of people in is an elaborate toy train track that circles near the ceiling. Kids dig it. It's one of many hundred thousand distractions, in addition to cow skulls, native American art, flamingos and stained glass.

The holiday décor, however, is a beast. I don't know how long it took them to wrap every object in the restaurant with tinsel, but it certainly must have been days, if not weeks. A waiter revealed to us it won't come down until March. So, yes, you have plenty of time to make it over.

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Yelp reviews are polarizing. Diners either love it or hate it. You're either on the crazy Campo Verde train or your flipping it off after it leaves you stuffed and bloated aside the track. Most arguments are centered around that neon orange cheese "sauce." Approach with caution. Or amusement.

I can't say I liked it. Too much of everything. In the end we spent entirely too much money to feel absolutely miserable and exhausted. But, I guess they're doing something right. Thirty years and going strong.

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7 comments
J_A_
J_A_

The decor looks like Buca de Beppo, Tex-Mex style. Which is not a good thing.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

the cheese sauce is so meh, but i eat the shit out of it.  Recently took the 8 month old in there and it was the quietest he had ever been during a meal.  he must have been mesmerised by all the tinsel and light.

JustSaying
JustSaying

That place instantly make me think of Dimebag Darrell. When he was still alive, Campo Verde was one of his favorite drinking spots. It was always funny to me to see the lead guitarist for one of the worlds biggest metal bands just hanging out at a local tex-mex restaurant. Sure, a lot of people knew who he was but a lot of people didnt. I bet more kids remember the happy long haired guy with the pink beard than they do the little train set that ran by the ceiling.

ChrisYu
ChrisYu

after margaritas i'm not sure if I'd be able to find my way out of that place.

Sharon_Moreanus
Sharon_Moreanus topcommenter

It's called Christmas at Campo "not to be confused with the recently shuttered Campo Modern Bistro" is only Oct-Mar.

Nictacular
Nictacular

I used to get drunk in that place after my shift a nearby restaurant. I can't recall exactly, but I think we could smoke in there. 

Yikes, that was a long time ago.

Joshstruckoutagain
Joshstruckoutagain

Before the wifey and I left the Eastside for the plains of south Weatherford, we had many a beera up in there!

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