Copper Grill is exceptionally unexceptional, in my biased, vegetarian opinion. I’ve been eyeing Copper Grill for weeks. The blonde stone front makes me nostalgic for the West, for sunny soCal and the lodge-dotted peaks of snowy Utah. With menu offerings such as Not Your Mom’s Homemade Mac and Cheese Balls and Warm Goat Cheese Salad, I was jazzed for something extra-yummy-cozy. That blonde stone may have set the bar a little high.
Once inside, the ambiance and the food were disappointing — which isn’t to say that either were truly bad. The place was warmly lit but generically trendy, full of mod-ish fixtures and dark wood. I already knew the veg options were heavy on cheese, low on plant protein, but I guess I wasn’t prepared for the actuality of this matter. My server recommended the Portobello Flatbread with sun-dried tomatoes, spinach and goat cheese, drizzled with balsamic reduction. “Best vegetarian option on the menu,” he said.
The flatbread was very, um, white. It was essentially a plate of melted cheese, scattered with a few dried tomatoes and some limp bits of overcooked spinach. The bread itself was pleasantly crispy, but I lost all traces of spinach, tomato and the (usually) earthy Portobello in gobs of (white American? really thick mozzarella?) cheese. There was an occasional, welcome whiff of pungent goat cheese, but the only flavor that truly muscled through was the cloying balsamic reduction. The balsamic would have worked better in a thin layer, spread beneath the cheese as a sauce, rather than heavily drizzled on top. The result was a dish that was bland in some bites and overwhelmingly sweet in others. I liked the edges, where the cheese began to thin a little. Those edges gave me hope. This dish might have potential. Next time I’ll ask the chef to go light on both cheese and balsamic.
On another occasion, I ordered those enticing mac and cheese balls as an entree. They’re menu-listed as an app, by someone who realized how tiresome this experience would become six bites in. But they would be perfect shared amongst a small group, served with wine or a salad to cut the oozing creaminess. They were deep-fried with a crunchy golden exterior, sans excessive grease. Dip them in the blackberry compote for a sweet/savory sensation, similar to that of cheese on fruit pie. I’m no expert on mac and cheese balls (these were my first ever), but my guess is, if you go for that sort of thing, you’d like these.
On a final trip, I ordered the Warm Goat Cheese Salad. I expected something fancy, with wilted greens and well-distributed cheese. But other than the walnuts crusting the goat cheese, it reminded me of a quick salad that I’d toss together at home. The greens were fresh, varied and colorful, sprinkled with a handful of walnuts and a few baked, thin-sliced pears. There was a single dollop of goat cheese in the center and not much else.
I know I just blasted the Grill for serving too much cheese on their Portobello flatbread, but perhaps this salad could have benefited from an extra half-scoop? It would have made the difference between a decadent side-salad and a satisfying meal.
I was still hungry after the salad, so I ordered dessert. Yeah, that’s right — I eat chocolate crème brulee for its protein. This wasn’t your typical crème brulee, either. There was no glassy torched crust, and the texture was mousse-like rather than creamy. It’s served with fresh mint and sliced strawberry, which helped cut the overwhelming sugariness. The bites with mint were especially delicious, offering the unexpected flavor jolt that was lacking in Copper Grill’s veggie entrées and apps.
This place also does an amazing cinnamon ice cream — thick and rich, with a hint of gritty texture. I could actually feel the particles of cinnamon on my tongue. The cinnamon/milk combo set up a nice warm/cool dichotomy. There was also something sticky and vaguely bread-like in the mix — maybe the tiniest ribbon of cinnamon bun dough? This ribbon didn’t offend me in any way, but I could have done without it. What struck me was the smooth texture of the ice cream, the distinction of the cinnamon from the cream and the sharpness of the cinnamon flavor (again, served with a sharp mint sprig).
For vegetarians, Copper Grill also offers a Margarita Flatbread with basil and buffalo mozzarella and a couple of soups and salads that I didn’t try. But my advice? Skip straight to the ice cream.