Owner of new BBQ restaurant hopes experience, passion will be start of new Oak Creek tradition
Dana Christensen is hoping her home-grown recipes, Texas-style barbecue and a tradition of good food inspired by her grandmother will bring new life to Main Street in Oak Creek and plant the seeds for another long-running South Routt tradition.
“It’s amazing,” Christensen said of the building where she plans to open Dueling D’s BBQ & Grill. “Thank goodness someone bought Chelsea’s when it was falling apart. … They put a little bit of love into it, but ran out of the ability to finish, so we’re finishing and making sure that building stays intact.”
The building at 116 E. Main St. was home to Max’s Lounge and more recently Chelsea’s Restaurant, which featured a Chinese menu.
Chelsea’s operated in Oak Creek for 26 years and added a Steamboat Springs location to the mix in 2006, but in November of that same year, Chelsea’s shut the doors on the Oak Creek restaurant and a few months later in February 2007 announced that the Steamboat location was also closing. A former owner of Chelsea’s tried to reboot the restaurant in a spot in the Steamboat Grand in 2014, but it did not last.
Christensen said that a few years back, new owners bought the building in Oak Creek where the original Chelsea’s was located and began working on improvements at the location.
“They bought it with the intention of opening a restaurant, but were not really able to do that,” Christensen said. “They decided to sell it because they wanted to go sailing.”
For Christensen, a pit master, the historic Oak Creek building presents a chance for her to pursue her own dreams — and her passion for barbecue.
“I am in love with barbecue because it just makes people happy and it’s a craft,” Christensen said. “It’s not something I can just walk in in the morning and pull food out of the walk-in, throw it on the grill or a stove and I’m good to go.”
She said making great barbecue takes time and a passion for bringing people together. It’s a passion that comes from her grandmother, as well as her mother, who owned a restaurant in Texas.
Christensen said it takes 14 hours to create the barbecue she will serve, and she takes pride in making it with skill, love and passion.
“It’s like my grandma in the kitchen cooking all day long, and the family comes in to enjoy the most amazing food,” Christensen said. “My grandma cooked for me back in the day … and she would make that meal starting from scratch in the morning, and we’d all sit down to dinner — that’s cooking. I chose barbecue because it’s something I’m passionate about.”
That passion started in Texas, where Christensen learned the ins and outs of barbecue while becoming a pit master. She said her passion was fueled by her family and learning from masters like Norma Frances “Tootsie” Tomanetz, who was a fixture at Snow’s Barbeque in Texas.
Christensen wants to get Dueling D’s open as soon as possible, but because she is doing the work refurbishing the building, she isn’t expecting that to happen until February. Of course, the restaurant will feature plenty of her barbecue, but there will also be a taste of Mexican using the meats she crafts in the smoker in nachos and tacos.
Christensen, a former Routt County sheriff’s deputy and Hayden police officer, said she and her husband discovered Oak Creek several years ago and knew that they had found home.
They bought a home in the area, but for several years, Christensen would commute between Hayden and Oak Creek for work. She retired seven years early to be closer to home and to pursue her dream of opening a restaurant.
“My husband has always wanted to live in a small town and be a cop in a small town where they have little parades with old cars, little kids and the lighting of the Christmas tree,” Christensen said.
For the Christensens, Oak Creek checked all the boxes, and now she is hoping to start a new Oak Creek tradition.
“Good food comes from putting your heart into it and starting from the beginning — barbecue was like that for me,” Christensen said. “I just want people to come in and just have good food and just relax — and, of course, keep my price point in a place where the locals can eat.”
John F. Russell is the business reporter at the Steamboat Pilot & Today. To reach him, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.