RIFLE — When Joe Enessy comes to Rifle from Meeker in the springtime, there’s one place he never misses.
Enessy always makes sure to stop at Da Beef in south Rifle for a Chicago-style Vienna Beef Hot Dog.
“This is the only place to get a hot dog, and I’m not even really a hot dog person,” Enessy said with a smile, as he waited for his order. “But this is a five-star operation. I’ve been coming here for four years — it’s real good.”
Located next to Choice Liquors on Airport Road, Da Beef is owned by Clara and Robert Smith of Silt Mesa, who have operated the business out of an 8-foot-by-16-foot mobile kitchen since 2006.
Robert is originally from Chicago and Clara from Iowa. They met in Sopris Park in Glenwood Springs in 1986 and eventually married. When they started Da Beef in 2006, it was simply a way to make some money.
“Necessity is the mother of invention,” Clara said with a smile. “As well as needing to buy groceries and pay the bills, we needed short- and long-term accommodations for our individual and collective challenges in the market place. And so began ... Da Beef!”
The mobile unit is parked in the parking lot next to Choice Liquors from April to November.
“We’re so grateful to the owners of Choice Liquors, Ted and Julie Wernsman, for the opportunity they’ve offered us in Rifle,” Clara said. “Rifle has really welcomed us with open arms.”
And not just Rifle.
The couple have a loyal fan base of customers from Aspen and Vail to Grand Junction, Craig, Steamboat Springs and around the state who come back again and again to feast on the more than 35 types of sandwiches, hot dogs, sausages, brats, Philly cheesesteaks and gyros.
But Da Beef is most famous for its signature Robert’s Italian Beef sandwich and the Chicago-style hot dog, also known as “Dragged through the Garden,” that features a Vienna dog with mustard, tomato, cucumber, onion, neon green relish, sport peppers, celery salt and Chicago dill pickles on top, served in a steamed poppy seed bun.
And you can customize your order any way you like it — mild, spicy, cheesy, dipped, dunked or naked with your choice of condiments and bread.
Side dishes offered include fresh cut fries that come spicy, cheesy, Parmesan or chili cheese; potato chips or Fritos; and a pickle spear.
“The food is so good here, when I come by myself, I feel like I’m cheatin’ on my wife,” Greg Colasinski of Silt wrote in Da Beef’s guest book.
“I go back to Chicago every summer and have yet to find a dog better than Da Beef,” wrote Bobby Vogt of Grand Junction.
People from out of state also make a point of planning their trip through Rifle for Da Beef.
“I stop every time I pass through from Cheyenne until you close for the winter. Then we all cry until you return. Your food is the best and so are both of you!” wrote Kathy Wagoner from Cheyenne, Wyo.