Happy Camper Launches Kickstarter to Fund Colorado-Style Barbecue Startup

Is there such a thing as Colorado-style barbecue? Anna and Jonathon Ortlieb, the couple behind Happy Camper BBQ, think so — because they say they've invented it. The two plan to have their mobile barbecue kitchen open by the beginning of June, serving smoked pork with a Colorado twist: Instead of standard barbecue sauce, the meat will be doused with green chile.

Anna Ortlieb, a third-generation Colorado native, says she always took green chile for granted and never realized it was such a regional specialty — until she met Jonathon, who moved to Denver from Wisconsin ten years ago and immediately developed an attachment for Colorado's fiery green stew. "Now we're creating this new cuisine that's specific to Colorado," Anna explains.

Jonathon has been cooking for friends and family since he was a kid and had dreams of attending culinary school; instead, he listened to his mom and went to college. His love of cooking never went away, though, and he's been perfecting his barbecue skills over the past fifteen years. He also learned how to make green chile after moving here and then decided to combine the two into one sandwich.

"We call it the Sloppy Jon," Anna says. And the Sloppy Jon will be the focal point of a short menu of Colorado-based street food, with Palisade peach fritters, Olathe corn slaw and elk-sausage corn dogs also planned as seasonal specials. Other menu items will include bowls of green chile served either vegetarian or with pork, Colorado poutine made with hand-cut fries and green chile, homemade pickles and local products like Rocky Mountain Soda and cookies from Happy Bakeshop. Their goal is to source locally whenever possible to help keep Happy Camper "Coloradical." 

The Ortliebs have already purchased a 1940s camper that they're converting into a mobile prep kitchen, and they're renting space in a commissary kitchen where most of he heavy-duty cooking takes place. The two have no previous restaurant experience, but Anna says her family instilled an entrepreneurial spirit in her from a young age, and her grandfather once ran an eatery called the Sanitary Cafe in Walsenburg. They've funded most of the project but are looking to raise an additional $10,000 through a Kickstarter campaign that launches today.

Funds raised through Kickstarter will go toward completing the renovations on the camper, purchasing equipment and paying commissary and event fees. Anna says they've already started booking events and appearances, including City Park Jazz on Sundays, the Big Wonderful, Colorado Beer Trail events and dinners at Little Machine brewery. 
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Mark Antonation is the former Westword Food & Drink Editor. In 2018, he was named Outstanding Media Professional by the Colorado Restaurant Association; he's now with the Colorado Restaurant Foundation.
Contact: Mark Antonation