I often use the nickname “East LA” when describing East Lansing. It’s my way of giving a big-city vibe to our sweet, little college town. There is someone else who is trying to do the same thing. The Walnut Hills Country Club now offers a public restaurant called Copper that is looking to bring a “modern twist on American cuisine” to the Capital Area, complete with a swanky re-styling of their former grill. They succeed in that Copper is a beautiful restaurant that offers recognizable American favorites with interesting twists and inventive ingredients.
FoodNothing makes me happier than trying something new, except perhaps coming back to something that I already love. Imagine my delight when I got both in my dining experience at Copper. The menu has many recognizable choices, most of which have a unique take on what can often be expected. For instance, their calamari starter has a “Coca-Cola” chili sauce, their Greek salad is served tapas style, and their entrees offer such ingredients as “tomato caper sauce with saffron,” “pomegranate demi-glaze” and “watermelon salsa with a cilantro drizzle.” Now if any of this sounds a touch too Top Chef, keep in mind that the prices are not reflective of big city fare. Most entrees run about $16 (yes, the filet is mid-20’s, but that is to be expected) and come with soup or salad. Now, I love a good beet salad. My husband is a fan of a Caesar. When dining at Copper we got a new spin on both. The beet salad was bright and fresh — a colorful mound of beets, feta, cucumbers and greens topped off with a spicy horseradish vinaigrette that totally worked. My husband loved that his Caesar didn’t have croutons, rather a large “toast” that ran throughout a layered salad that you broke apart as you ate it. My husband continued his meal with a well seasoned and perfectly cooked rib eye complete with mashed potatoes and asparagus, simple and successful. I dove into my Portobello Stack, a symphony of marinated portabella mushrooms, spinach, zucchini and squash served over white cheddar polenta with a balsamic reduction. The vegetables had so much flavor and the polenta was creamy and rich. The balsamic reduction pulled everything together with the perfect tang. And no, I am not a vegetarian. I kept attacking my husband’s steak for the sake of the review. Some of the things that I will have to go back and try are the Flats, a casual take on a pizza, their Mango Chicken Salad, the Smoked Sliced Brisket, and the Copper Mac & Cheese with Salmon. The dessert tray whizzed by numerous times, but my earlier enthusiasm got in the way of my going there, so that will have to wait as well.
BeveragesOne thing that Copper may lack is a “bar scene”. Take that as good or bad. The bar itself is very small, though it is augmented by a bar area that has many high tables where a full menu is offered. Also, in good weather there is a beautiful patio that overlooks the golf course, though with our Michigan winters this obviously is a limited advantage. The bar does offer a nice drink menu, and while the wine and specialty cocktail list is not extensive, it is perfectly adequate.
ServiceCopper is a newer restaurant. I think it is safe to say that they may be ironing out some kinks in their service. However, everyone I dealt with was warm and friendly and did their best in providing good service. That really is all you can ask for.
AmbienceThis is where Copper has an advantage over some of our other Capital eateries. Being newer, those creating Copper strove to create a modern and exciting space. It really has a great atmosphere with rich wood, warm neutrals and a punch of blue. And of course metal, like copper. However, with its great view of the golf course it really is a pleasurable place to dine. I picture myself this spring sipping a cocktail on the patio waiting for my husband to come off the 18th green (not that he golfs) before we head in to a have a great meal.
Colette Evangelista sells certified organic, non-toxic beauty, health, baby and home products at www.healthandhopeorganics.com. Twenty percent of her profits go to Ascending Above Autisim, a charity that helps parents pay for autism treatment.