What says “Cave Creek” more than an outdoor barbecue joint with live country music, dummy roping and a miniature old western town — all located in the heart of Frontier Town?
Recently opened Hansen’s Cowboy BBQ is bringing some of the heart and history back to Cave Creek.
“Our goal is to bring a bit of our town’s history back to these buildings — some have been here since the late 1880s,” said Denise Goode, co-owner.
“We want to welcome local friends and tourists alike. While our town is full of great places to drink, we want to bring a sense of family, outstanding food and maybe we just might learn something fun.”
Goode and Wade Hansen, the other co-owner and the restaurant’s namesake, are long-time Creekers.
Hansen has been a custom fabricator for 25 years and worked around the state. Then, about 10 years ago, he made his first barbecue smoker trailer.
“I started doing private events and corporate catering,” Hansen said.
“I just really enjoyed it, and the only way to really do it successfully is to have a restaurant. Then the lease became available on this place. We’re excited to be here. We knew what we had, and we wanted to make a destination out of this place.”
Hansen’s Cowboy BBQ is his work come to life. Hansen made the restaurant’s smokers, and separate pits for pork, chicken and beef to ensure premium flavor and no cross contamination. All the meat is smoked with native mesquite wood. Hansen said the wood gives the meat a distinct flavor.
Everything on the menu is housemade and Hansen’s creations, according to Goode.
“I created all of that,” she said. “It’s all him — his menu, his recipes, his pits.”
Hansen said their most popular menu item has been the loaded nachos. One of those options is the cowboy trifecta ($20) with beef, pork and sausage topped with cheese, cowboy beans, homemade coleslaw and jalapenos.
More than just a barbecue restaurant, Hansen’s Cowboy BBQ is an experience with live entertainment.
“I wanted to try to bring back three things the Valley has lost — Mr. Lucky’s, Greasewood Flats and Rawhide,” he said.
“I wanted to try to combine all three. So that’s kind of what we’ve got going on back here. We have the backdrops for 1800s gunfight reenactments. We’ll be having some of those shows. Then we’ve got the stage for live entertainment and just a full outdoor atmosphere.”
The restaurant is open Wednesdays to Sundays with live music daily, usually for both the lunch and dinner crowd. Some who have performed so far include Cody Gibson, Pat James, Tim Brady and an impromptu performance by Cave Creek Mayor Ernie Bunch. One night after finishing his sandwich, Bunch stepped on stage, picked up a guitar and sang Willie Nelson.
Goode added they also have dummy roping on Saturday nights, where guests mimic team roping.
Hansen’s Cowboy BBQ has a family atmosphere. Goode said, as a parent, she purposefully made it so that kids could wander, play and have a good time on their own.
“We don’t want people to come here and just eat and leave. We want people to stay here all day,” Hansen said. “They start calling their friends and dragging them down. We’ve got cards out here on the tables and families will sit out here and play cards for hours.”
Good said business is about 80% tourists, but they are hoping to bring Creekers back to Frontier Town, too. Because it hasn’t had food in several years, it’s a matter of educating the public.
“We want to turn it back into where it’s not just here in our (space) that we have, but throughout Frontier Town with people walking around in costume and character,” she said.
The restaurant opened on March 16 at the start of this year’s Cave Creek Rodeo Days. They welcomed several visitors who stopped by on horseback. Goode said four-legged friends are more than welcome.
Seating is outdoors, but Hansen said they plan to add more shade coverings, fans and misters. Several other improvements are planned, but the restaurant is a work in progress.
They are excited to watch the number of patrons increase.
“We’re just a big family barbecue shop,” Hansen said. “Our goal is to bring people back together and the best way to do that is with good food and good music. When people come in here, we want them to feel like they are in Cave Creek.”