This Western-themed American diner is hard to miss. The 36-foot tall neon cowboy in an apron out front is far from subtle, making the full-sized fiberglass palomino horse overlooking the outdoor patio seem quaint. It also may be the westernmost traditional diner in the country.
William Lyman Davies fell in love with the diners of the East Coast while traveling the country as a restaurant supervisor for over 20 years, but lamented the lack of diner culture back home in Colorado. When he returned in 1947, he saw U.S. 40—the main East-West route through the small city of Lakewood at the time—as the perfect spot for a diner, with throngs of tourists and truckers passing daily. The fact that the closest diner manufacturer was over a thousand miles away would not sway him.
In 1957, the two 50-foot-long halves of what is now Davies’ Chuck Wagon were shipped by rail from New Jersey to the foot of the Rocky Mountains. The tabletop jukeboxes are originals, playing everything “from Country to Rock & Roll.” The prefabricated steel eatery is one of the last of its kind, earning it a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.
While diners typically attract out-of-towners passing through, the familial staff of Davies’ Chuck Wagon over the years has earned the diner more local favor: 80 percent of the customers are regulars. When a municipal bill was put forth in the 1990s to address roadside distractions that caused highway accidents, the town rose up in support of the diner’s oversized mascot. After a five-year court battle, the diner kept its cowboy.
Although diners like this largely fell out of fashion throughout the second half of the 20th century, Davies’ Chuck Wagon became a staple of the Lakewood skyline, standing out much like any 36-foot neon chef-cowboy would anywhere.