Just hours before the doors opened for the first time at the Rib & Chop House in Butte, its kitchen was abuzz with activity as staff flipped burgers, lined up fresh, flown-in lobster and chopped herbs in preparation for the day’s customers.
The restaurant opened Monday inside the Clarion Inn Copper King Hotel & Convention Center on Harrison Ave. and is one among several locations owned by the Livingston-based company Finally Restaurant Group.
The company got its start when Burke and Melissa Moran, a couple from Louisiana, opened the very first Rib & Chop House in Livingston in 2001. Since then, the restaurant chain has become known for its steaks and seafood.
General Manager Nicole Jensen gave The Montana Standard a tour of the 250-person-capacity restaurant Monday.
“We have fresh seafood flown in twice a week (and) certified Angus-beef steaks,” she said, adding the restaurant currently employs 85 and counting.
In addition to seafood and steaks, the Rib & Chop House menu includes appetizers, soups, salads, pastas, desserts, a kids' menu and “world famous margaritas,” among other items, Jensen said. She added that a majority of the food is made in house from original recipes and is never frozen.
“We cater to everyone,” she said, describing the restaurant’s vibe. “You can come in fancy if you like or you can come in in sweatpants and a T-shirt. We don’t have a dress code. We just want everyone to come in an enjoy a great meal at a decent price.”
The restaurant also has a 40-person bar that features 20 bottled beers, ten 70-inch TVs and 30 beers on tap, in addition to a selection of wine and spirits.
A native of Washington, Jensen has been with Rib & Chop House for several years, having managed locations in Montana, Utah and Wyoming.
Jensen said working in the restaurant industry is fun, but she wouldn’t call it a cakewalk.
“No day is ever the same,” said Jensen. “We’re always busy. We’re constantly moving. If we’re not cooking, we’re cleaning. We’ve got managers at the front door, managers on expo kind of holding down the place, holding down the fort. We’re going, going and going until we close, so we never stop moving. “
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Melissa Moran was also present for the opening day.
She and her husband Burke moved from Louisiana to Montana more than 15 years ago when Burke decided he wanted to expand his horizons beyond the family business — which incidentally was a successful line of restaurants.
“We vowed to never get into the (restaurant) business again when we realized how hard it was,” she said.
But once in Montana, the couple couldn’t find a career path that suited them, so they decided to be their own boss by opening a restaurant in Livingston, proving that old habits die hard.
“The first restaurant had 17 tables and sat 90 people. I think we had 16 employees,” said Moran.
Since then, the Rib & Chop house has expanded to nine locations in Montana, Wyoming and Utah. The couple also owns three other restaurant concepts, bringing their total number of restaurants up to 12.
Moran said she’s not all that surprised by the success of Rib & Chop House and attributes the restaurant’s staying power to its employees.
“I think we have good people that work for us, so we’re very fortunate in that area,” said Moran.
“We have honest, hardworking people,” she said, adding, “we’re very happy and fortunate to be in Butte, so we’re ready to get rocking and rolling.”