One of Jay Walters' passions seems to have met with acceptance - and then some - by Rifle diners.
Walters and his wife, Karen, opened a steakhouse restaurant, "Jay's," at 1530 Railroad Ave., behind Wells Fargo Bank, on Saturday, March 23, to a capacity crowd.
Jay Walters said owning a restaurant has always been one of his passions, and grew out of the couple's other business, Out West Meat Seafood and Processing, also in Rifle.
"I was a truck driver in Aspen and was always amazed at what some of the chefs in the restaurants there would do," Walters said Tuesday at his restaurant, with most tables full of customers. "We had such good response and a good reputation with the quality of our meats, we decided to go in that direction. We want to offer the best of the best here."
Around 15 people are employed at Jay's, most full time. Darian Sigmon is the manager and Katie Greenman is in charge of pastries.
"We've got a great staff," Karen Walters said.
The menu features vegan or gluten-free items for about 40 percent of what's offered, said chef Mike Meadors.
"It's time to get with the times," he said. "More and more people want that option."
He was a chef at Blues in Vail for 14 years before relocating to Rifle in September to be with his fiancee, Claire, a volunteer firefighter with Colorado River Fire Rescue.
Meadors learned hotel management in Switzerland and has been in the business for 21 years, he said.
"The dinner menu is heavily geared toward steaks, but all our dressings, mayonnaise, deserts and sauces we make in house," Meadors said. "None of our meats have had antibiotics or growth hormones. We want to have all our ingredients be as fresh as possible."
Steaks come from 100 percent Angus beef, Jay Walters added, which he called "a true upper choice" of meats.
A "soup of the day" will be made fresh each morning, as well, Meadors said.
Meadors hopes to work with area farms to supply as much locally grown produce as possible, too.
"We think we have a good system in place for years to come," he added.
Jay Walters said he hopes to expand the 1,100-square-foot restaurant by another 500 square feet by knocking out a wall and offering a banquet room and catering service.
"We've already had requests for that," he added.
The restaurant's interior was decorated by Out West Accents, owned by the Walters' daughter and son-in-law.
"When it warms up, we'll open the patio for outside seating," Jay Walters said.
Jay's is open Sundays through Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. The restaurant's bar is open to serve cocktails until closing time.