By Brianna Chu and Tom Williams
Copper Still Grill’s charming pub-esque exterior houses a warm and open space on the interior. The first thing likely to catch your eye is the distinctive and eye-catching copper bar top clearly showcasing their copper theme. Given that owner Steve Kwan has owned and run bars before, such as Gilligan’s Irish Pub in LA Crescenta, that the bar features centrally in Copper’s interior is hardly surprising. While taking center stage, it doesn’t alienate the rest of their customers; the bar sits at ground level, easily accessed, with six TVs above facing every direction so that everyone can watch the game. The other detail likely to draw your attention is the ceiling: the umbrellas hanging from it are a fun and surprising feature whose origin is equal parts festive and utilitarian. Initially just a bit of playfully festive New Year’s decor, the umbrellas ended up actually helping with the space’s sound bouncing issues – and so they stayed!
Copper focuses heavily on the local community, from the events they hold to the atmosphere to the menu. Copper wants its clientele to feel like it’s their second home, and are flexible with folks who want to book the space for events. They’ve hosted private events of all sorts, from birthday parties to meetings for the parents of the Little League soccer team to plan out their season. There’s jazz on the weekends, trivia nights in partnership with the Monrovia Public Library every second Tuesday of the month, and karaoke is a Saturday staple. One of their regulars used to run his own trivia night on the fourth Tuesday of the month, too!
Staff can change the soundtrack of the restaurant, and one of the first things I noted while visiting Copper was how fitting the tunes were. Head bartender Lucas Frazier had a range of music ready, changing the music depending on the kind of crowd in at the time. At dinnertime on a chill, Tuesday evening he might have some Marvin Gaye and Sam Cooke in the rotation (to which he merrily whistles and sings along to as he works), but at 10:00 pm on a Friday night when some younger folks come in, Daft Punk might be playing instead. Their care in catering to everyone – from the bar crowd to families – reflects the homey, small-town feeling that Copper’s staff love so much about Monrovia.
The menu, too, focuses on Copper’s patrons, gaining and losing items based on their responses, and the staff sometimes mix and match menu items and add twists that they then recommend, evolving the dishes into new creations. The full food menu was introduced within the first year of Copper’s opening, with options ranging from happy hour nibbles, to full appetizers, soups and salads, pizzas, pastas, burgers, sandwiches, and even some specials. There’s a range of food options for everyone, no matter the mood, though the kitchen does close around 10:00 to 10:30 pm from Sunday to Thursday.
We tried a quartet of starters: jalapeño poppers, veggie egg rolls, teriyaki chicken bites, and vegetable pot stickers. The scent of the sauce wafted wonderfully off the teriyaki chicken bites, which was fairly standard fare with a sauce that was gently warming. The fried vegetable pot stickers were filled with rice noodles and vegetables, and solid enough to satisfy that fried dumpling craving. The jalapeño poppers were perfectly fried and stuffed with melted cheese. The peppers themselves weren’t hot at all, and the snack was of course perfect dunked in ranch. The veggie egg rolls were the surprise stand-outs to me: savory and satisfying, stuffed with vegetables, with a not too crunchy yet not soggy wrapper, all of which were absolutely amazing with their cilantro aioli. That’s a recommendation from a cilantro-hater, too.
Their drinks, like pretty much everything about Copper, are focused around their customers’ preferences. There isn’t a cocktail menu at Copper simply because they’ll try and make whatever it is you’re particularly craving. And with happy hour every day from 3:00-6:30 p.m., and 9:00 p.m. till close every day (You read right: TWO happy hours. Two. I don’t even drink but that sounds like an incredible deal!), Copper genuinely seems like the best bar in town.
However, alcohol is usually pass for me, a non-drinker by choice…which became problematic in the situation in which I found myself: at a restaurant quite literally centered around a bar. So, I brought along my husband, who has no such qualms and used to bartend himself, to collect the tasty data for you instead! I pass the mic to him:
First I was served a Model Mission cocktail of juniper gin, elderflower cordial, and strawberry puree, presented beautifully in a champagne flute and topped with half a fresh strawberry. It smelled wonderful and fresh, as if the fruit had been picked straight from a garden. Initially I was greeted with a strong taste of gin, but this was quickly followed by a pleasantly dry lingering taste from the juniper. This cocktail finished pleasantly on strawberries, not overly sweet.
I was then presented with a literal row of beers, which honestly made me happier than it probably should have. Starting with the Jai Alai from Florida: with clean notes of plum and nectarine followed by a smooth and slightly smoky finish, this IPA proved refreshingly non-gassy and eminently drinkable. The Alaskan Amber instantly bathed me in treacle, chocolate and raisin flavors, reminiscent of dark leather and cigars. Surprisingly delicate and light for these flavors, I would recommend drinking this by itself as the subtlety is easily overwhelmed. With a very gentle smokiness and almost creamy aftertaste, this beer would be perfect as a light after-dinner dessert alternative. The Eagle Rock Pilsner began with a notable scent of honey; it was nice and foamy with a buttery aftertaste. Lighter and not as bitter as many Pilsners, this local drink is more akin to a Czech than the heavier German style, and would be good to quaff with items like the Bratwurst and Pretzel combo.
The Belching Beaver peanut butter stout was practically a dessert; sweet and thick, like liquified Reese’s Pieces. Initially alarmingly sweet compared to what I’d previously tried, this stout developed into a lovely bitter aftertaste with hints of coffee, ultimately reminiscent of a tiramisu. I wouldn’t recommend drinking it with food but rather as a dessert option in and of itself. Last of the beer flight was Mt. Lowe’s Honeyngton Hef, possibly the most straightforward beer that I tried: bright, blonde, hoppy and slightly bitter, reminiscent of the very good blonde beers of Europe – the perfect thirst-quencher on a slightly warm and breezy afternoon after work or a weekend hike.
As if I hadn’t been spoiled enough, my final treat of the evening was an Old Fashioned, made expertly with Templeton Rye whisky. This was very good, as all Old Fashioneds are, with a wonderfully slow kick and warmth. I was initially unsure whether this drink would compliment the non-fussy charm of Copper Still Grill’s modern sports bar atmosphere; it is a testament to bartender Lucas’ skill that I was proved wrong. The usual thin sliver of twisted orange peel was upgraded to a punchier and larger slice, accompanied by another slice of lemon peel. The sharper acidic notes of the lemon really helped to offset the somewhat heavier vibe that this drink usually brings.
Your regularly programmed food writer in now back, writing safely about items I do readily consume: main courses! The blackened salmon was served simply but beautifully on some lightly cheesy garlic linguine. The salmon itself had a firm crust yet remained juicy, tender, and flaky within. Topped with some scallions and basil, the pasta was an ideal portion for one, with a great salmon to pasta ratio. At no point was the dish overly greasy, either, and as such, we devoured it swiftly. We rounded off the night with the pesto chicken pizza. The tender and chewy dough made for a satisfying bite, and it was topped generously with cheese, sundried tomatoes, basil, pesto, and chicken. No component outshone another, and the pizza was deliciously satisfying and filling finale to our evening at Copper.
Whatever the day of the week, Copper will welcome you with open arms, so pop in at:
Copper Still Grill
610 S Myrtle Ave
Monrovia, CA 91016
Mon – Thurs: 11:00 AM – 11:30 PM
Fri & Sat: 11:00 AM – 2:00 AM
Sunday: 10:00 AM – 11:30 PM