The Copper Bar is nestled in the Aspens neighborhood away from the fray of Teton Village, but this recently reinvented hideaway may be the perfect après ski or date-night spot. Dishing sits down with chief operating officer Wayne DeWall and executive chef Buck Buchenroth to experience the Austrian concept of “Gemutlichkeit” – the feeling you get when good friends, good food, and good drink comes together in a celebration of the good life.
Copper Bar is the rebranding of Peter Stiegler’s traditional Austrian restaurant, a Jackson Hole mainstay for 33 years. Stiegler infused his restaurant with Austrian flavors, cozy ambiance, and ski culture, so it was only natural that he sold it to longtime patrons Sasha and Jeanne Leviant when he retired in 2017. Much of the original staff remains, including DeWall, who started tending bar at Stiegler’s in 1983. DeWall is passionate about Austrian wine, and treats guests like family. Buchenroth, a Jackson Hole local whose lifetime study of Austrian food began at the Alpenhof, has updated the menu to include slightly lighter options that bring modern sensibility to traditional foods without changing their essence. After all, after a day out on the slopes, sometimes you just need a giant glass of mulled wine and some creamy spatzl to warm your insides.
Indeed, lovers of Steigler’s can rest assured – the hearty menu, white tablecloths, roaring fireplace, and lively bar (with its own menu and happy hour specials) have remained much the same. DeWall and Buchenroth hope to expand the restaurant’s event capabilities, encouraging large parties and receptions to use their beautiful space to experience Gemutlichkeit on the most important days of the year.
The bison bratwurst served with crispy onions and house-made sauerkraut makes a perfect starter. The bratwurst is flash-fried, which gives the casing its iconic crispiness. Be sure to ask for a ramekin of the house-made, stone ground mustard for dipping.
Next, Buchenroth recommends the beef consume, which is cooked in sherry for 30 hours. The soup is hearty and flavorful, yet somehow still light and understated.
For our entrees, we order the steelhead, Buchenroth’s favorite, and the tafelspitz, which has been Austria’s national dish since Kaiser Franz Josef I declared his preference for it. The steelhead is light and delicious, served with wild rice and a creamy sauce that imparts the decadence of Austrian food. This, Buchenroth said, is what he hopes to bring to Copper Bar’s updated menu – dishes that are lighter and more varied than traditional fare.
Sometimes, though, if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. The traditional tafelspitz is a can’t-miss. The beef tenderloin melts in your mouth, and crisp green beans are cooked to perfection.
We can’t possibly still have room for dessert after our feast, but when we spot the apple strudel en route to another table, we have to make an exception. The flaky pastry is topped with rum sauce and specialty ice cream, and before we know it, the plate is clean. Good food feelings abound.
When it comes to wine, the tiny country of Austria produces some absolute gems. If you don’t know much about Austrian wine, don’t be intimidated – just ask DeWall for recommendations. He won’t steer you wrong.
We begin with the 2015 Rosenberg Gruner Veltliner, an award winning white wine with a stunning floral nose. The beautiful wine is bone-dry on the palate, and rounds out smoothly with a sharp minerality.
With our entrees, we move on to a red wine – the 2013 Felsner Gedersdorfer Weitgasse. This hand-harvested varietal smells and tastes like ripe plums, and displays smooth tannins and a creamy finish.
No Austrian meal would be complete without a little schnapps, so we sample both pear and apricot while singing “prost” in voices dripping with enough Gemutlichkeit to carry us through even the longest, darkest, coldest winter.