Copehouse Bar & Bistro, going on its third year, is found at the heart of downtown Redlands in the 1903 Cope building along Orange Street Alley.
It is an elegant and intimate establishment of fine American-style dining and quality cocktail concoctions with low lighting from a single candle on every table and along the bar.
The combination of refined culinary masterpieces by Long Island native, chef Kevin Cahalan, and the chemist-like wizardry that goes on behind the bar is what gives this Parisian-esque restaurant its own quality of the dining experience.
“We are seasonal to the extreme,” Cahalan said. “Since Jan. 1, this has been our fifth menu change. It’s all about seasonality and you tend to go back to what dish would go well with the time.
“The menu sort of becomes an amalgamation of all the places you’ve worked at. A little bit of this and a little of that and you make it your own.”
The Diver Sea Scallops is an example of this seasonal purity. It is a colorful seafaring piece of artwork with charred corn, succotash, couscous, fava beans, bacon and spiced wine gastrique (a caramelized sugar used for flavoring of sauces).
Cahalan, who received his education at the Culinary Institute of America in Upstate New York and later under the leadership from the likes of Wolfgang Puck, Bradly Hopkins and Bobby Flay, is a chef in the purest sense of the word. An avid reader of the culinary arts, Cahalan’s work is the culmination of continuous education and experience.
“I come from a time when you started work when the restaurant opened and you left when the restaurant closed,” recalled Cahalan.
After a good run in the Golden State’s Bay Area, Cahalan headed back east to New York before coming back to California and opening the Sliding Door Cafe on Balboa Peninsula in Newport, making contemporary American food. There he received praise from Orange County Register’s food critic, Brad Johnson. Cahalan’s restaurant was voted first place to eat at during restaurant week.
“Having full autonomy over the kitchen is pretty much unheard of unless you’re a celebrity chef,” said Cahalan with notes of pride and humility for his work at the Copehouse.
In addition to Cahalan’s smoked ham and shrimp hushpuppies or fried chickpeas ordered for quick hits of his craft while sitting at the bar, you can take mixologists Austin Clay and Steven Boatman to task by choosing the base of your own spirit animal, whether it be vodka, whiskey or bourbon to see what they can conjure up.
“A friend of mine who knows I hate avocados dared me to make a drink with avocado, and this is what I came up with,” said Boatman.
The Cope Hass was born. It’s a smooth and refreshing drink of vodka, lemon, agave, cucumber and double-strained avocado so there’s no fibers of the green fruit — truly a Copehouse original.
The Copehouse is also home to the Cocktail Club, a meeting of local mixologists and bartenders who come to the restaurant to work out and inspire new forms of the cocktail, whether it be by burning hickory to add a bold and robust flavor or by experimenting with their own crafted bitters to those drinks that warm the blood and gladden the soul.
There is a closeness between the employees that permeates the restaurant. It spreads throughout the place in the form of laughter and conversation found at each table.
“We’re a family,” says manager Melanie Spencer.
And it shows.
The Copehouse Bar & Bistro now has more available seating with the addition of a backroom for private parties and an intimate dining experience.