In order for a restaurant to thrive, it should tell a good story. Through the artwork on the walls, the music coming out of the speakers, the way the food is plated and the hospitality of the staff, it’s all part of the tale. At Evergreen’s Campfire, Jared Leonard’s story revolves around bringing people together to enjoy live fire cooking and all the camaraderie that comes with it.
Owners Jared and Amanda Leonard are veterans in the restaurant industry and own several restaurants in Denver and Chicago under their restaurant group — SSC Hospitality. Jared lived in Vail for several years before moving to Chicago where he opened his first few restaurants. The couple now has 10 restaurants — including Budlong Hot Chicken, AJ’s Pit Bar-B-Q, Grabowski’s Pizzeria and Hamburger Stan — with more on the way. “All of my restaurants tell a story,” said Jared, “Budlong is the story of Nashville hot chicken and AJ’s is the story of Texas-style barbecue,” he said.
Campfire is Jared’s passion project that grew from his love of storytelling, wood-fire cooking and bringing people together. “The name came from sharing stories and sharing food around a campfire,” said Jared. The restaurant serves wood-fired Neapolitan-style pizza, pit-smoked barbecue, and fire-roasted rotisserie chicken. “Cooking with live fire gives the food character,” Jared explained. He purchased an Acunto oven — a traditional Neapolitan pizza oven — several months ago after a trip to Sayulita, Mexico, “I was walking around the streets there and counted 20 pizza ovens. Pizza crosses so many cultures now.”
Instead of getting VPN certification — a designation for qualifying pizzerias that adhere to the strict standards of traditional Neapolitan pizza making — Jared prefers to marry the modern with the traditional. In order to get VPN certification a pizzeria must only use certain types of ingredients, specific equipment and adhere to traditional pizza-making methods in addition to many other requirements. “People think you have to be in the family business to be good at your craft, but you don’t. It’s nice to combine old technique with modern understanding,” he said.
Instead of using Italian-milled flour, Campfire uses flour from Panhandle Milling in New Mexico. The company created a “00” flour — a blend that is soft with a high protein content — just for Campfire. The flour creates a soft and chewy pizza crust while the hot heat from turning each pizza by hand while it cooks in the Acunto oven creates asymmetrical bubbles that give each pie a unique look. As Jared says, “it’s intentionally imperfect.” It’s worth noting that Campfire will also serve dessert pizzas. Think Nutella and banana or s’mores pizza to end your meal on a sweet note. In addition to the pizzas, juicy and tender rotisserie chicken along with Texas-style barbecue will grace the menu with flavor and pizzazz. “Each dish will be able to share the limelight and tell it’s own story,” he said.
The decor of Campfire is light and airy with folding windows that allow for al fresco dining. The look was inspired by Jared’s time in Mexico and invites you into the open kitchen and dining room. Outside, you’ll be able to sit at picnic tables — each equipped with a miniature burner for marshmallow roasting. Jared is also in the process of expanding the outdoor area all the way to the creek. There will be turf and a play set for kids to play on and fire pits along with a land and sea container to support an outdoor kitchen.
Next time you want to get out of town, Campfire makes for a perfect escape that’s only about a 30-minute drive from downtown. Nestled amongst the trees and creeks, you’ll feel compelled to tell your old stories to new friends.
Campfire is located at 27883 Meadow Drive, Evergreen. Open daily 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.