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The Remarkable Story Behind the Copper Door Restaurant in Bedford and Salem, N.H.

An inside look at one of New Hampshire's finest, most beautiful restaurants


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Copper Door, Bedford, N.H.

Copper Door, Bedford.

The Copper Door Restaurant in Bedford and Salem, N.H., goes beyond elemental in its mission to offer a fine dining experience for all walks of life to enjoy.

At the flagship Bedford location, the strip mall and modern residential setting outside the restaurant might look familiar, but that's where the recognizable scenes end. The arched copper-clad door, costing approximately $20K, sets a significant, appropriate first impression.

Copper Door restaurant entrance, Bedford, N.H.
Copper Door at the Copper Door Restaurant in Bedford.

The restaurant magic continues beyond the door, however, leading into a beautiful rustic New Hampshire dining room and bar setting that, for many, creates a love at first sight scenario. 


Dining room and bar at the Copper Door in Bedford, N.H.
Bar and dining room section with fireplace.

New Hampshire-style post and beam vaulted ceilings, wood floors, a large stone hearth fireplace, local art, spacious dining rooms and bar area and comfortable nooks with sofas lend a cozy, modern-meets-traditional New Hampshire vibe.

"It's a memorable name that becomes more memorable when touching the door," said Tom Boucher, CEO and Owner of the Copper Door. "The name sounds inviting and the post and beam look gives it that New Hampshire feel."

Nice touches of farmhouse-like design and decor make one feel right at home...

Inviting farmhouse decor at the Copper Door restaurant in Bedford, N.H.
Beautiful decor and design flourishes at the Copper Door.

The palladium windows lend a sunny, open feel to the dining rooms.

Large palladium windows add a nice touch to the farmhouse-style dining room at the Copper Door in Bedford, N.H.
Main dining room at the Copper Door.

Although the Copper Door is a large-sized restaurant, it feels small and intimate from virtually every angle. Case-in-point: this nook to the left of the entrance...

Cozy section at Copper Door restaurant in Bedford, N.H.
Enjoying a nice meal in a living room-type setting.

The Copper Door also goes beyond just booths and tables with some areas of the restaurant that look like someone's ultra cozy living room at home...

Sofa at the Copper Door restaurant in Bedford, N.H.

Sofa off the dining room area at the Copper Door in Bedford.

Fine Food and Drink Without the Pretentiousness

Open kitchen at Copper Door restaurant in Bedford, N.H.
Open kitchen at the Copper Door.

There's a fine line between chain restaurant food, fine dining cuisine and a restaurant experience that is too casual. Too many restaurants often get confused -- not knowing their role or overall mission -- and end up trying to please everyone. Often, this is a business recipe for disaster, although many survive on mediocrity at the sake of convenience.

On the other hand, the Copper Door's laser focus business mission, a well-chosen staff including four managers onsite for the majority of business hours, and a studied approach to locally sourcing and creating delicious cuisine helps elevate this restaurant far beyond the norm. First, the Copper Door sources from 12 local New England farms, gets its beef from selected ranchers in the Midwest and hand cut by a team of in house butchers, fresh seafood constantly brought in from Boston and desserts made in-house. Add an impressive craft beer and whiskey list, creative cocktails, and 140 varieties of wine (they earned a "Wine Spectator Award of Excellence" for seven years), and the foundation is there for a wonderful dining experience for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch.

Wine cabinet at the Copper Door in Bedford, N.H.
Wine cabinet at the Copper Door in Bedford.

"We are not too over the top -- like serving wild game meat," said Boucher, 54. "We are New Hampshire. This is not Boston. We wanted a more approachable type of food. We do offer New American food. It's like comfort foods turned up a notch."


A nice way to start off the experience is with some fresh out-of-the-oven monkey bread. This is not your basic typical home kitchen version as herbs, cheese, butter, and a salty and sweet taste create a one-of-a-kind bread.

Sweet and salty monkey bread enhanced with herbs, cheese and butter from The Copper Door in Bedford and Salem, N.H.
Monkey bread.

The Copper Door also serves a different version of unsweetened raspberry ice tea as it's made at the table -- a hot pot of water to steep the tea. a pitcher of ice to cool things down,  and a tall glass to enjoy the tasty drink. Delicious and refreshing!

Unsweetened raspberry ice tea from the Copper Door in Bedford, NH.
A nice twist to the typical unsweetened iced tea.

The Five Onion Gratinee stands as a customer favorite before a meal or as a standalone with its caramelized onion, thyme, sherry, Swiss Cheese, provolone, and brioche crouton.

"I love the onion soup," said Monika Flagg, a regular at the Copper Door in Bedford. "I work in the area and it's always nice to come here for lunch."

Yummy  homemade French Onion Soup from The Copper Door in Bedford and Salem, NH.
Five Onion Gratinee. Photo source: Copper Door Facebook fan page.

A Green Goddess Salad also makes for a healthy precursor to the main meal. It is made with baby spinach, arugula, green pea, cucumber, shaved celery, asparagus, avocado, goat cheese, pistachio and Green Goddess dressing. Some prefer to make it the primary meal.

Fresh salad with locally-sourced lettuce from the Copper Door in Bedford, NH>
Green Goddess Salad.
Photo credit: the Copper Door.

Highly recommended for a main course is the tender, flavorful and amply served cedar planked salmon over warm quinoa, feta cheese, tomatoes and asparagus. It is cooked on a wooden plank at 650 degrees.

Cedar planked salmon with three grain pilaf, haricort verts and sun-dried pesto tomato from the Copper Door in Bedford, N.H.
Cedar planked salmon.

The buttermilk fried chicken is one of the most popular dishes with juicy fried chicken, roasted garlic smashed potato, pancetta asparagus and roasted chicken gravy.

Juicy fried chicken from the Copper Door in Bedford and Salem, N.H.
Fried chicken from the Copper Door.
Photo source: Copper Door Facebook fan page.

The Pan Seared Halibut Vierge has corn crab hash, fingering potato, pearl onion, roasted red peppers and sweet compound butter.

Wood roasted New England haddock from the Copper Door in Bedford, N.H.
Halibut dinner from the Copper Door.
Photo credit: the Copper Door.

The mouthwatering Cowboy Burger features brioche, bibb lettuce (from Donabedian Farms in Salem, N.H.), tomato, applewood smoked bacon, chipotle, onion straws, pepper jack cheese and house fries.

The Cowboy Burger from the Copper Door in Bedford and Salem, N.H., features brioche, bibb lettuce, tomato, bacon, chipotle, onion straws, pepper jack cheese and fries.
Cowboy burger.
Photo source: Copper Door Facebook fan page.

Restaurants and take out joints that specialize in pizza and flatbreads usually serve the best versions, but the Copper Door often surpasses those places. The combination of fresh tomato, cheese, herbs, and abundant toppings ranks right up there with the best.

Homemade pizza from the Copper Door in Bedford and Salem, N.H.
Pizza from the Copper Door.
Photo source: Copper Door Facebook fan page.

Midwest sourced and Copper Door created, the New York strip steak also serves as a local favorite.

New York strip steak from the Copper Door in Bedford and Salem, NH.
New York strip steak. Photo credit: Copper Door

The desserts are literally and figuratively sweet, including the homemade chocolate peanut butter cheesecake with peanut butter, chocolate cookie crust, dark chocolate ganache and peanut butter sauce.

Chocolate peanut butter cheesecake from the Copper Door in Bedford, N.H.
Chocolate peanut butter cheesecake from the Copper Door. Photo source: Copper Door Facebook fan page.

For adults 21+, the martini and cupcake combo makes things that much sweeter. Each month brings a new combo.

Carrot Caketini from the Copper Door in Bedford and Salem, NH -- rumchata, vanilla vodkam butterscotch schnapps, a dash of nutmeg and struesel rim.
Cupcake and drink pairing for the adults.

"It is always so nice coming here," commented Jennifer Delisle. "It is kind of like the hub of Bedford for restaurants.  I like the bacon wrapped meatloaf the best!"


The Copper Door also offers a "gluten intolerant menu" that includes snacks, soups and salads, chicken, steak and seafood dinners, and a Chocolate Sin Cake with dense fudge-like cake and cranberry compote.

"Having Celiac's Disease and other allergies, going out to eat is a challenge," said Angelica Basile, a New Hampshire native now living in Bremerton, Wash. "The Copper Door was one of the most accommodating restaurants I’ve ever been to. They treated me like a person, attending to my needs rather than an inconvenience with all of my specifications."

Why Tom Boucher Said "CU Later" to His Previous Career Track (And Please Pardon the Copper Pun)


Tom Boucher, CEO of the Copper Door in Bedford and Salem, N.H.
Tom Boucher, CEO and owner of the Copper Door. Photo credit: the Copper Door.

Tom once studied chemistry in college but, ironically, never found complete career chemistry until opening the Copper Door.

He earned a bachelor's degree in chemistry in 1987 from Merrimack College in North Andover, Mass., and then found himself on a full scholarship to Villanova University in Philadelphia, Penn. Six months later at Villanova, however, Boucher realized there was no scientific validation behind his ambitions to continue in the field.

He left Villanova and soon took what he thought was an interim job waiting tables at T-BONES in Hudson, N.H. Boucher soon found out, however, that his employment at T-BONES was anything but a dead-end job.

"A manager there suggested I become kitchen manager," said Boucher, a Nashua, N.H. native now living in Bedford. "That's where it kind of all began. I loved it, although I didn't have much experience."

In a relatively short amount of time, Boucher worked tirelessly at virtually every job in the field, leading to restaurant management and ownership. His hard work and passion for the business paid off, becoming founding partner of Cactus Jack's (Laconia) in 2007. He then took on additional roles as director of marketing and director of operations for T-BONES (Bedford, Derry, Hudson, Laconia and Salem), Cactus Jack's and CJ's Great West Grill (Manchester). Tom became CEO of Great NH Restaurants in 2004 and he and his partners opened Copper Door in Bedford in 2011. Finding great success there, the Salem Copper Door opened in 2017.

Dining room and bar at the Copper Door in Salem, N.H.
Dining scene at the Copper Door, Salem, N.H. Photo source: Great NH Restaurants.

Representing New Hampshire as a board member in the National Restaurant Association, Tom traveled with his wife, Dana, for many years to meetings where they loved discovering restaurants that combined a fine dining experience with an absence of stuffiness. Based on the trend-setting restaurants they experienced, Tom and Dana came up with their own ideas on how to start their own dining establishment. They took copious notes and constantly communicated with each other on a future restaurant.

Dana, a freelance artist (BreathOfFreshArt.com), created the interior design for the Copper Door while CFO and owner Mark Fenske brought his expertise in the fields of construction, equipment needs and architectural design to potentiate the vision. With 30 years of experience at T-BONES and Cactus Jack's, Chief of Restaurant Operations and Owner Dan Fraser completed the grand concept with his considerable skill set in the culinary and operations fields.


Artist Dana Boucher created the design for the Copper Door Restaurant in Bedford, N.H.
Dana Boucher. Photo credit: the Copper Door.

Dana's art work can be seen in the restaurant, thus adding a wonderful touch of regional scenes to the Copper Door.

Dana Boucher's art work can be seen throughout the Copper Door restaurant in Bedford, NH.
Farmscape scene created by Dana Boucher.

Dana Bocuher's art work can be seen at the Copper Door restaurant in Bedford, NH.
An example of Dana's art work near the bar.

"I have one of her pieces of art work in my house!" said Delisle. "She is very talented."

Generosity That Reflects The New Hampshire Spirit

 
The ambitions and human decency within Tom extends far beyond the Copper Door. He is CEO of Great NH Restaurants, Inc., which also oversees T-BONES, Cactus Jack's, CJ's Great West Grill and a commissary that delivers food to the restaurants, as well as the philanthropic presence of FEEDNH.org. Additionally, Great NH Restaurants plans to open the Bull & Bear Kitchen and Sports Bar in Bedford around Thanksgiving 2019.

Since 1984, Great NH Restaurants, Inc has donated over $1,250,000 in gift certificates to thousands of non-profits throughout New Hampshire. They created FEEDNH.org in 2014 to provide funding, food and volunteer services to meet the needs of New Hampshire- based non-profits benefiting families, the elderly, education and the disadvantaged, according to the Great NH web site. Since its inception, FEEDNH.org has donated over $350,000.

Great NH Restaurants, including the Copper Door, have left no stone unturned when it comes to generosity. Look at what they accomplished in 2018...

$1,711, 541 in total promotional discounts
$237,784 raised to help those in need through FeedNH.org
$117,945 in total gift card donations
$11,399 in military discounts

Additionally, Great NH Restaurants has instituted a Random Acts of Kindness initiative with, for starters, free desserts, appetizers, meals and other "surprises" at all locations. Their generosity to customers include cancer survivors and children facing illness to those who have vital, noble roles in our society like the military and teachers.

Conclusion/Personal Recommendation

I usually don't include a personal recommendation as a standalone section within an article, but, in this case, I feel strongly compelled to do so with the Copper Door.

Something felt so different seeing that magnificent Copper Door and then walking into one of the most beautifully designed restaurants I have ever seen. Once at the Bedford restaurant, I immediately witnessed the close-knit community amongst owner, managers and staff at they met to talk about "hot button issues" and menu specials. They seemed to all get along beautifully with an owner that seemed more like a favorite uncle than a restaurant owner (Tom politely left this photo opportunity below to be interviewed by me).

Staff meets before the Copper Door restaurant open for the day in Bedford, N.H.
Staff meeting at the Copper Door.

I later learned that more than 80 percent of the staff at Great NH Restaurants have been employed at the various locations for 10 or more years. That says a lot about employee satisfaction in a field that usually yields a large turnover. I did meet one employee who was about to leave, but it was strictly for pursuing an academic degree in another field. Before she revealed her career plans, the young woman expressed how happy she has been working at the Copper Door. She was genuine, as her words came to life through enthusiasm.

What's more, the staff exuded a collectively pleasant and professional demeanor that, as we know, doesn't always happen when dining out. Everything ran so smoothly -- no surprise, given the presence of an onsite owner (which is the case at all Great NH Restaurants) and a constant management oversight that seems more humane and assertive than overbearing and aggressive.

"I ran a kitchen for 10 years, so I know what it's like to work every job and am sensitive to that," said Boucher. "The difference from how restaurants were run 25 years ago compared to how we run a restaurant now is 10-fold better. There's so much better support now. We also take care of things in house, such as having our own HVAC guy and our own graphic and web design."

Throughout the restaurant, you can see staff exhibiting pride whether it's in their job descriptions of not. Here, manager and host Amber Osgood could be seen cleaning a door in between seating customers and helping oversee aspects of restaurant operations...

Employee pride at the Copper Door Restaurant in Bedford, NH; a manager cleans a door in between seating guests and overseeing management operations.

Of course, the beauty of this restaurant and the staff that makes it all so pleasant would all be for naught if the food wasn't good. As a suburban Boston resident, I have been to many highly regarded city restaurants. The Copper Door meets or exceeds the best Boston area fine dining restaurants I have been to, and, in some cases, goes well beyond. Plus, where can you find ample parking in Boston? I also think the Copper Door is also less uptight than many city restaurants whether it be the innate more laid back, friendliness of the region or a restaurant owner that sets a more enjoyable tone for managers, staff and customers. You don't have to speak quietly here, overspend on upscale food or dress up in expensive formal clothing (you can if you want, though). This is a clearly restaurant for everyone to enjoy.

A sense of community prevails at the Copper Door Restaurant in Salem, N.H.
A strong sense of community exists at the Copper Door.

I am generally not a fan of restaurants that are part of a larger group. Something almost always seems to get watered down from the original concept to the point where the expansion can result in becoming more like a national chain.  The Copper Door, on the other hand, has impressively avoided that industry pratfall, clearly because of pride of ownership and a clear vision.

"Having a second Copper Door has worked well," said Boucher. "It is far enough away (from the Bedford location) so it does not cannibalize this one."

I had never met Tom Boucher before prior to this visit but, within minutes, fully understood what he has done with the Copper Door. He is a great communicator. Also, within a few minutes, we became more comfortable talking with each other, to the point of which I felt I had known him for a long time. Consider his authenticity and determination to succeed intangibles to clearly benefit customers and staff.

Tom and the group who bought into the Copper Door concept spared no expense in creating these restaurants (including Tom's dad and three brothers). The Bedford location cost $4.5 million to open, Salem $6 million.

Copper Door Restaurant in Salem, N.H.
Copper Door Restaurant, Salem, N.H. Photo source: Great NH Restaurants web site.
 
"You want to make money, you have to spend a lot of money," said Tom with a slight laugh.

To take that chance by spending so much was an enormous risk, knowing that the majority of restaurants fail within a few years. In fact, the Bedford opening around Christmas of 2011 raised some initial concerns.

"It was so busy and we did not execute well for three months," said Tom. "The staff was new to working in the building and we didn't staff enough. We learned some valuable lessons. In Salem, we staffed well and we were much more ready."


Like copper having high conductivity as an element on the periodic table, the Copper Door possesses an electric presence on the New Hampshire restaurant scene that has brought in a current and flow of new and regular customers every day. Many locals come here more than once a week and travelers frequently discover this gem of a restaurant driving to or from destinations like the White Mountains, Lakes Region, Monadnock Region and Boston.

Cozy scene at the Copper Door in Bedford NH.
Inviting scene at the Copper Door in Bedford.

"I remember one time telling my Dad when I was in college, 'You know, I could picture owning a restaurant.’ It’s just one of those things I’ll never forget."

Truer words couldn't have been spoken. Kudos to this would-be chemist for finding all the right solutions to a fostering a positive career!

"I am glad I chose this career and would only change one thing if I had to do it all over again," said Tom. "I would have majored in business rather than chemistry. Otherwise, I'd do it all over again. I love what I am doing and so grateful for the people that surround me."

Copper Door Restaurant Locations

Bedford: 15 Leavy Drive, Bedford NH. Tel. 603-488-2677.

Salem:
41 South Broadway, Salem, NH. Tel. 603-458-2033.

Web site: http://www.copperdoorrestaurant.com

Facebook fan page: http://www.facebook.com/CopperDoor


Instagram page: https://www.instagram.com/copperdoornh/


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The Copper Door Restaurant in Bedford and Salem, N.H.,offers a wonderful fine dining experience without the stuffiness and a beautiful, spacious restaurant setting.



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