The faint aroma of ground espresso combines with the warmth of fresh-baked bread while glasses clink to flavorful conversations.
As the line progresses smoothly, the array of artisan treats on display diminishes ever so subtly with every bite. Customers fill the nooks and crannies, some tuned into work and others catching up with friends. Mellow indie tunes hum softly in the background, contributing to the cozy atmosphere of wooden booths and warm sunlight flooding through floor-to-ceiling windows.
The friendly and effortlessly cool ambience of Camino makes for the perfect getaway in downtown Winston-Salem.
This was the idea Cary Clifford had in mind for her downtown Winston-Salem hotspot, Camino Bakery. Named after the Camino de Santiago, an ancient pilgrimage trail to Santiago de Compostela in the Pyrenees Mountains, the bakery draws upon the influence of European café culture of enjoying exquisite tastes and treats with time shared among friends. It’s an environment that transitions with ease from morning to evening with the perfect sweet and savory treats to accentuate the experience as a whole.
“Cary wanted to create an ambience where people could share real conversations over a great cup of coffee or a glass of wine,” says manager Jack Duffus. “It’s all about making an enjoyable experience in a versatile way because we have so many different kinds of customers.”
It is precisely this ambience, passion for quality and attention to detail that keeps its clientele, both loyal and new, coming back for more.
“It’s about as close to Europe as you can get without going anywhere near U.S. Customs,” says Duffus.
Camino’s tranquil yet busy setting also creates an ideal study environment. Wake Forest University sophomore Chelsea Bellomy says that a typical week is incomplete without a trip to Camino. She calls it not only a great place to people watch and catch up with friends, but also a great place to study when campus study environments get overwhelming, attributing it with “the perfect balance between busyness and tranquility.”
The ingredients and ever-evolving menu also keeps things fresh. Assistant manager Kimberly Humphrey adds, “We make our syrups in-house and our coffee beans come straight from Krankie’s [a coffee roaster and shop in downtown Winston-Salem].” In addition to serving freshly baked loaves of bread and demi baguettes, they also make an assortment of delicious cakes, European brioches, and sandwiches.
Camino boasts an exceptional beer and wine list, with varieties ranging from California to New Zealand. They offer a multitude of coffee beverages and teas, as well as baristas that will gladly make a classic cappuccino or create a custom concoction, like a caramel cinnamon almond milk latté. There is also a seasonal menu with popular favorites such as the “Coconut Cooler” or the “Elderflower Spritzer”. Camino also offers weekly specials such as half-price cheesecake on Tuesday, and two-for-one bread every Friday after 8 p.m.
The weekly specials and ingredients keep Camino as fresh as the new spring drink menu.
The team behind Camino is a force to be reckoned with. Full of personality, Humphrey explains that every aspect is collaborative: “We are always willing to listen to new ideas, whether it’s from Cary, each other, or customers.” She then recounts the story of one of her colleagues throwing together an adventitious sample of ingredients to create a new spring drink that ended up being added to the new spring drink menu.
“Cary also lets us try everything while we’re on shift, so we can give our customers an honest opinion,” adds Duffus, biting into a slice of blueberry carrot cake.
“We genuinely do care about our customers,” agrees Humphrey, who draws a milk peacock feather on one woman’s lavender latté and converses with a couple about their recent spring holiday adventure.
In Spanish, camino means “walk”, and Humphrey says every day brings people from different walks of life. “They all have stories to share,” she says, “and we want to hear them.”
[you can follow Camino bakery on Instagram: @caminobakery]