Cooper’s Pub on East Sycamore Street provides a welcoming atmosphere along with great food. Open since the end of January and housed in a unique building, the establishment has already attracted a following of regulars who come for the burgers, tenderloins, catfish and fun happenings. Owners and business partners Richard Knight, Rob Cooper and Tammy Cooper took their time finding the right site and refurbishing the inside.
Knight is currently an owner of two other area restaurants, The Dock in Burlington and Rossville Water Pub in Rossville. For the last 22 years he has been involved with a vast range of restaurants from fast food to fine dining. He got his start in the food service industry when he was a teenager.
“My mom was a manager at the Arnie’s Market Square restaurant in Lafayette,” Knight says. “When owner Arnie Cohen heard I was turning 15, he told her to bring me in. He said, ‘A man’s got to have a job.’ I ended up working there for seven years and learned a lot.”
“Our landlord is a friend that kept trying to get me to open a place in Kokomo,” Knight continues. “On and off for a couple of years, he would show me places but nothing seemed right until I saw this building. We are still learning about its history, but you can see the date, 1904, at the top. We do know it was a sort of general store that sold many different things including saddles and horse feed. At one time it was a brothel.”
Today the inside looks very different than it did one year ago. Gone are the unattractive blond wood planks that hid exposed brick. Tammy Cooper stained the remaining paneling a darker color, which complements hand-built tables. In the main room is a real showstopper – a wood and metal bar repurposed from an establishment once owned by friends of Knight.
“This place is a bar that happens to have really good food,” Knight says. “We make all our own dressings and sauces. The catfish is very lightly breaded and incredibly flaky. The tenderloins are popular, and the flavor combinations of the hamburgers are variations of things I’ve seen during the years I’ve been in the business.”
The menu boasts 18 different burgers including a build-your-own option with just about any topping one can think of. According to Knight, a lot of people have been ordering the Peanut Butter Burger, which includes bacon and cheddar cheese, slathered with house-made chipotle honey peanut butter sauce. Another favorite is the Coleslaw Crunch Burger, featuring pepper jack cheese, sautéed jalapeños and chipotle ketchup, with house-made coleslaw. Besides the usual french fries, sides include several salads and tater tots, as well as hand-breaded mushrooms and banana pepper slices.
Cooper’s Pub offers many varieties of beer, wine and mixed drinks. There are 20 tap lines that include Miller Lite and lager-style beer, and also craft brews such as Business Time Pickleback from Teays River Brewing in Lafayette, and a Peanut Butter Porter. The wine list has 20 different choices, and there’s also a menu for mixed drinks.
The back room as well as the alley that borders the side of the restaurant are the places where activities happen. Tuesday night features all-you-can-eat tacos, and the same happens for wings on Wednesdays and catfish on Thursdays. Cornhole competitions are held on Tuesday nights, and Mondays and Wednesdays are for dart competitions. On the last Saturday of every month, dart tournaments are held. Cooper’s Pub throws in $500 and each contestant pays a $20 fee to enter. Two of the establishment’s six dart machines are set up for international competition, and people from all over arrive for matchups in order to accumulate points for contests in places such as Las Vegas.
There’s also live music, open mic nights and even spiritual mediums at the bar. Events are posted on the Cooper’s Pub Facebook page. The back room plus a very intriguing basement space, perfect for business meetings, can be rented out to the public.
Giving back to the community is important to Knight. Both he and the Coopers are very experienced in fundraising. They are willing to partner with nonprofits and causes to raise awareness for a need, and involve volunteers in the process.
“I love it when people eat our burgers and they get messy,” Knight says. “We want this to be a place that has a congenial, friendly atmosphere where people feel comfortable. We are so grateful for our great staff and the support we have gotten from the people of Kokomo.”
Cooper’s Pub is located at 113 East Sycamore Street in Kokomo. For more info, call 765-450-8831 or visit thedockrestaurants.com.