Chuck Wagon looks to stir up Craig restaurant scene with good food, entertainment for locals, visitors

Bobby Howard and his daughter, Jess, stand behind the bar inside the new Rocky Mountain Chuck Wagon restaurant at The Quality Inn.
Joshua Carney / Craig Press

Moffat County High School Athletic Director Bobby Howard has always been involved in the restaurant business. It’s something that’s helped keep him busy, and helped pay the bills all those years ago as a teacher and a coach in Alabama.

Now, he’s hoping his next business venture with Rocky Mountain Chuck Wagon gives locals a place to come hang out, eat a good meal, and listen to some live music.

While living in Pagosa Springs, Howard saw an opportunity to burst onto the food scene in the southwest part of the state with a pizza food truck. That opportunity was put on hold though once Howard accepted the job at MCHS in 2018.

The dream of a food truck never went away though; Howard and his son John-Paul tinkered with the plan a bit, opening up a steak, burgers and chicken truck in July 2019.

“People really seemed to like our food,” Howard said from inside the dining area of The Chuck Wagon at The Quality Inn. “I modeled the idea off of a steak restaurant in Alabama that actually does delivery service. One of the things they serve there is sirloin tips, and we serve something similar here.

“While looking at food trucks, I saw that the best opportunity and the best market would be steak and burgers,” Howard added. “So we wanted to come in and provide good food to people.”

Shortly after opening The Chuck Wagon as a food truck, Howard and his son were then invited to set up shop at the Super 8 along Colorado Highway 13 for hunting season.

Howard said they did very well at that location with business, and then one day he walked over to The Quality Inn and discovered the open restaurant space, which had sat vacant for months.

“It was real difficult to be in just the truck; we had a small menu then,” Howard said. “Especially when it got cold, people didn’t want to just come wait in line for food. Then I walked over to The Quality Inn one day and told people we were open and to come over and get food.

“That’s when I saw the open space, and I thought, ‘why is this place closed?’ So I called the owners of the hotel and they said they’d love to get someone back into the space.”

Noting that they’re operating on a small budget and a small menu, Howard said he envisions the new space at The Quality Inn turning into a go-to place for locals to get a good meal and, hopefully soon, a drink.

Howard and his daughter Jess, who runs the day-to-day operations for Rocky Mountain Chuck Wagon, said they hope to get the liquor license approved at the March 10 City Council meeting, giving the upstart restaurant another way to draw customers in.

Just don’t call it a bar and grill.

“We want this to be a top restaurant,” Howard said. “It’s a casual dining experience with bar services. But we’re not going to be a bar with food; we’re going to be a restaurant with a bar. We want to serve people good food and give them everything they need to have a positive experience here.”

Like most new businesses — especially restaurants — Rocky Mountain Chuck Wagon is working through some early kinks when it comes to staffing and serving customers.

Jess Howard says it’s been difficult to figure out how to properly staff during weekdays, but that overall things are starting to work themselves out.

“It’s really hard to predict how a Monday versus a Saturday is going to be here,” Jess said. “We haven’t been open very long, so that’s the biggest issue we’re dealing with right now.”

As the kinks get worked out, the Howards said they have some plans for entertainment, including the continuation of Trivia Night, while also adding some Karaoke nights and a Soul Food Night, playing off Bobby’s southern heritage.

Rocky Mountain Chuck Wagon is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays, and from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

The restaurant is planning a grand opening celebration March 14, time to be determined, once the liquor license is approved.

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