By Judy Chamberlain
Copeland’s of New Orleans has long been a Southlake go to for business meetings, breakfast, brunch, lunch and evening get-togethers. Reasonably priced fine hotel dining rooms that offer quality along with value, service and a welcoming environment are a rarity these days, especially in the Mid-Cities.
Copeland’s is a chain, but this location — there are only two in Texas — feels like a one-off, largely due to the Copeland family’s quarter-century dedication to serving an authentic, New Orleans blend of flavors. Everything is made from scratch, including the fluffy biscuits that come with your meal.
Southlake is a tough market, oddly attractive to first-time restaurateurs. More than a half-dozen recent openings in the area — including one launched by an operator with a couple of successful DFW seafood locations — have failed and closed quickly.
Consistently hospitable, spacious and geared toward absolutely everyone – the bar area is especially comfortable – Copeland’s provides a respite from a long day, or a fine beginning to a new one.
And here’s the surprise: Copeland’s has some really terrific Italian food items on its menu. Copeland’s isn’t guilty of the usual “quasi Italian” infractions: breading that doesn’t stay in, chicken pounded into cutlets so thin it becomes invisible and eggplant largely left to its own devices without proper moisture-reducing prepping.
I’ve eaten at Copeland’s many times, but only recently discovered the Italian side of the place. I was mulling over the Creole and Cajun items on the menu when manager Barbra Poole stopped by my table while making the rounds of the dining room. I asked her for recommendations, and she described the house’s eggplant and chicken parmesan combo, layered atop angel hair pasta and covered with a blend of cheeses.
I asked if she thought the breading would stay on, and she said “absolutely.”
The chef dips the eggplant and chicken pieces in egg yolk before finishing with a mixture of flour and cornmeal. Egg yolk is an absolute “must” when breading anything, and far too many restaurants evidently don’t understand that. Egg yolk, furthermore, should be added to cheese mixtures that get layered into lasagna, stuffed shells and other Italian preparations. Many so-called Italian restaurants have no idea about that.
Of course, the New Orleans connection with Italian food is nothing new. There is some great Italian food in that city, and also in the outlying parishes.
For instance, Mosca’s in Avondale and the wonderful Herbsaint, on New Orleans’ St. Charles Avenue — which couldn’t be more different — both serve outstanding examples of Italian fare, the latter never referring to itself as an “Italian” restaurant, which it isn’t.
Herbsaint, originally a Susan Spicer creation (the chef is the sister of the late Tom “Spiceman” Spicer, the beloved Dallas horticulturist and food icon who passed away in early 2015), is a local favorite that frequently features Italian preparations, deliciously updated and modernized. Spicer has moved on, but the restaurant retains all of the flair she brought to it. Once again, it is NOT an “Italian restaurant.”
Herbsaint is not on the usual tourist’s agenda. I highly recommend it.
I enjoyed one of the best meals I’ve ever had in a restaurant at Herbsaint while in New Orleans to do the music for a Dallas friend’s destination wedding in the French Quarter. A local musician took me there for lunch. If you are planning a trip to New Orleans, call ahead and ask if the spaghetti carbonara topped with a breaded poached egg is available.
I’m adding Copeland’s to my itsy-bitsy list of places in the Mid-Cities where it is possible to find the kind of Italian food I like best.
Southlake Town Square
1400 Plaza Pl
Southlake, TX 76092