Copper Penny Bistro to cook up dollars for West Liberty

West Liberty, Iowa, is finding a way to spice up the local economy.

That’s after Laura Gilbert and Robert Miller were picked to open the Copper Penny Bistro this Fall.

The Muscatine County town of 3,700 just completed a five-month contest to open a new restaurant at 100 3rd St. E. It will go inside a century-old bank building.

That’s why the kitchen is a busy place on Wednesday morning.

“This is what we do every single day of our lives,” said contestant Zach Goldsmith, Iowa City. “We know how to cook.”

Goldsmith is racing against the clock with partner Al Zahner. Two hours of cooking could land them a new restaurant.

“To bring something that’s really special to this place,” Goldsmith said. “Something that everybody can be a part of.”

Back in February, we learned about Iowa’s Best Bite Restaurant Challenge.

“Right now, the downtown needs some work,” said We Lead Executive Director Shannon McNaul.

West Liberty came up with $120,000 of incentives. The perks include free rent for six months and a complete kitchen.

“We want it to be a destination,” McNaul said.

Reasons why Robert Miller is showing some kitchen magic. What his team makes here could launch new careers.

“It’s stressful,” said his partner, Laura Gilbert, Carterville, Illinois. “But the payoff is tremendous.”

This cooking competition is a lot like those reality shows on TV. But in this case, the real winner is West Liberty.

Some 20 taste-testers bring their appetites.

“This is a really nice location,” said Mayra Esquivel, West Liberty. “It’s a really nice building for a restaurant.”

They’re enjoying two full course meals. It’s really food for thought.

“You have to have some place for people to get out without leaving town,” said Cyle Geertz.

Nearly five months of competition comes down to the two finalists. They get one chance for a new restaurant.

“For us, it would be the culmination of a dream, really,” concluded Goldsmith.

For winners Gilbert and Miller, it will be a dream come true.

They’re ready to cook up business for a hungry community in West Liberty.

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