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Aug 22, 2012 11:01 AM

Copper Canyon - Atlantic Highlands NJ - Review

I decided to dine there for the first time this past Saturday Aug. 18th. with my wife. Although I have heard good things about this place in the past it was actually a thread on here regarding the best Rib Eye steak in Monmouth County in which corvette Johnny kept posting about how good the steak was here that motivated me to give this place a try.

While this was my first time eating here I have been here once before but just for cocktails. The bar and restaurant made a favorable impression with me on my first visit so with corvette Johnny recommendation ringing in my head I decided to go back and try it for dinner. We arrived at about 6:45 without a reservation and the hostess told us we could have a table as long as we understood they had a reservation for it at 8:15pm….that seemed like sufficient time so we agreed and were immediately seated. Although the hostess made this comment throughout the night the restaurant always seemed to have 1 or 2 tables vacant so I’m not sure what the sense of urgency was unless this specific table was requested.

Although I knew it was a tex-mex theme I didn’t realize it really is a more Mexican restaurant than I anticipated. Even though I was set on having steak the rest of the menu was rather unappealing to me as Mexican is about the only ethnic food that does NOTHING to excite me. We ordered a couple of cocktails (they don’t carry Stoli vodka so I had to settle for Kettle One they do however have an extensive tequila list) we ordered the chips and salsa and also the guacamole as starters. The chips were nice, fresh, crisp with a nice seasoning on them…the guacamole was delicious although I was hoping they made it table side as I have seen done a few times in NY……the salsa I was not a big fan of. Upon looking back at the menu it does describe it as being made from “Charred” tomatoes and that char flavor carries through and didn’t appeal to me. But it was accurately described on the menu so I can’t blame them for it not being prepared correctly.

Although I went there with the steak as my entrée after listening to the specials they had braised short ribs as a special and I couldn’t pass it up. My wife ordered the Mahi Mahi off the menu. When the entrée’s arrived the Mahi Mahi was a very large portion…they sure didn’t skimp on that serving size. The fish was fresh and very tasty. My braised short rib while tender and prepared excellent….it came with a heavy bbq-esq type sauce on it which really didn’t do the meat much justice. I prefer my shortribs with a port wine reduction or something along those lines…..not a heavy thick sauce….which is how these were served. The sauce’s flavor didn’t seem to compliment the very tasty and well prepared short ribs……the dish wasn’t bad…but just didn’t compliment each other in my opinion. It was served with a jalapeño mashed potato which was delicious.

The Giants pre-season game against the Jets was being recorded at home thus we skipped desert and just headed home well before our 8:15pm eviction notice. The service/waitress was very good…..the bus people and runners were excellent water glass always refilled etc. Overall if you are into Mexican food I would strongly recommend this place. I myself might go back to try that steak….but other than for that reason I’m doubtful I would return strictly because I’m not a huge fan of Mexican cuisine…but that is no fault of Copper Canyon.

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  1. Your'e killing me! You didn't try the steak? LOL Hopefully you can get back and give it a shot. I get it every time.

    I love the salsa there but salsa types/flavors are obviously all over the place. You can ask ten people how they like salsa and you will get 10 answers, much like a cheeseburger or pizza slice.

    gauc is good IMO (very good) but overpriced in my eyes.

    behind at back later...

    I just got back from maine last night. I need to post of pic of the 4 poundah hard shell I demolished!, it is good to see a substantial review of a place and not a 2 sentence rant about an establishment....well done.

    3 Replies
    1. re: corvette johnny

      yeah yeah yeah.....I know I should have gotten the steak!!! lol I guess I got what I deserved by not listening to the advice given!! lol

      I like to give people their money's worth with my reviews. Again I feel bad although I didn't particularly care for's not a bad place.

      Hey I better see you and your Vette tonight at the meet and greet !!!

      1. re: jrvedivici

        Also you missed the lamb lolly pops!! They rock, i could probably eat 3 orders myself. Nice review

        1. re: angelo04

          Wow your right I did miss that.....had I seen it I would have ordered it for sure. I guess the chip's and guac just caught my eye given the nature of the place. Looks like I will have to go back at least one more time for the lamb and steak!

    2. I have dined there on a Saturday night as well as on a Sunday night, and both times I was disappointed by the service. When I made the reservations, I was informed of the two hour limit on the table. I didn't need to be constantly reminded of it by the hostess and the wait staff. Your comment about the hostess and the questionable sense of urgency is so true! During both visits the wait staff started clearing plates before everyone at the table had finished their meal. They presented us with the check within 75 minutes, so I am not even sure why they bother to mention the 2 hour policy.

      6 Replies
      1. re: NYCPA

        Here is a review of the place I did....

        Here is a legit review from a person who has been here well over 40 times, probably more over the course of several years. After reading some of these bozo reviews, I figured I owe this place an honest review to help travelers decide if this is the right spot for them. I am a local and frequent the Copper Canyon. I am a big fan and it deserves a REAL review, not these 2 sentence 1 star reviews.from disgruntled people with questionable taste.

        This is really a culinary experience if you enjoy bold flavors and a new twist on food. It kind of has a southwest flare, for lack of a better description. It is defintely not Mexican food.

        To start, I will say that this place has one of the best steaks I have ever had. At $31.95 it is a NY strip steak seasoned to perfection with a unique blend of spices, It is well worth the average price tag for a phenomenal steak. It is cooked to your liking and when you order medium rare, you get a medium rare steak. I get this steak every single time I go, without fail. The seasoning is unique and completely balanced. It doesn't overpower the taste of the steak. It is bold yet subtle enough to let the true beef flavor take reign. Trust me on this, it is a world class steak! I have had steak all over the world, including real kobe beef whlle in Japanese steak houses (which, by the way, is worth every hundred you will spend on a single piece!) So back to the steak at is a NY strip folks. This is the way it is done and I am sorry for you filet lovers, but the NY strip is where the flavor is at. If you only eat filets and and wont cut a little fat off a steak, this place is probably not for you. This is NOT a steakhouse. They have one steak and it is done exceptionally well. Rumor has it the chef covets his special blend so much that he prepares the rub at home so people can't see what goes into it, and I believe it.

        So here is where I will help people decide whether this place is right for them. Here are some factors that people may not like:

        a) This place gets crowded and on a friday/sat you will have to wait for a table most likely. Even with some negative reviews here on trip advisor, they have not affected the fan club of this restaruant. This place has lines to get in and has a cult like following. I see the same people here over and over. In fact, many know me by name.

        b) the price is not "expensive" as some people have said. An epic steak for 31.95 is not bad. You get nailed if you drink heavily. I like to indulge and at 11.00 a pop for a margarita, you can rack up a bill. Expensive is subjective so based on these prices, the place may not be for you. The steak is the most expensive thing on the menu so it is not bad in my eyes.

        c) The place is LOUD. It gets crowded and due to the amount of people, and most likely acoustics of the room, the volume will rise. It will be loud on a friday or saturday...mark my word. If you want a romantic and quiet night, look elsewhere.

        So onto some other tips for lighter fare (remember, don't go here without getting the steak if you are a NY strip lover!)...

        The chips and salsa are really top notch! Defintely order this and you won't be dissapointed. It is smokey, spicy and a bargain at 2 or 3 bucks. The guacamole is really good but a rip off for what you pay. The crab cake is serious! I recommend that and the baked brie with salsa is so good that I now make it at home and strive to replicate it. It is a baked cast iron pan filled with salsa while brie is melted into the salsa. Whole garlic cloves are the icing on the cake. You put all of this melted goodness inside a warm flour tortilla. I don't even like brie but this dish is just outrageous! The arugula salad with thick chucks of bacon is my wife's favorite and at 11.00 it is a fair price. If you feel like the steak isn't going to fill you up, maybe try the charcoal grilled lamb chops with tropical salsa or the pork taco if you feel really hungry. Normally the steak, chips and salsa, and an app like the salsa/brie fill my strong appetite.

        As for the service, they have excellent staff. There is one clown I know of, but every place has one or two. Ask for Fernando and he is a great guy. He will take good care of you.

        In summation, this place is a great restaurant that is unlike any place I have been to. It is not for everyone but hopefully my review will help some of you decide if it is a spot you will like. Remember, GET THE STEAK! Why not 5 stars you ask? Well here is my news flash for the owner. I would have given this 5 stars but after a certain point in time the drinks went down hill. In a nut shell, they skimped out on the liquor and jacked the prices up. I like a strong drink and the margaritas now are not strong. An ounce of tequlia in a full cup of ice for 11 bucks is steep and I am sure he knows it. They are delicious and made with fresh lime juice but they need some backbone. The old bar tenders used to have a heavy hand and now with the regiment of measuring out a single ounce of tequila, I am left ordering several drinks when I used to get 2 and be fine. I still love this place but the drinks need to be stiffened. Even my friends noticed this and agreed with my opinion.

        Now, please read on if you want to hear my review on tequila in particular. This place has a fine selection of Anejo, Reposado, and blancos....even the small batch extra anejo like Don Julio Real. They have dozens and dozens of tequilas. I am a tequila fan so if you like to slowly sip a fine glass of tequila, this place has you covered. I highly suggest a glass of Don Julio 1942. At 20.00 for a glass, a snifter of this will leave you wanting more! Sometimes you deserve a treat and this is my treat after a long work week. Sip it slow gents as it is an epic glass of tequila and wonderfully complex. Every few trips I will have a glass and it is like candy. I even buy a bottle or two once in a while online and it is my favorite tequila in the world.

        Corvette Johnny

        1. re: corvette johnny

          Ok...ok...ok......enough already!! I'm going back tonight!!! I'll have the steak and report back tomorrow!!!! As you stated this place isn't for everyone and that was exactly my impression it's not a bad place at all.....but it just wasn't for me. I'm going to try the steak tonight and maybe that alone will win me over.

          1. re: jrvedivici

            The steak is seriously tasty and very different than anything around here. If you don't think so, we are on two different planets then LOL

            If you like raw tuna, the tuna carpaccio is really good. (heavy on cilantro so make sure you like that as well)

            The smoky margarita is another one I love there. Again, not for everyone but a cool drink if you like some heat. It is made with jalapeno infused tequila. The first few sips are a little "eye opening" but after it waters down a tad it becomes smoother.

            They have saw tooth ale as a fine beer choice. That is a mighty fine brew from Colorado that recently made its way out here to the east in the last year or so.

            I infuse my own tequila at home to mimic this and my margaritas come out top notch!

            Fish tacos are decent too. My wife gets them once in a while and I will have a bite or two.

          2. re: corvette johnny

            corvette johnny - I understand that you are trying to give a more in depth review of CC, but after 40+ visits you've only mention a handful of the menu items! I think that I'd like to add a list of my favorites - to go along with yours. I'd also like to add, and this has been a topic for debate in the past, that chips & salsa are menu items - they are not free! I don't have a problem with that at all, because these items that are prepared by the kitchen, not taken out of a bag or a jar. I don't have too much time to elaborate on these dishes, they're just what I fell deserves mention. Fish Taco's, Crab Cake (mentioned previously on this thread - seconded here) Jalapeno Caesar Salad, Chile Rellenos - interesting combo of shitake, black beans & goat cheese. While CC does have it's menu roots planted south of the border, I wouldn't necessarily go as far as to call it a Mexican restaurant. To sum it all up - TRY THE STEAK!!!!!!

            1. re: drubenero

              I agree that it would be wrong to classify CC as a Mexican restaurant. I would say it's more southwestern then anything else (e.g. Mark Miller and Coyote Cafe).

              1. re: drubenero

                When I think about it, I have been here way more than 40 times. That was a light estimate. Yes I agree, I tend to stick with what works. I have tried many of the items there but have my favorites. The rellenos are tasty too : )

                Do you remember the old chips? They were outrageous! They were much thicker and more "substantial." Those were the days....killer chips, lower cost drinks and heavy handed bar tenders. I still like it but a few years back was their time to shine. Back then it was much easier to get a table too. Word is out now....

                For people that don't know, this place doesn't even have a sign saying its name...seriously. There is simply a horseshoe above the building and nothing else. No fancy big sign or advertising anywhere...just word of mouth.

          3. Also worth mentioning the chef was a recent James Beard Nominee which may also explain. The long waits for tables.

            2 Replies
            1. re: angelo04

              I sit at the bar a lot and believe it or not, people from NY take the ferry over and eat there. I have talked to quite a few folks from NYC.

              1. re: angelo04

                I'd have to agree with angelo04, the James Beard nomination probably is playing a part in the long waits. In fairness though, I still think it was harder to get a table when CC was located across the street. (the same location that most recently was home to AMA) The first time I tried to get in without a reservation, I asked to sit at the bar, to which the reply was 'It's reserved'. Here's to continued success, and more great food from Copper Canyon!

                1. re: drongo

                  Interesting review by Pat....

                  JR, For your info, I just posted the review I did a while back. I didn't just write that up now. I wrote that a while back for another site.

                  I thought it was "relevant" so I put it into this thread. I wasn't trying to hijack your thread.

                  Anyway, hopefully you find this steak to be a tasty one!

                2. Ok being the man of my word that I try to be I did in fact pay a visit to Copper Canyon again last night to try the steak which Corvette Johnny has been so very persistent in his accolades. The Corvette Johnny Canyon Steak or CJCCS.

                  I arrived at about 5:30pm which was still happy hour for them which includes some $7.00 appetizers and drink specials. I hadn’t had a thing to eat all day and I was starving....I ordered the brie which I read somewhere here was excellent however the bartender having heard me mention how starving I was noted the brie would take a little while and suggested I order the chips and salsa and guacamole as an appetizer as it would be much quicker… my state of hunger I agreed and ordered both appetizers off the $ 7.00 happy hour menu. Again the chips and guacamole were excellent…..the salsa has that char/smoky taste which I don’t particularly care for but it’s still fresh and good just not my favorite combination of flavors for a salsa.

                  I had a few chips and guacamole to take the edge of my hunger and soon enough the brie arrived. As I said I ordered it simply because I read someone brag about it on here and it was on the happy hour menu……well this is what I get for not reading…..the brie is prepared in the same charred salsa that the chips are served with!! Again my own fault! It is a very interesting combination and the brie and garlic seem to off set that char taste which is so prevalent in the salsa alone…..the combination turned out to be good after about the 3rd one though I had enough of the charred salsa and was ready to try the infamous CJCCS.

                  The CCJCCS is a decent sized cut…..not to big not to small I would say a 14/16oz which is adequate for a strip. As noted it does come with some type of a heavy rub on it….at first I thought they had charred the hell out of the steak which I ordered medium but it looked over-well done by the outside. I skeptically cut into the middle of the steak and to my relief it was the pure pink center with some natural juices flowing to the plate. The ease of the cut alone let any experienced steak eater that this was a very…VERY tender strip and upon the first bite the tenderness combined full flavors of the rub do make this an EXCELLENT steak. No question or doubt about it the CJCCS does live up to the hype. With as good as it is though.....similar to the salsa after a while about ½ - ¾ of the way through I felt that perhaps the rub was taking away from….or overshadowing the natural steak flavors. I guess I’m more of a steak purist and while this is an excellent it certainly dominates the flavor and I think almost starts to do a steak of this quality a disservice by dominating the flavor. Please understand I am in NO way trying to discredit the quality of the steak….flavors and tastes vary I just personally don’t think a steak of this quality needs such a bold rub. BUT I will gladly go back and try it a time or two more before rendering my final verdict. The seasoned shoe string fries served with the steak I think is a complete waste/mismatch for a steak of this nature……but it is what it is and at this point in the meal the accompaniment wasn’t a concern at all I was more than full.

                  I have to agree with the Pat Turner review above which says it seems certain dishes are a hit or miss. This is only based on my two dining experiences there and my out right admission that Tex-Mex (Mexican) in general is my least favorite dinning choice.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: jrvedivici

                    Nicely done! I like reading legit reviews from people that have a clue....good, bad or indifferent. So at least you finally got to try it out. I am glad you thought it was decent!

                    If you did notice, they do not have salt and pepper shakers. They will offer a small glass filled with kosher salt if asked. I usually give my steak a nice light dusting as I am one who prefers food on the saltier side.

                    And I do agree, they could do more with the side dish too but for what it is, I really enjoy the steak there and the rub is definitely speaking my language. To me, a good 31.95 steak is not all that much money. I hear rants about people explaining how it is so expensive. If you drink like me, then yeah, you can rack up a bill in no time! I might have to go tonight : )

                    1. re: corvette johnny

                      The steak is excellent no doubt about it.......I'm just torn on my personal taste(s) for it. As you said the rub is truly unique I'm just not sure if it compliments or takes away from the steak itself....but regardless it is very very good.

                      One thing I forgot to mention as you had previously brought up......I sat at the bar and was very mindful of watching their pours. I did not see one drink measured with a shot glass or any means of proper measurment. Everything was a free pour by the bartender and they seemed like decent pours. Mind you I sat at the end of the bar closest to the entrance so I have no idea what they were doing at the service end of the bar. Maybe the measuring was just a phase or trial they were going through. My drink is just straight vodka chilled so it's impossible to get a short pour on that. lol (Although I notice they only carry Kettle and Goose...I'm a stoli guy)

                      One other notable mention the hostess who last time warned me about my table time remembered me and made a point to come over and welcome me back, nice touch.

                      I will certainly be back especially to just try the steak a time or two more to draw a more conclusive opinion on how much I like the rub. lol