Top in the nation
Whether they’ve eaten at The Copper Door or not, pretty much everyone who lives in Clay County or its vicinity knows the restaurant’s gourmet dining reputation. Others traveling to our town, often reserve a table there for a special dinner. Now, even more people are hearing of Chef Dennis Barber’s restaurant and inspired cuisine.
After visiting downtown Hayesville, “The Tarheel Traveler’s” Scott Mason, proclaimed The Copper Door one of North Carolina’s top restaurants during his Aug. 22 show. Mason called Chef Barber, “The man with a golden touch or a copper touch.” During the video segment, which is available online, Mason commented multiple times about how small a town Hayesville is and how great The Copper Door is. He also spoke with several restaurant guests who agreed with Mason’s report.
In 2012, Barber was surprised when The Copper Door was named as one of Yelp’s top 100 restaurants in America. “There were lots of restaurants in New York and other big cities,” he said with a smile. “Some in Asheville and Boone and then there we were.” In addition, a sticker displayed near the menu outside the front door shows a Hall of Fame Certificate of Excellence from Trip Advisor for five consecutive years 2014-18.
Barber opened his restaurant in March 2007, after spending two years remodeling the former Ed Jones service station near Historic Hayesville’s courthouse square. Another renovation is occurring now, which will expand the restaurant and open a new private dining room. A new entrance, complete with a large copper door, will be in use this week. The entire restaurant also has an evolving art collection of various styles, including a painting by one of The Copper Door’s employees.
Barber enjoys the restaurant business so much, about two years ago, he and his family opened Carlotta’s Snoballs on Highway 64 across from United Community Bank in Hayesville. He said the idea for that came when Susanne Hanson suggested he do sandwiches or other smaller fare for Hayesville’s Friday Night Concerts on the square. He decided there may be a niche for something new. Carlotta’s serves traditional New Orleans sandwiches like Muffulettas and Po’Boys, along with other foods and Snoballs. It is still growing and will eventually include a New Orleans-style market.
The Copper Door also has a wine selection with more than 300 varieties and a full bar. The menu is available online and includes seafood, beef, pork and lamb chops, along with a selection of starters and desserts. They also do catering.
Born in Memphis, Barber’s family moved to New Orleans when he was a young boy. His mother was a good cook, but she did not immerse her family in the New Orleans style of cooking. That came later for the chef.
His culinary horizons were expanded a bit while he was stationed in eastern North Carolina as a Marine. “That barbecue was different than anything I had as a boy in Memphis or New Orleans,” he explained. Though he had another career earlier in life, his interest in food prompted him to attend culinary school. His proximity to New Orleans allowed him to apprentice at a fine hotel restaurant which allowed Barber to learn from chefs representing several European countries, including France and Germany.
While Barber was attending college in Hammond, La., 50 miles north of New Orleans, a historic home in his college town was renovated into a fine dining restaurant. According to The Copper Door’s website, “The memory of dining experiences there stayed with Dennis and he decided that one day he might like to try his hand at something similar.” Years later, he learned about the vacant buildings in Clay County and he knew his vision may come to fruition.
Barber married Hayesville High School Foreign Language teacher, Patricia Moore, who sometimes helps in the restaurant, especially weekends and holidays. Barber and The Copper Door have not only become one of the top 100 restaurants in the United States and one of North Carolina’s best, but they are synonymous with downtown Hayesville.
At the end of the Tar Heel Traveler video, Barber stated what he feels every day. “I wake up every morning and look at these mountains that God created and go, ‘this is gorgeous.’”
The Copper Door is open from 5-10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Closed Sunday and Monday. Reservations are recommended. The restaurant is in downtown Hayesville, at 2 Sullivan Street. Visit: www.thecopperdoor.com or call (828) 389-8460.
To see the “Tar Heel Traveler’s: video, visit: www.wral.com/hayesville-restaurant-named-one-of-best-in-country.