After years of opening bars and businesses such as Downtown Cocktail Room and The Beat Coffeehouse in Downtown Las Vegas, Michael and Jennifer Cornthwaite decided to try out something new. Al Campo is a new wine bodega and hotel in Marfa, the ranching community and artist hub in west Texas where the giant skies look digitally enhanced and the people are as stylishly offbeat as the businesses they run.
Al Campo is a “four bedroom house, but it also has this adobe mercantile thing,” Jennifer says. Walk through the double glass doors to the counter and be greeted by coolers of rosé and the smell of burning sage or roasted chickens filling the space. The concept is simple: order your bottle of wine (or beers) and some food at the counter to enjoy in the outdoor garden filled with plants, trees, string lights and hammocks. Just don’t forget to raise your glass when the occasional train passes by.
Photos courtesy of Al Campo
Jennifer, an art history major, would visit the town of 2,500 residents for years, drawn by its connection to minimalist art. After years of being a tourist, her and Michael decided to open up the business. Even though the town is small, they searched for a location for a year. “We kept looking for the right mix of something we can do something with,” Jennifer says. They initially thought of opening an Airbnb, but decided on a bohemian hotel concept. As of now, the hotel rooms are under construction while the wine garden and kitchen opened in June.
“It is a city that is so interested in design, if you make something that looks really cool, people go,” Jennifer says.
And that’s exactly what they’ve done with Al Campo. The food is reflective of the space itself, rustic and homey, meant to be enjoyed with others. The menu consists of Argentinian family-style plates such as roasted mushrooms, cauliflower and half or whole chickens with hearty vegetables and more with the occasional special.
Photos courtesy of Al Campo
“In Marfa, you can do what you want and people just sort of accept it. It’s different than living in a city. It doesn’t fit into a box,” she says. The laid-back attitude of the town is represented in the local business hours, which is pretty much based on whenever people decide they want to work. Al Campo is open for dinner Thursday through Saturday.
“It’s such a drastic change from the grind of Downtown and working so hard on trying to change stuff with the city,” she says, adding that acquiring a liquor license was strangely easy.
But while Marfa gives the Cornthwaites a refuge away from Vegas’ business regulations and heat, they are not moving from the arid Mojave to the high planes of the Chihuahuan anytime soon. They’re raising a little one, plus their roots are too deep here. Although, they do often go for long visits. And based on what we know about Al Campo, we should visit, too.