Northside hangout for comfort food, cocktails, and good ‘vibes’
When Alfonso and Kathryn Mayfield reopened The Camden Social last August, it was after months of renovating the restaurant and bar, which opened in April 2022. In just a few short months, the North Minneapolis watering hole has become a popular spot.
“We’ve been getting really good feedback,” said 39-year-old Alfonso Mayfield. “Just everyone being appreciative of our efforts and of our energy to bring this sort of establishment here to North Minneapolis,” he said.
“It’s a learning curve, right, because this place has been kind of a dive bar for the past three decades,” he added. “People are really loving the food. Probably the most common feedback we get is that they love the vibe.”
MSR: What inspired you to open your business?
Alfonso: The inspiration came from years of my wife and I just always being social. I moved here in 2012. I met Katherine and we used to like to just hang out. You know, explore the city and find places that were casual and social hangouts.
We felt like there were a good number of places to go at the time. Then after a few years they just seemed to diminish. We’ve always been hosts to our friends and family members. We love creating social spaces. And as these spaces begin to diminish, we always wanted to create more avenues for folks to get together, to have a good time, to eat good food, listen to music, all those things.
MSR: How’s this been received by the community?
Kathryn: You know you’re on the right path when the customer base goes from asking ‘why’ to saying ‘thank you.’ And that’s kind of the shift that we’re starting to see, which has been really nice, versus why are you doing this here? It is more like, thank you for doing this here. So, it’s nice to be able to provide that.
MSR: How does your business impact the community?
Alfonso: One of the challenges that we had is just making sure that all of our guests feel safe while they’re here. Part of the reason that attracted us to this space is that we want to be able to change that narrative of North Minneapolis, to say, ‘Hey, you know you can be here and have a good time without having to worry about anything else and feeling secure and safe and great.’ Aside from that, having that social aspect in your life—just that feeling of belonging.
Kathryn: I agree 100 percent. But it’s also that sense of community. We live just about a mile or so away. When we’re not here it’s like we’re running into our customers at the grocery store or at the gas station or the coffee shop.
MSR: What kind of food do you serve?
Kathryn: It’s American comfort food. The menu is heavily influenced and inspired by our travels and our childhood—the things we grew up eating and the things we grew up cooking. You’re going to see some southern and midwestern influences.
You’re going to see a fish and spaghetti dish, which is not the traditional catfish and spaghetti, but a combination with a chicken-fried salmon and a spaghetti pomodoro. You’re going to see salmon croquettes on the menu, which is something I grew up cooking in the kitchen with my mother. There are definitely elements of soul food, comfort food, and some really good midwestern food.
The presentation is beautiful. I would categorize it as elevated comfort food.
MSR: What is your most popular item on the food and bar menu?
Alfonso: Our bestselling item is our chicken wings, which has been a staple in this location for a number of years. Folks come here and they have been coming here for a long time to get their wings. So even when we took over, we made sure that we kept that.
Our number-one cocktail is a drink that we call Over North. It’s a margarita, but it’s made with Hennessy. It’s a delicious drink.
MSR: What has been your biggest challenge in owning a business?
Alfonso: I think it is educating the city about our new concept. Like I said, this place had a reputation for being a dive bar.
MSR: What has been the most rewarding part of owning your business?
Alfonso: The appreciation of the community. Just like Kathryn said, the questions have shifted from ‘why’ to just saying ‘thank you.’ That is just gratifying because that is a huge reason why we wanted to be in this area.
I just got a call one day last week from a woman who said, “Hey, I was in your restaurant yesterday and it was just on my spirit to give you a call today. I just wanted you to know how much I appreciate it. I love the staff. The food was great.” That meant a lot.
MSR: What’s your vision?
Alfonso: We still have some work to do. We launched brunch about a month ago and that’s been great. We just launched our happy hour.
The other phase is with our cigars (Allure cigars). We’re building a patio out back that would complement our cigars. You’ll be able to purchase a cigar and go out in the patio to enjoy it. That’s coming up in the springtime. We’re looking to host events here. Down the road, we want to have another location, maybe across the river, with a similar concept.
MSR: What advice would you give to an aspiring entrepreneur?
Alfonso: I’d say start where you need to start. Most of us are not in a position financially to start a business at a level that we want to. Start with that and just grow from there.
The other piece is understanding that all these things take time. We didn’t just wake up and start this. This was 10 years in the making.
The Camden Social is located at 4601 N. Lyndale Ave., Minneapolis. To contact the restaurant, call 612-489-8073, or visit the website at www.thecamdensocial.com.