Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Copper Iris - Jackson

As I’m always on the lookout for new and interesting places to eat, especially for lunch, I was elated to see a new restaurant on State Street. Named Copper Iris, I first heard about it at Appetite for Jackson earlier this year. Sadly, I lacked patience that day as waits for a Copper Iris burger were up to 45 minutes by the time I left. Hoping that their food would be a little more accessible without the throngs of hungry event attendees, I stopped by a few times to see what Copper Iris was serving for lunch.

While the menu did feature a nice variety of well dressed salads, I was much more interested in the sandwich section of the menu. Filled with plenty of hearty and potentially quite meaty options, it was hard to pick a starting point. Eventually I decided to see how Copper Iris would handle the cheesesteak with their Magnolia Steak & Cheese.
Onions, bell peppers, beef, and cheese on crusty French bread, it may not be a true Philly cheesesteak, but it was far from a bad sandwich.
Avoiding the pitfalls of desiccated, insipid meat, this sandwich had plenty of rich, beefy flavors.
Striking a balance between plenty of filling and flavorful toppings, this steak & cheese made for a fine lunch.

The next time I stopped by Copper Iris things started with an order of their barbeque pork quesadillas.
Contrary to the name, this pulled pork is not bbq, all of the smokiness and texture come from seasonings and 14 hours of slow cooking, not a smoker.
With that misconception out of the way, this pulled pork had a silky texture and a smoky sweetness that was hard to resist.
While the pork, melted cheese, and tortilla were fine on their own, it was the juxtaposition of hot pork and chilled, sweet, and thick bbq sauce that really put it over the top for me.  These quesadillas may not have fit the description of textbook bbq, but they were simple and extremely satisfying.

The Cuban is another sandwich that I've had mixed results with, especially in Jackson. How did Copper Iris tackle that hurdle?
Pulled pork, the same as from the quesadilla, honey ham, yellow mustard, and pickles on toasted French bread, it’s not lechon but it could work.
The pulled pork may have worked on the quesadilla, but here it was dry and a bit chalky.
While a decent sandwich if only for the quantities of meats, this was a pretty half shod Cuban and it left little doubt that the pulled pork is much better in the sauced environment of the quesadilla.

As with so many other downtown lunch options, I wanted to see how Copper Iris would perform under the stress of a Styrofoam box. One order of grits cakes and a toasted French Dip would be the battle ground.
When I ordered the grit cakes, I was expecting the salty but irresistible grit squares of F. Jones Corner, but these fried triangles were a welcome surprise.
Coated in panko breadcrumbs and not the least bit oily, these grit cakes were well fried but under seasoned on their own.
However, after a quick dip in the accompanying orange jelly, it was a different story.

With the grit cakes a success, how did the French Dip fare?
It was the familiar sight of well toasted French bread with plenty of beef and cheese poking out the side.
I was initially worried that Copper Iris had missed the mark on this one as the beef was overcooked and gray all the way through, but a few bites revealed a flavorful albeit slightly dry filling.
The au jus may have had  a slick of oil on top, but unlike so many cups of pallid au jus, this had a definite depth of beef flavor that, with a shot of black pepper, made up for any overcooked shortcomings.

At this point, I was ready to call it for Copper Iris but I remembered the burger. After missing my chance at Appetite for Jackson, I wasn’t about to leave The Old Capitol burger off this list.
With the fried green tomato unavailable that day, I was left to see how the ½ pound of chuck and brisket would hold up to my requested medium rare temperature.
Closer to medium-well than medium-rare, this burger was still juicy and brimming with beefy flavor.
While this burger may have been lacking a cast iron sear, a dripping pink interior, and an exotic blend of cuts, it was still a simple burger with straightforward flavors that was  prepared well.

It seems that Old Capitol burger really set the tone for Copper Iris. Don’t come to this humble State Street outpost in search of cutting edge gastronomy; there are no emulsifiers, immersion circulators, or liquid nitrogen tanks here, this is approachable, well thought out and well prepared food. There may have been a sour note with the Cuban, but on the whole, I really didn’t experience a bad meal. I’m hoping that Copper Iris has staying power at their State Street location; it would be a shame to lose such a quality lunch option.

Copper Iris Address & Information
Copper Iris Catering Company, Inc. on Urbanspoon

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