Getting back to Sammy’s at popular Rifle eatery |

Getting back to Sammy’s at popular Rifle eatery

Don Andre (black shirt, center) is the new owner of Sammy’s Rocky Mountain Steakhouse in Rifle, which held a “soft opening” for invited guests on Monday night, June 2.
Mike McKibbin/The Citizen Telegram |

The name is a little different and there’s no more microbrewery. Other than that, one of Rifle’s long time restaurants is back in business and it’s back to the basics.

Sammy’s Rocky Mountain Steakhouse, in the former location of Sammy’s on Park Avenue, 412 Park Ave., held invited-guest-only “soft openings” Monday night, June 2 and Tuesday night, June 3. The restaurant is now open to the public.

Sammy’s on Park Avenue closed in October and the business was purchased by Don Andre, the owner of Fin’s Grille & Raw Bar in Glenwood Springs, in April. Fin’s is for sale.

“I worked at the original Sammy’s, so when it became available, I wanted to bring it back,” Andre said while waiters and waitresses greeted and seated guests. The bar was crowded as Andre’s friends and guests chatted.

Sammy’s was built by Andre’s mentor and friend, Walter “Sammy” Schmid, one of the guests.

Andre said he had the restaurant painted, roof repaired and a new heating and ventilation system installed.

“We tweaked the menu to get it back in line with what Sammy’s was about,” he added. “We want to focus on good food, high quality, at a decent price and not skimp on the ingredients.”

Menu items for the new restaurant include steaks, seafood and pasta, he added.

Andre employs a little more than 20 people, including some longtime Sammy’s on Park Avenue workers.

The main change was the removal of the microbrewery the previous owners of Sammy’s operated.

“I’m not a brew guy,” Andre said. “The previous owners looked like they spent a lot of time making that work, and I just want to focus on food.”

In the room that used to hold huge beer vats and other equipment, Andre envisions private, romantic dining on Friday and Saturday nights.

“We’re going to have a chandelier in here and make it really nice,” he said.

Next year, Andre wants to create an outside dining patio as well.

But it’s all about the food, he added.

“Preparation and ingredients are what matter,” Andre said, who has cooked up and down the Colorado and Roaring Fork River valleys. “Consistency with food quality and good service are the fundamentals.”

And as with all businesses, it’s also about location, location, location.

“We’re not in a strip mall and this was built as a restaurant,” Andre said. “I don’t want this to be a short-term experience. I want to stay on the West Slope the rest of my life.”

Andre moved to Parachute in the late 1980s from Minneapolis, Minn. Like many young people, he ended up with a job at a ski area, in this case, Sunlight Mountain Resort. Eventually, his career changed to restaurants.

For the last three weeks, Andre said he had been living out of an RV parked in Sammy’s lot, so he could oversee repairs. But he planned to get an apartment to stay in for several days a week. His permanent residence is near Ruedi Reservoir, outside Basalt.

One guest and longtime friend of Andre’s is Jim Rose, who said he “occasionally” ate at the previous incarnation of Sammy’s.

“Donny’s been a good friend of mine and I’m very glad to see him do this,” Rose said. “I think Rifle needs someone like him in the restaurant business.”

Sammy’s Rocky Mountain Steakhouse is open from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and closed on Sundays. For information, call 665-9397.

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