Palisade Café reopens fresh, local
Fine diners and locavores hungry for new frontiers are expected to flock to downtown Palisade for the latest generation of a town icon, where more locally grown food in flavorful combinations will soon appear on the menu than perhaps anywhere else in the Grand Valley, according to one of the new co-owners of Palisade Café 11.0.
John Sabal, Realtor-turned-restaurateur and former chairman of the Palisade Chamber of Commerce, is a new co-owner of the restaurant, which will be renamed in recognition of the 10 Palisade Café owners who went before him.
“That will now say, Palisade Café 11.0, because we’re the 11th Palisade Café owners,” he said Tuesday, pointing at a large glass window where the name of the restaurant is painted. “There have been 14 restaurants in this location, but we’re the 11th … since the 1930s.”
Within 24 hours of the café‘s Wednesday opening, the restaurant was buzzing with activity. A part-time cook painted the front screen door green on the sidewalk out front of the eatery’s address, 113 W. Third St. Delivery drivers unloaded trucks and carried goods and equipment through the front door.
And the new head chef, Dave Erwin, 28, began preparing every item on the menu for the new staff to savor later in the day.
Men, women, and children of all ages, most of them known to Sabal by name, repeatedly stopped by Tuesday morning to poke their heads in, say hello, and echo the excitement of the moment.
“Our menu will be slightly whimsical and maximum fresh,” Sabal said. “The concept is farm-to-table fresh. Palisade has not really had it.”
The farm-to-table concept might be new to Palisade from the retail side, but something even bigger is growing on the wholesale side, he said, something almost certain to connect in a giant circle of mutual support for many Palisade residents who grow and manufacture produce, food and drink.
“I’ve got all kinds of local … synergy going on,” Sabal said.
It started when he recently purchased a restaurant share from Field to Fork, a consumer-supported produce farm in Palisade. He purchased 21 weeks of fresh produce that starts arriving at Palisade Café on June 1.
“I sold their house — Scott and Jess Washkowiak (owners of Field to Fork) — I was their listing agent,” he said. “They’re friends (of mine) now.”
Palisade connections are a major theme of the new venture, Sabal said.
Blaine Diffendaffer of Blaine’s Tomatoes and Farm in Palisade — a third-generation Palisade farmer — will supply tomatoes and other produce under contract with the restaurant, Sabal said.
“I have Blaine’s Tomatoes — his beefsteaks and his heirlooms. I’m getting his micro-greens. I’m getting his popcorn shoots and I’ve contracted with him to grow for me a Peruvian tomatillo, which is a sweet tomatillo.”
Add to the list — for the first time ever on a Western Slope restaurant menu, according to Sabal — artisan cheese and dairy products from Rocking W Cheese and Milk in Olathe.
Sabal said he will serve 18 Palisade wines when the restaurant opens and plans to carry many more.
“I have two Palisade Brewing Co. beers. I have Rockslide (Brewery). I have Kannah Creek (Brewing Co.) and I have Copper Club (Brewing Co.). So the whole idea is local, local, local.”
Erwin, the new head chef, is a Grand Valley native who started working in area restaurants at age 13 and became a cook when he was just 14.
“(Dave Erwin) and I worked together at Bin 707 … four years ago,” Sabal said. “I sold him his house. We stayed friends. I was always impressed with Dave’s abilities. So, when I had the idea to buy the Palisade Café, I immediately thought I wanted him on the team.”
The decision to buy came at the urging of a relative, he said.
“Here’s how I decided to buy (the café): I was the owner’s listing agent and … I was visiting my sister and she overheard me talking to a buyer who wanted to know more information about the restaurant — so I explained it all to the buyer. When I hung up the phone, my sister said to me, ‘Wow, that sounds like a great deal. It would be a perfect fit for you. Why don’t you buy it?’ That was April 15.”
Sabal said he knew right away, in his gut, that the decision to buy the restaurant with his partner, Marti, was the right one.
“Palisade really needs a fresh café,” he said. “It’s going to be a fun and relaxed and enjoyable café — a true café — unpretentious, interesting and comfortable.”