Picture it: I’m squiring a houseguest around town. Who is this houseguest? Doesn’t matter. Could be my parents, could be my husband’s parents, or my sister, or just someone from college who’s passing through Shreveport on his or her way to one of the coasts. We head down Youree and get to the Bert Kouns intersection. “Oh!” my passenger says. “Copeland’s. That looks…nice.”
And, indeed, it does look…nice. It reminds you of New Orleans in the same way that the Rose and Crown pub at EPCOT reminds you of England. Cleaner, newer, sanitized, accessible.
“It’s a prom night place,” I say, eyes fixed on the congested road ahead. And it is–perhaps a step up from Carrabba’s, Copeland’s is the kind of place frequented by teenagers of the upper-middle class, rolling up in rented limos (wait…you didn’t get a limousine on prom night? It’s OK, neither did I) or their parents’ freshly waxed Camrys. Inside, there’s the din that would be expected in a restaurant the size of Copeland’s. It’s not what someone would call “intimate,” and that’s alright, since intimacy isn’t too high on the high schooler’s list of restaurant must-haves.
Copeland’s was a place that I myself always seemed to overlook. Maybe I was just being snobby, but my idea of a special occasion dinner for grown-ups usually involves Line Avenue, not Youree Drive. My expensive taste, coupled with a desire to patronize locally-owned businesses whenever possible, didn’t really leave any room for a place like Copeland’s.
But you know? I had my 21st birthday lunch (less than five years ago) at The Cheesecake Factory. With its cartoonishly proportioned architecture, American-sized servings, and focused emphasis on cheesecake, The Cheesecake Factory is really just Copeland’s without the Creole accent. And heck, if I thought The Cheesecake Factory was good enough for a milestone birthday, then surely Copeland’s is good enough for similar celebrations. In fact, maybe that same oversized, opulent quality, that same whimsy, is exactly the point. Maybe these restaurants need an upgrade from “guilty pleasure” to just “pleasure.”
A day at EPCOT isn’t any less enjoyable because their countries are watered-down, climate-controlled versions of the real thing; instead, that scrubbed-up, family-friendly quality might actually be part of the fun.
Just this week, I attended a PR lunch at Copeland’s, in honor of the unveiling of their “new and improved” restaurant. After undergoing a $1 million renovation, everything about the Bert Kouns location seems to be new: new management, new decor, and a new approach to their food with fresher ingredients and proprietary recipes. Al Copeland Jr., who made an appearance, explained that the renovation aims to bridge the gap between the food at Copeland’s and the atmosphere. Once dissonant, with no discernible identity, the new decor at Copeland’s is a bit sleeker, more up-to-date, and has a distinctive New Orleans theme. They’re also introducing a Sunday (live!) jazz brunch, to be held each week from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Since I wasn’t a paying customer during this visit, I won’t be doing a real review. But if you already liked Copeland’s, this is a good excuse to pay them a visit. And if, like me, you were dubious, let go of your pretense and your self-inflicted shame. Invent a special occasion and order yourself a 6-inch tall slice of bananas foster cheesecake. It may not be haute cuisine, it may not be “authentic” (whatever that means), and it’s definitely not kitschy enough to be ironic. But it’s damn delicious.
To borrow the words from my friend Tony Bourdain, “Good is just good. It doesn’t matter when or why.”
Copeland’s of New Orleans
1665 E. Bert Kouns Industrial Loop