Tag Archives: Copper Top Restaurant

FOOD PORN FRIDAY: Southern Cuisine Shines at Copper Top

5 May

Copper Top Restaurant has come back from the dead; the long-time Jacksonville Beach landmark, known for more than 60 years as The Homestead, has been resurrected – ghosts and all.  Now named after its famed copper top bar, it’s kicking it into high gear.

Locals so want this iconic restaurant to make it. It has changed hands (and quality) a number of times in recent years. Now that the economy is on the upswing, and what seemed like never-ending road work in front of the building is complete, owner Mike Pessagno is determined to bring it back to the quality of days gone by. The landmark had been “broken,” he says and wants to get back to basics to return it to what its dedicated customers loved about it in The Homestead days – but with fresh and interesting twists to the menu.

Set among oak trees, the historic log cabin restaurant is structurally the same except for some deep cleaning,  wall paint and a few touches to kick it up a few notches.

The menu contains favorites such as hand-battered fried chicken. It can no longer be made in a skillet because of increased health code requirements, but the down-home yumminess factor is still there.  Fried Chicken Dinners for one, four, six and eight are also still served.  There are also the requisite biscuits and cornbread with dinner, as well as family-style vegetables for the table.

Alpha Paytner Martini

My companion and I started with an Alpha Paytner Martini. $7  (As many know, Paytner was the original owner about 80 years ago and still haunts the place. But more on that later.) It’s made from citrus vodka, Island Blue Pucker Sweet and Sour Schnapps Liqueur and a splash of sprite. My first impression of it was “Wow, that fresh.” My companion remarked, “What the heck does ‘fresh’ mean?”  Then she tasted it and said, “Why yes, fresh is exactly what is. It went down easily.

Appetizers were Georgia Banks Braised Shrimp $7.95  and Shrimp and Grits Fritters $6.95

Georgia Banks Braised Shrimp

On our last visit to Copper Top my companion ordered the Georgia Banks Braised Shrimp and made such a fuss over how good it was that I had to try it. And it was my most favorite item of the evening. The shrimp were succulent and served along-side a combination of smoked bacon, sweet onions, Hoppin’ John and collard greens. For those wanting a small dinner, this and a salad would be plenty. The collard greens were superb. Pessagno says that a 90-year-old long-time customer of the site’s restaurants recently dined in and exclaimed that the Copper Top’s collard greens were the best she had eaten in her life. Now that’s a testimony.

Shrimp & Grits Fritters


The Shrimp & Grits Fritters are served with chipolte aioli and are chewy and flavorful.  I was thinking they would taste more like hush puppies, but  they had a moister consistency.

A basket of biscuits and cornbread is served with every meal.

Biscuits and Cornbread

 The size of the biscuits honor tradition, as well as the honey on the table for those who like it. The cornbread was also more moist than most of the dry cornbread that many restaurants serve. You can see bits of corn in it as well. I didn’t try the cornbread that night, but heated it up in the microwave the next morning for breakfast and it was the most flavorful cornbread I’ve ever had. This southern girl plans on getting some more of that.

The Iceberg Wedge Salad $4.50 was something else I had been seriously wanting to try, and it surely did not disappoint. So much more than its simple name, it is topped with a homemade zesty blue cheese dressing,  fried onions, gorgonzola cheese crumbs, tomatoes, chopped bacon bits with  crustini on the side, all with a balsamic drizzle.  Such a simple name for a salad with bold taste. I adored it.

Iceberg Wedge Salad


Our first entrée was the Slow Braised Short Ribs  $15.95.

Slow Braised Short Ribs

The short ribs come flavored with a wonderful Jack Daniels au jus reduction. (The menu lists them under the pork dishes, but they will be sure to tell you they are actually beef.) Tender and flavorful, they come as all entrees do with a choice of two sides from their ample list. My companion chose the mashed sweet potatoes and fried okra. A fried okra connoisseur, she was sure to inform the owner that one can tell a lot from a restaurant by the quality of its fried okra. She awarded it a gold star.

We also chose the Fresh Catch of the day $17.95. With a choice of snapper or grouper, we selected the snapper, grilled,  with a light lemon butter sauce.

The Fresh Catch - Grilled Snapper

The snapper was excellent with just the right amount of lemon butter sauce. The onion rings were as good as they get and even better with the chipolte sauce on the side.  Good to know info is that Copper Top purchases its seafood fresh daily, six days a week in Mayport.

Another entrée I didn’t get to taste but is high on my list for the next visit is the Paytner Pattie Melt $8.95. It’s a half pound of ground beef with boursin cheese in the middle served on Texas toast with sautéed onions and mushrooms.  Oh my.

We moved on to dessert, all at $4.95. Although I’m personally all  about Brownies a la Mode,  the Fried Oreos and Fried Brownie Bites, covered in a waffle batter and deep-fried, are what piqued my interest. We received a combination platter. The brownies by themselves would have been awesome as they were very moist. The fried version of both are evidently quite popular with children, and one can see why.

Fried Oreos and Brownie Bites
Copper Top also offers another kid favorite, to be sure –  a Fried Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich that is also dipped in waffle batter and deep- fried. 

Our other dessert was the Georgia Sweet Peach Cobbler that we got à la mode. It was an interesting turn on a cobbler as the crust was more cake-like than pie crust.  We enjoyed every single bit of it.

Georgia Sweet Peach Cobbler

The Copper Top opened in February of this year complete with live music, seasonal patio dining and all sorts of great specials throughout the week such as $4 martinis on Monday and 50 cent oysters on Tuesdays.
One of the most talked about offerings is the Sunday Brunch Buffet $18.95 and includes bottomless mimosas. From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., the buffet is  in the main dining room with two carving stations,  fried chicken, two fresh catches, waffles, pancakes, omelets, the self-proclaimed best ever eggs Benedict, desserts and more.
Management had heard all the stories about the ghost of Anna Paynter being sited numerous times in the building through the years.  Mike Pessagno hasn’t seen her yet but did get the shock of his life, however, when he was in his second-floor office and hollerd out, “If there’s a spirit here, then give me a sign.”  He said that a shower than had not worked in forever suddenly came on and stopped as suddenly. 

Maybe that was just a sign from Anna Paytner that she indeed approves of the restaurant’s new incarnation.

Copper Top Southern American Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Open at 10 a.m. daily
1712 Beach Boulevard
Jacksonville Beach, FL 32250
(904) 249-4684