A Travellerspoint blog

Restaurant on the River

The Copper Rill for eating, drinking, and daydreaming

63 °F

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Rill? What’s a rill? Maybe the new restaurant sign was a mistake? The Copper Rill? Do they mean “grill”? So I looked up the word.

Rill: a small stream or brook. Ah, discovered a new word. And found a new, favorite restaurant.

The Copper Rill restaurant sits in a pretty place. It’s across the street from the Snake River and the falls. Along the river is the greenbelt, a ribbon of verdant parkland that encircles the river in this high-desert town of Idaho Falls.

We discovered the Copper Rill shortly after they opened a few months ago. I had pushed my 88-year mother in her wheelchair on the greenbelt’s asphalt trail. And after cruisin’ for a while I was ready for lunch. “Let’s try that new place,” I said to my mother, pointing to its brick façade.

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“Sounds like fun!” she said. She’s always enthusiastic about eating out.

“I hope they have beer,” I said.

Shandi Fujimoto owns and operates the Copper Rill with her partner Jud Wilcox, the chef. Shandi waits tables, keeps the books, manages the website, supervises the staff, and makes you feel like you’re a long-lost friend when she greets you.

On our third visit to the Copper Rill, Shandi came up to our table, “Hi, I’m Shandi. I’m sorry. I always try to meet our return customers. I don’t know how I missed you.”

Since then, we’ve talked with Shandi half a dozen times. My mother considers her a friend. Shandi takes the time to talk and listen.

In fact, all the servers have a easy, friendly vibe— they make you feel that you belong.

So how do you teach people how to make you feel like a good friend? How do you radiate warmth and humor without appearing to be rushed? It must be a tricky business, but Shandi seems to have figured it out.

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We’ve dined at the Copper Rill about dozen times in two months. The mahi mahi fish tacos are just right. I order mine with a fresh salad and dressings prepared from scratch. The sandwiches are fresh and generous in size and are served with your choice soup, house salad, roasted steak fries or chilled Thai vermicelli. The stir-fry is also a winner. The lunch prices are moderate ranging from about 8 to 12 dollars.

On August afternoons we sat outside at one of the patio tables dressed up in a black tablecloth with an umbrella over our heads. We absorbed the brief but bright Idaho summer— temps in the 80’s with low humidity. As the weather cooled, we’ve moved inside and sit by a window that’s ideal for daydreaming.

On our last visit, I look out the window and see a young woman jogging. Her stride is light, and her silhouette seems to float in front of the falls, a 1500-foot-wide cataract. In an instant she slides out of view. Water cascades over a diversion dam and rushes through lava rock and boulders.

Warm words from our server, Liz, awaken me from my reverie. “Would you like another beer?” she asks, smiling.

“Ah, you’ve talked me into it,” I say.

She politely laughs and returns with an I.P.A.

I look out the window again. A few more sips. A few more moments to eat, drink, and daydream.
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Posted by davidmutticlark 07:34 Archived in USA Tagged restaurant the idaho idaho_falls copper_rill Comments (0)

Bathroom Blues and Autumn Golds

A Friday frolic in Eastern Idaho

54 °F

Bathroom blues at the Co Ho

Bathroom blues at the Co Ho

Friday's prediction looked promising: sunny and cool. A perfect day for a quick getaway. So we drove 50 miles to Pocatello from Idaho Falls to eat, drink, shop, and hike.

Saul and I headed to Co Ho Coffee , a block from campus - Idaho State University - after dropping our wives off at Vain & Vintage, an antique store, on Center Street.

It was my first time at Co Ho Coffee, but it felt like home. Comfortable and cozy in a funky, art-deco kinda way. Our barista was a winsome young lass who served our espressos with a glimmering smile and a shimmering nose ring. My Americano was smooth and full-bodied. And, as is my habit, I headed to the bathroom shortly after finishing it.

The unisex water closet was comfortably clad with artwork. Strategically placed at eye level above the commode was a canvas. Was the caricature on the left of George W. Bush with his unique pronunciation of "nuclear" on the bottom right? Glancing to my right was a frosted window painted with pastels.

Mink Creek Trail

Mink Creek Trail

Co Ho Coffee bathroom window

Co Ho Coffee bathroom window

Vain and Vintage

Vain and Vintage

"Think we should go?" Saul says as I return to my seat. So we were off, driving back to Vain & Vintage to rendezvous with our wives. They had been successful. Good finds at reasonable prices.
Next stop, an Indian restaurant we had never tried, A Taste of India and Nepal in Old Town Pocatello.

For appetizers, we ordered the garlic naan, leavened bread stuffed with diced garlic and baked in their Tandoori oven. . . and vegetable samosas, crispy turnovers stuffed with potatoes and peas. Both were delicious and would have been enough for lunch. But I also opted for the buffet and an Indian beer, a Kingfisher.

We waddled away from a Taste of India, vowing to return. After plunking down in our seats in Saul’s Subaru, we headed to the West Mink Trail to walk off our lunch.
Saul and Val on Mink Creek trail

Saul and Val on Mink Creek trail

Posted by davidmutticlark 12:41 Archived in USA Tagged art coffee_shop idaho espresso pocatello Comments (0)

Funky R&B thrills at the Celt Pub & Grill

Beer tastes better in a Mormon town

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I’ll be gettin’ my R&B thrills at the Celt Pub & Grill Thursday, Oct. 10. My Buddha of the offbeat, Saul Chessin, does a solo show, funky jams from New Soul Authority CD’s and some new tunes.

If you live in Seattle or Sydney, NYC or Vancouver, BC, you may be sayin’ “So what . . ."

But I live in Idaho Falls, Idaho.

Idaho Falls is a high-desert town of 58,000. It clings to the Snake River on the eastern side of Idaho's wide bottom and is home to the nuclear cowboy.

It's a mixture of scientists and engineers who crash atoms in insulated spaces at the Idaho National Laboratory and farmers and ranchers who pick potatoes and corral cattle in gusty winds under big skies. They wear blue jeans, cowboy boots and large belt buckles and most of them belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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I don’t ride horses, rustle russets or split atoms. And I am not Mormon. So, although I’ve lived here for 23 years and love the beauty of the Tetons and Yellowstone, I’ve always felt a bit detached from Idaho Falls, never feeling comfortable calling it “home.”

If you’re headed to Yellowstone or the Grand Tetons, chances are you may travel through Idaho Falls. IF has the largest airport within a 100-mile radius of the parks.

So is it worth your while to spend some time in Idaho Falls on your way to Yellowstone or the Grand Tetons?

Absolutely yes.

As a traveler, I doubt you’ll notice the religious tension among the locals. It’s typically invisible. But sometimes the subterranean fault lines—between the Mormons and the minority population (those of us who are not Mormon)—erupt into a good, ol’ western-style, whoop-ass debate.

For example, last summer the city abruptly banned the practice of having a glass of wine or a beer with your meal while dining al fresco in charming historic downtown Idaho Falls. It violated a provision of the open container regulations— at least that was the rationale that was muttered if you asked.

But the word on the street was that several prominent Mormons resented having to share the sidewalk with those imbibing alcoholic beverages. Somehow, someway, they were able to convince the city to ban the drinking citing an open container ordinance.

Several downtown restaurants and the Idaho Falls Downtown Development Corporation protested. And, consequently, Idaho Falls found a way to resolve the conflict last March. The city council exempted restaurants from the ordinance banning drinking in public while also requiring that tables be positioned so pedestrians have enough room to pass by.

This conflict seems silly when considering the fact the city has allowed public drinking for years. Downtown Idaho Falls has a delightful summertime celebration of music, food, beer and wine. It’s called, “Alive After 5,” and it happens every Wednesday evening from 5:00 - 7:30 p.m. at the Civitan Plaza, corner of Park Avenue and B Street. Live music, local food fare, and beer are served in a festive, family-friendly outdoor atmosphere.

But given this history, imbibing beer in a public place makes it taste so much better. And listening to Saul Chessin play his funky R&B while sipping an I.P.A. becomes elevated to a decadent pleasure.

Saul plays a concoction of R&B, jazz and blues. Call it "Rocky Mountain mojo." Bold, straightforward and honest, it dispenses with distracting frills. And it's the naked truth of this soulful sound that grabs you.

Saul's story is quintessentially American. He's a polite, quiet, reflective Jewish boy who grew up in the Wild West of Missoula. As a kid, he rode horses bareback. He skied white powder. He sang in the sixth-grade boys' choir of a local evangelical Christian church because the spirituals moved him. And he fell in love with an untamable Montana girl under their well-advertised, brilliant blue skies.

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Saul is a solitary man despite usually being surrounded by people. Quiet and unassuming, he easily disappears in a crowded room. But he goes deep inside himself and mines his music coaxing out melodies and rhythms that define his life and express his passion for living and loving.

Saul has never been rich or famous. And he probably never will be. But the intimacy of his sound reminds me what music can do.

So this Thursday at the Celt Pub & Grill, I’ll drink a local brew or two while absorbing Saul’s free-flowing melodies with its strong, pulsating beat. And I’ll quote my favorite founding father, Ben Franklin: “Beer is absolute proof that God love’s us.”

Posted by davidmutticlark 14:12 Archived in USA Tagged beer pub music jazz idaho mormon blues idaho_falls saul_chessin new_soul_authority r&b Comments (0)

Saturday morning at the Farmers' Market, Idaho Falls

Autumn arrives in southeastern Idaho

sunny 46 °F

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There's snow in the foothills this morning. Cool, crisp, and clear when I open my front door. But as I look out to Taylor Mountain on the horizon, it's crowned with the white stuff.

We'd better get out and enjoy the day before the snow really flies. We need warm colors to take the chill out of the air. So we decide to visit the farmers market for the hues as well as to retrieve fresh chili peppers for Sheri's homemade Chiles Rellenos.

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Posted by davidmutticlark 12:00 Archived in USA Tagged autumn idaho handbags farmers_market idaho_falls Comments (0)

Wine Glass Bay and Freycinet in a day

Tramping and kayaking Tasmania

A beautiful Tassie day for my b-day. I had planned this for months: Wine Glass Bay, then kayaking Oyster Bay, Freycinet National Park. Yeah, one those days . . . a day that wisped all worry away.

Wineglass Bay, Tasmania

Wineglass Bay, Tasmania

Oyster Bay, Freycinet National Park, Tasmania, Australia.

Oyster Bay, Freycinet National Park, Tasmania, Australia.

Our kayaks on Oyster Bay, Freycinet National Park

Our kayaks on Oyster Bay, Freycinet National Park

Posted by davidmutticlark 10:36 Archived in Australia Tagged tasmania wine_glass_bay kayaking freycinet oyster_bay Comments (0)

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