McGowan's Menu: Jenny's Diner in Shepherd - Northern Michigan's News Leader

McGowan's Menu: Jenny's Diner in Shepherd

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From shifts in ownership, to opening and closing down for periods of time, this restaurant in downtown Shepherd has a lot of history to it.

But then a woman named Jenny took over.

And for the last 14 years, she's made sure that things are done her way.

In this week's McGowan's Menu, John McGowan's takes you inside Jenny's where many happy diners have since decided that's a very good way to do things.

Jenny Packer is no "stay in the office" restaurant owner.   She does have help, but more often 
than not, she's preparing the meal you're about to enjoy, when you visit Jenny's Diner.  And she admits, she's a bit of a control freak. 

"It took me nine months to train my grill cook, before I would even take a day off, so that the food would go out the way I like it.  And there's still times I go over there, and I know that it annoys her, but that's my name out there.  And that's what I worry about," says Jenny. 

And a lot of that has to with why she's in the kitchen so much.

"If I'm in the kitchen, I know what's going on out here all the time.  Cause I'm here all the time.   It's worse than a child.   When we take time off in this place, we close it, because, I don't trust anybody."

After years of running a catering business, which she still runs, by the way, and working in Mt. Pleasant at Stan's Restaurant, and in a kitchen at CMU, she knew exactly the kind of restaurant she wanted to run, when she started this one 14 years ago. 

"Good Home cooking that your grandma made.  Everything made from scratch.  And when I mean scratch, I mean nothing out of a can.  Real mashed potatoes,  real American fries, real hashed browns. My husband peels 30 pounds of potatoes every morning for the breakfast potatoes.  We make homemade noodles here.  We boil our bones for stock for soups."

Speaking of her husband, Gary is responsible for the antiques which grace the walls of the diner.  He says a fire near the diner a few years ago inspired him to put his touch on the place.

Gary says, "I've always been an antique collector, so after the fire, and they remodeled, I told the wife, I said, I'm going to get the antiques of mine out of the closet, and hang 'em up here,  because I enjoy looking at them, and I think a lot of other people do."

Breakfast is something that's always in demand at Jenny's Diner, and omelets are at the top of the list. 

"My favorite is the Farmer's omelet with bacon in it instead of ham. That's my favorite, but we sell a ton of omelets. The Meat lover's omelet, they love that one too," says Jenny. 

If you're in for lunch, the Reuben is one that's always in demand as well. Something relatively new to the menu is the oriental chicken salad.

"That has romaine lettuce and then we grill chicken breast, but we put broccoli slaw noodles, or broccoli slaw, not noodles, on top of the romaine lettuce, and then sunflower seeds, almonds and rice noodles, and then you put your chicken breast over the top of it, and it's served with a cup of soup and a slice of garlic bread."

Jenny bakes a lot of pies as well. Pecan and Dutch apple were out the day of our visit, and so was German chocolate cake. She says what she hopes her customers take away from a visit here, is not complicated. 

"I want people to remember that they got full, and it was good. And boy, are we coming back again. And that it feels like home."   

Jenny's Diner is located in the 200 block of Wright Street, in downtown Shepherd.  They're open Tuesday through Friday 6:00 AM to 2:00 PM, Saturday 7:00 AM to 2:00 PM, and Sunday, 8:00 AM to 2:00 PM. And the Friday dinner buffet on the 1st & 3rd Friday of every month.