On a lazy Sunday morning, there's something about a beach front dive bar with the statute of a camel in front, buried up to its knees in sand, that is inviting. It is one of those ineffable things that appeals to an atavistic instinct in all imbibers of alcoholic beverages.
The Thirsty Camel is indeed a dive bar in the Willoughby section of Norfolk beach on West Ocean View Avenue, that is at once both appalling and appealing. Surveying the building from the outside with its small windows, you just know it is going to be dark inside, and populated by locals having a "hair of the dog" to wipe up away the previous evening's excesses. And you would be correct! That is exactly what you will find.
Our party of six gathered on a recent Sunday morning (8/18/13) at 10:30 for the "world famous in Norfolk" $9.90 Sunday brunch offering. This deal includes a Bloody Mary or mimosa with your meal. You can choose steak and eggs, pork chop and eggs (though you have to know to ask for that combination since it's not on the menu), bacon and sausage with eggs, etc. You get the picture. The ubiquitous and mandatory "home fries" are included, along with toast.
Upon entering, we were quickly seated and all of us ordered a Bloody Mary or mimosa. Our waitress was Brenda, and Savaud (sp?) manned the kitchen duties as chef. The Camel was about 1/4 full when we arrived, but tables continued to be filled by patrons throughout our meal.
Brenda took our brunch orders and told us to let her know if we needed anything else. In short order, more drinks were forthcoming as we all ordered a second cocktail. I surveyed the inside of The Camel, and I was reminded of establishments I hung out in during my misdirected youth. There's a long bar up against the wall to the right as you enter the building with tables in the middle of the floor parallel to the bar, and booths along the far wall. It looks as though the place will seat about 50-60 people. It is dark (as indeed all dive bars must be in the mornings), and the lit beer signs add an aura of hazy translucent illumination to the proceedings.
Our brunch orders arrived. The food was what you'd expect from someplace like this. Satisfying, but far from singular or gourmet. My bacon showed crispy as ordered, the sausage links were large and had a hint of maple syrup, while my sunny side up eggs were properly cooked, as were the home fries, and non-buttered whole wheat toast. One of our party ordered the steak and eggs. The meat (it looked like sirloin) was probably 1/4 inch thick and weighed about 6 ounces, but it was delivered as ordered (rare) and devoured. Another of our party ordered the pork chop and eggs. Again, the chop was thin, but it provided a nice alternative to bacon or breakfast sausage for the protein selection.
We finished our brunches and sat back a few minutes chatting, letting the food settle. Brenda provided us with prompt service during our visit, and the brunch selection was good for what it was.
I rated the experience average, because, after all, this is far from a gourmet food. However, no one walking into The Camel has any right to expect ne plus ultra comestibles in this place. What you do get is good service, an inexpensive brunch with plenty of food that includes a cocktail for $9.90, and an ambience that should transport you back to your younger bar hang-out days (if you were so inclined). Would I rather eat Sunday brunch at The Camel than some nameless diner? Indeed. And so should you.
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