While taking advantage of the very mild winter that we have been enjoying, I decided to venture off for a day trip into the Mother Lode country up Highway 4. As I approached the old town of Copperopolis, I was pleasantly surprised to discover the new development (at least to me) of the Copperopolis Town Square and especially Griffs BBQ & Grill.
Copperopolis has been around since 1850, but with the construction of the Tulloch Dam, homes started to sprout up around the lake shore follow by the building of the Saddle Creek Golf Resort and retirement community. The Mother Lode is the home of dozens of old gold mining towns; however unlike most of the other mining towns in the county, Copperopolis' claim to fame is not gold, but copper. It was founded in 1860 by William K. Reed, Dr. Allen Blatchly, and Thomas McCarty, at the site of the second big discovery of copper ore in the region. The town grew rapidly, as the need for copper during the Civil War to make bullets was great. The copper was sent to Stockton and then on to San Francisco, where it was loaded onto ships and taken around Cape Horn before finally arriving in smelters on the East Coast.
After the war ended, the expense of mining and shipping copper proved to be too high and the population dwindled as the mines closed. However, a Boston company purchased the mines in the 1880s and mining operations resumed. The town went through boom periods during the two World Wars, when demand for copper went up again. By the time the mines closed in 1946, according to the U.S. Bureau of Mines, they had produced 72,598,883 pounds of copper worth over $12 million. No copper mining has been done since.
The reason I mention all the mining history...is that Griffs BBQ & Grill owners, Dave and Michelle Griffith have gone to great extent to capture the rustic mining ambience with the restaurant's decor. The massive hand hewed rustic beams that make up the ceiling trusses and booth areas are from mines in and around Angels Camp and Susanville. The copper mining artifacts and additional reclaimed lumber have been gathered from throughout Calaveras County.
In addition to the history experience, Griff's serves up some fantastic slow smoked BBQ steaks, ribs, sandwiches and more. You'll really enjoy, as I did, the 14-hour hour ribs and pulled pork sandwiches, all complimented by their incredible barbeque sauce. For starters, try Mama's Fried Pickles, Pulled Pork Nachos, Griff's Smokes Hot Wings, or how about a basket of Garlic Fries. Griff's features custom ground meat that they prepare themselves along with In-House Cured Bacon and custom cut bacon and pastrami.
Their show stopper hamburger is labeled "Go Big or Go Home", which features a juicy Angus patty with pepper jack cheese, pulled pork, smoked bacon, onion rings, jalapeno peppers and topped with Griff's BBQ Sauce. Their signature special is the slow smoked Pulled Pork Sandwich served on a Dutch crunch roll, painted with Griff's BBQ Sauce served with coleslaw and a side of Copper Hogwash (which I'm going to let you discover on your own).
Griff's BBQ & Grill is open every day except Tuesday from 11:30 AM to 8 PM-ish or longer if necessary.
And while the area is still steeped in its historical grandeur, the Copper Valley is no longer just a piece of history but rather a destination for generations to come. Whether it's your family's next boating vacation, a wine tasting weekend with your significant other, a new family home or vacation property, Copperopolis in the Copper Valley truly has something for everyone. And at the heart of it all - the new Copperopolis Town Square, a great place to meet your friends and enjoy the many events that are held throughout the year. Travelers will discover a great place to stop and stretch their legs, walk the dog or get a bite to eat. Take a little extra time to explore the shops and buy that special someone a gift. Conveniently located on Highway 4 at the gateway to the Sierra Mother Lode country.