Given Abraham Lincoln’s pervasive influence on Vandalia, it was natural to name a restaurant across the street from the Vandalia Statehouse after the 16th president. After all, it was in the majestic Statehouse where Lincoln cut his political teeth and launched his legal career.
A year ago, when owner Amy Gaffney was kicking around names for the restaurant she was about to open, something connected with Lincoln was high on the list. Emerging as her favorite was The Copper Penny Bar & Grille, because Lincoln’s image is on the coin.
It’s a name that has worked well.
“We’ve decorated around the Lincoln theme,” Gaffney said. “And we’re continuing to add more Lincoln items as we go.”
Before launching her own restaurant, Gaffney worked at The Depot, starting as a server and working her way up to general manager. After the first fire put The Depot out of business, she worked at Mabry’s in Greenville.
When the previous establishment at 125 S. Fourth St. closed down, Gaffney knew the time was right to make her move. But she had a particular style of restaurant/bar in mind.
“I wanted it to be a place you could bring your family,” she said. “I wanted it to be clean, nice and relaxing – and have unique food.”
The Copper Penny offers a full menu, including entrees, salads, sandwiches and appetizers. It also has specialty items on certain nights of the week – wings on Wednesdays, tacos on Thursdays, and all-you-can-eat walleye and shrimp on Fridays and Saturdays.
A new menu is in the works, and will be rolled out next month. Gaffney said it will include healthy items and more entrees.
Though the bar side also has several specials, Gaffney insists that the restaurant operation remains the focus.
“Some people think that we’re just a bar,” she said, “but we’re really a restaurant. We sell more food than we do alcohol. We’ve hosted a lot of reunions and birthday parties. We’re set up so that we can separate the bar side from the other side of the building.
“My favorite part of owning the restaurant is when we’re full and people are enjoying themselves,” she said. “We’ve started having some low-key acoustic guitar music, usually on Fridays, but we want to keep it so people can still sit and talk to each other.”
The one-year anniversary celebration is going on all this week, with daily specials and live entertainment Friday night. Lunches with a side and drink are $5.99 through Saturday. And the all-you-can-eat walleye or shrimp deal is still on for Friday and Saturday. Drawings for prizes will be held Saturday night from 8:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday.