Let’s do lunch: The Coopers Tavern

17 Jan

The Coopers Tavern is a restaurant a long time in the making.  A venture of Peter McElvanna, former manager of Brochach Irish pub, it was recently announced that local restaurant conglomerate  Food Fight! has stepped in as a financial partner with McElvanna retaining most autonomy to run the business.  A cozy space on the square that previously held short-lived dessert bar Sucré and a McDonalds has been transformed into a rustic-yet-chic upscale pub atmosphere.

A mix of exposed, weathered brick, lots of hardwoods, clean cool wall treatments and brass fixtures makes for country-meets-city vibe that works well for what they’re trying to do.  Tables made of barrels (owing to the cooperage theme) are foiled by the standard wall-length-bench-booth-facing-chairs-style seeting so common in upscale urban eateries these days.  Among the more unique features of the space are a genuine Irish snug a private room with access to the bar via a window or small door.  Historically used by women when it was frowned upon for them to socialize openly in a pub, and others seeking more privacy during their revelry; Coopers’ snug would be perfect for small gatherings and is apparently available on a first-come, first-served basis.  Also of note are the ceiling fans which are connected and driven belts and pulleys and add to the bucolic atmosphere.

The bar itself is dominated by two tap towers featuring some 28 beers on draft and a pair of large chalkboards over the bar listing the beer and wine offerings.  A pair of modest LCD TV’s on either end of the bar were tuned to soccer when we arrived (switched to the Vikings-Cowboys playoff game at the request of a fellow patron) and a larger wall-mounted TV dominated the rear wall of the pub next to the kitchen door.  While not a sports bar per se, I can imagine Coopers being a great place to watch the upcoming World Cup in South Africa with a good beer in hand.

In the gastropub tradition (is the gastropub phenomenon old enough to have a tradition yet?), Coopers’ menu aims at upscale pub fare paired with beverages for discriminating palates – namely the 28 tap beers and an extensive bottle list numbering over 100.  On this visit, I must warn, their tap offerings were limited either because the beers weren’t available yet or they had already sold out of them in the few days since their soft opening.  The first 3 beers I tried to order on-tap were not available, though I was happy to settle for a Blanche de Bruxelles Belgian white ale.

Their current offerings come from a limited lunch menu consisting of a few appetizers, soups, salads and sandwiches.  Word is a more comprehensive dinner menu will be added in a month or two.  I can’t blame them for trying to establish themselves with a solid and simple line-up that doesn’t overreach.  During today’s Sunday lunch with Mom, the poutine was tough to pass up as a starter.  For those unfamiliar with the French Canadian delicacy, poutine  consists of french fries/frites topped with fresh cheese curds and brown gravy.  Forget your diet for a day.  You’ll be fine.  It’s a wonder there isn’t another joint in town offering this joyous pile of deliciousness.  The frites were good, if not a little soggy (hard to avoid with a slathering of gravy that, as my mother commented “was good, but needed a little something”) and the cheese curds, which had melted into a mass underneath the pile of frites added another layer of gooey goodness.  It ain’t exactly high-brow, but it’s comfort food to the core.  Puzzlingly, the poutine was delivered with our meal instead of as, you know, a starter.  Apparently this isn’t a unique instance.

I ordered the reuben and my mother ordered the lamb sandwich, both with house salad of mixed greens and herb vinaigrette.  We decided to swap a half sandwich so we could each try both.  The reuben was very good, if not a little…sweet overall.  The corned beef was tender and flaky and the Lake Louie Warped Speed Scotch Ale-soaked sauerkraut and house-made 1000 island were tasty but lacked a certain zing, lending to the perceived sweetness of the sandwich.  The dark rye was buttery and held up well to the generous fixings within.  The lamb sandwich on sourdough was filled with tender thin-sliced lamb with creamy caramelized onions and a thick and herbaceous, paste-like “tomato jam” that served as a great compliment to the lamb.

Based on our experience today, I think Coopers fills a great niche on the square, much like Brasserie V does on Monroe Street.  While their tap list isn’t as inspired and their food offerings are limited, the concept is right and the execution seems to be on point.  And it’s always great to have another place to grab a good sandwich and tasty beer with friends.

3 Responses to “Let’s do lunch: The Coopers Tavern”

  1. Brian January 18, 2010 at 1:29 PM #

    Ah, you had your poutine served with the meal, too? I think it’s a function of opening week disorganization vs. standard procedure (I hope!). Reuben looks great–I’ll get that next time.

    • 43north89west January 18, 2010 at 1:44 PM #

      Of course, I’m not making any long-ranging assumptions off of any service snafus from the first week. Like I said, I think this place has great potential.


  1. Heads/Up(date): Sprecher’s Pub and Vintage Brewing Set to Open this Week « 43north/89west - January 19, 2010

    […] beer lovers as no less than 3 new beer-friendly establishments are opening their doors.  As I mentioned yesterday, The Coopers Tavern brought its take on an Irish gastropub to the square last week and business has […]

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