POR Bruce Jensen March 22, 2009

Farmhouse to steakhouse

BRUCE JENSEN HAS owned and operated The Packing Shed in Palisade since 2004. Since then, he has dreamed about opening a steakhouse in the farmhouse that came with the property. After years of hard work, his dream of owning a steakhouse came true last year with the opening of The Century House, which is located directly behind The Packing Shed.

When The Packing Shed, 351 W. Eighth St., in Palisade opened in June 2004, owner Bruce Jensen already was dreaming about opening a steakhouse in the old farmhouse that sat back on the same property.

It took Jensen two years, and lots of help, to get The Century House restored and up to building codes.

The 1905 farmhouse needed updated plumbing, electrical, woodwork, floors and painting. In December 2008 Jensen opened the doors of the 103-year-old farmhouse as a steakhouse.

“It was just a load of work,” Jensen said.

He got help from family; his sister, Kris Jensen, pulled up five layers of linoleum glued and stapled together to reach the original hardwood floors.

Dave Soker helped by painting the walls at a rate lower than the big contractors. Soker has been displaying his photos for sale in the Packing House the last four years. He said it’s a Palisade tradition to help others out.

“One of the things Bruce has done running the restaurant is to try and help people, I thank him a lot for that,” Soker said.

Jensen grew up in the Redlands and attended Fruita Monument High School. At 15 he got his first job at a fruit packing shed in Palisade, which is where he got the restaurant name.

He earned a business degree from University of Denver in hotel and restaurant management. During school he found jobs in restaurants, getting fired numerous times.

“I was a waiter and not a very good one,” Jensen said.

After school he found work around the state, from the Old Stone Church in Castle Rock to the Keystone Conference Center. He spent four years as a sous-chef in Keystone, preparing meals for large groups around town.

Back then Jensen was not a kind chef to work for, “I was a knife-throwing mean guy at Keystone.”

Since opening The Packing Shed, Jensen says he treats his employees better, but they are still expected to be dedicated workers.

Renee Allen has worked with Jensen since The Packing Shed opened. Allen likes working with Jensen and thinks the diner is an easy place to be. She has worked on and off in food service for 35 years.

“He (Jensen) is pretty easy to work for. Gotta calm him down every once in a while, he gets excited,” Allen said.

Allen thinks The Century House turned out nice, but she prefers to work in the quicker-paced diner, serving her regulars.

The Packing Shed is open 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. The menu includes standard American and Mexican fare and costs around $7 a plate.

The Century House is designed to be an affordable upscale restaurant. Dinner is served 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

“It is not really a big busy place, it’s Palisade, and it’s quaint,” Jensen said. “You can get prime rib for $13. It’s very price-conscious.”

Crowd favorite is the pork loin, also $13, stuffed with green chiles and pepper jack cheese sauce. Jenson serves local wines exclusively in his restaurants.

Leif Johnson, Palisade Chamber of Commerce executive director, said he has eaten at Century House and that “it has beautiful ambiance, a great addition to the community.”

Palisade has become a dining destination with nice restaurants that are not chains, Jensen said.

The influx of orchards, wineries and restaurants sets Palisade as a desirable destination in the Grand Valley, Johnson said. “We think we’ve got a great hidden gem that is being discovered.”


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