I could pretty much tell I was going to like Copper Spoon from the second we walked in. “Genius of Love” by The Tom Tom Club was playing, a song that automatically puts a smile on my face whenever I hear it, and the evening’s soundtrack continued with Lauryn Hill, A Tribe Called Quest and other music that felt hand-picked to cater to my demographic.
The fact that each booth had its very own switch to control the volume of the speaker above it was an extremely thoughtful touch, and meant that we could enjoy the music but not at a deafening level.
Copper Spoon is on Broadway in the former home of Art’s Crab Shak. In fact, it still has the old sign out front. While Temescal has continued to add new restaurants and bars at an astounding pace, less has been happening on this stretch of Broadway, as opposed to Telegraph and 40th streets. Copper Spoon has more of an Uptown vibe, or perhaps it’s a foreshadowing of what will continue to happen in Temescal.
Copper Spoon co-owners Carmen Anderson and Vita Simone have been working together for years. Anderson was a Cal student – who studied astrophysics – when she started working at Luka’s Tap Room, and met Simone, who was the bar manager there. While Simone continued to consult with bars throughout the Bay Area, together, they started the Sassafras Seagrass food truck in 2013. They eventually phased out the food truck when they found the brick and mortar space.
For Copper Spoon, they brought on Andre Hall, who is executive chef as well as a co-owner; he has been in the Bay Area since 2007. He and Simone met when he was chef at Alexander’s Steakhouse.
The transformation of Art’s Crab Shak into Copper Spoon has taken over two and a half years.
The restaurant is large, which is not immediately apparent until you go beyond the bar into the back room. The space has high ceilings – the multi-tiered bar requires a ladder – and the bar itself is natural wood with an LED resin river. Copper Spoon plans to host DJs and live music sometimes, not at all surprising, given its layout and feel.
With all this modernity, it’s amusing that they use mismatched plates and sterling silver cutlery that could be straight out of an antique store. Our waiter agreed that this is the first place he’s ever worked that uses vintage silverware; it’s definitely not something you see all the time.
Based on the music and vibe alone, I thought, “This is the kind of place that any neighborhood would be lucky to have,” and that was even before we brought that first cocktail to our lips.
While nary a taco is on the menu at Copper Spoon, the Mexican spirit of the moment, mezcal, is in heavy rotation. Simone, the head of the restaurant’s spirits program, is an award-winning mixologist with a preference for it, so the smoky spirit is prevalent on the cocktail list.
Given that mezcal cocktails are a house specialty, we obviously had to start with those. We tried the Simmer Down (El Silencio mezcal, dry vermouth, tamarind, Guanabana liqueur and lemon) and the Don’t Mind if I Do (Vida mezcal, passion fruit, lime, Santo Domingo float) (both $12) and while we had a hard time detecting the passion fruit in the latter, we loved the complexity of the former and found it beautifully balanced.
Simone is also known for her “dealer’s choice” cocktails, that she’ll create on the spot for you once she knows your preferences. While we didn’t go that route this time, based on the ones we did try, we have full confidence in her bar chops.
Our server recommended the Winter Squash ($18), probably not one we would have chosen ourselves, and when a server is that jazzed about a dish, well, we pretty much take his advice.
There was honey roasted spaghetti squash, grilled red kuri squash and coins of crispy yellow summer squash. There was also a bit of goat cheese, charred Brussels sprouts, and a few crispy kale leaves, and a warm applesauce that was spooned over the dish from a small copper pot tableside.
While carnivores can sometimes feel pity for the vegetarians, this was truly a dish worth celebrating; such a delightful contrast of textures and flavors.
We also want to call attention to the pickle plate, called Whatever Pickles ($4), which had five heaping groups of veggies on one elongated platter. While the cucumbers were given the Asian treatment, the rest had hints of warm spices.
The Roasted Cauliflower ($9) is also a house specialty, and is the chef’s vegetarian riff on buffalo wings. The vegetable is fall-apart tender, and slathered in a house-made fermented hot sauce. It comes to the table with a knife wedged in it, and celery leaves scattered on top.
I tend to cook my vegetables al dente, and think I prefer them that way, so at first, I thought the cauliflower seemed a bit overcooked, but the more I ate it, the more I realized why it was that way; the more to be a vehicle for that sauce.
While we felt the seabass ceviche ($10) was delicate and unusual (with its Mezcal vinaigrette rather than the traditional lime), an undetectable herb and watercress sprouts, we felt it was more of a tartare than a ceviche.
Our server also said one of his favorites was the Bacon For the Win ($9). Admittedly, it’s hard to mess up a bacon dish. My husband preferred the crispy strips with togarashi seasoning sprinkled on top, while I found the citrus-candied lardons absolutely addictive; so much so I was glad there weren’t more of them on the plate. We nearly overlooked the soy-braised pork belly, and in comparison with the first two preparations it was just meh.
We also tried the Steamed Artichokes with house-made smoked cultured butter ($9) and the Beets by Dre ($7) which also had a bit of smoked yogurt. Given that mezcal too is known for its smokiness, it seems to be a flavor profile that’s beloved by all three owners, which we didn’t mind one bit.
It should be noted that while the service was incredibly friendly, given that we ordered almost all small plates, they should have been better staggered; we had too many plates on the table at once.
There are only two desserts, both of which come from the owners’ family recipes. Sassy’s Yaya Mousse ($5) is thick and has notes of cardamom and is served with salted pepitas, while the highlight of Missy’s Carrot Cake ($6) are the coconut and almond bits in the frosting.
Besides the underwhelming pork belly and an aggressively salty Salmon Crudo ($10) we loved nearly everything we tried. Of course one could come for the entrees (which include a Herb & Citrus Marinated Halal Chicken ($21), Seared Day Boat Scallops ($17) or a Creekstone Farm Steak ($40) but we found sharing the small plates much more fun.
Copper Spoon is open until 1 a.m., and the late-night menu is limited but is significantly cheaper after 10 p.m. There is also beer and wine, of course, but cocktails are clearly the star of the show here.
As I said earlier, I had already given the place a mental thumbs-up when I entered, and after eating and drinking our way through the menu, we felt that way upon leaving, too.
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