Best of the Boat: Best BBQ — Moe’s Original Bar B Que
November 20, 2017
Credit the meat and a great staff.
Those are the reasons, says Moe’s Original Bar B Que co-owner Chris Gander, behind the barbeque franchise in west Steamboat Springs winning this year's Best BBQ category.
"We have the greatest staff in the world," says Gander. "They're total rock stars. They believe in the food and treat it and our customers well."
In particular, he singles out general manager Cam Lewis, 28, in helping the franchise win the hearts of locals. A nine-year veteran of Moe's and graduate of the Johnson and Wales culinary School in Denver, Lewis worked for Moe's in Vail before moving to Steamboat to GM the local franchise, which opened in 2015.
"He's a Moe's poster child," says Hillary Heid-Gander, who, with husband Chris bought out former partners Jon and Kelly Subr a year ago. "We owe it all to him and our staff."
Lewis is quick to credit the locals they serve. "We just try to keep it small and focus on the local crowd," he says. "The people who come in three times a week are what keep us going."
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Locals, adds Gander, represent about 90 percent of the restaurant's business.
With the Steamboat location situated at the intersection of U.S. Highway 40 and Elk River Road, Moe's got its start by three barbecue lovers from Alabama in Minturn in 2001. With the flagship Moe’s now in Eagle, they began franchising the operation in 2009 and today have nearly 60 locations across the country.
Offering everything from Platters to Haul-It-Home Packs, the barbecue joint appeals to lovers of smoked meats and signature southern sides like corn bread, mac and cheese and baked beans. But it's the meats, Gander says, that keep people coming back for more. The fast-casual restaurant offers Alabama-style barbecue including hot-pit smoked meats like pulled pork, chicken, turkey, chicken wings and ribs, as well as catfish, shrimp and mahi mahi.
"We don't hide the meat behind our sauce," Gander says. "We smoke and cook it hot-pit style, quicker and hotter than a lot of other barbecue restaurants, which keeps it fresher."
The applewood smoking and cooking time varies, says Lewis, depending on the meat, but is a vital part of the process. "We cook at 300 degrees, so you have to be on top of it," he says.
While pork sandwiches are their bestseller, Gander says he's considered changing the restaurant's name to Moe's Original Fish House for all the sea items they sell. "From shrimp sandwiches to our catfish and blackened mahi mahi, we sell way more fish than we thought we would," says Gander, adding that catering now comprises about 15 percent of their business.
The only real drawback to their success, he says, especially with the recent influx of construction workers, is that they haven't had any time to decorate the place as they'd like, aside from a silhouette of a giant pig on the wall. "That's next on the list," he says. "We have a lot of family history here and would like to incorporate some of that."
In the meantime, he's content to keep servicing those hard-working locals on the west end of town. "I love helping out the working class folks," he says. "It's great to have a connection with the working class of Steamboat."