A Taste of Southern Fare
By Dave Nevill Jr. of OrlandoFoodScene.com
If you’re a regular reader, you could probably guess that I’m a bit of a southern cuisine fan. When The Coop opened up this spring in Winter Park, it quickly moved to the top of my must-eat list! This new bastion for all things southern cooking comes courtesy of the mind of John Rivers, the owner of the wildly successful 4 Rivers franchise.
The Coop is located on the corner of Morse Blvd and Pennsylvania Ave, which is convenient because you might need this corner lot space to wait in line. Not that a line should be anything to stop you. Once inside, you’re immediately hit by the sound of a bustling lunch spot and the aroma of southern goodness. The restaurant layout is wide open, and the arrangement of tables and chairs lends itself to a family dining style setup. I also loved that all the tables and chairs were mixed up. It’s lends to the southern homey charm.
As I approached the counter, my first look at the counter was dessert. A variety of pies, cupcakes, and puddings were on display that looked fantastic. My partner on this venture Sabrina and I tried a variety of Fixins (sides) with our main courses. She had the Roasted Chicken and I went for the Chicken Pot Pie. For the sides, we went with the Southern Collards, Candied Yams, Skillet Cornbread, Hoppin’ John, and the Stewed Okra & Tomatoes.
The Chicken Pot Pie had a perfectly flaky crust, and was loaded with shredded chicken, veggies, and creamy delicious gravy. The portion was more than generous for one, and could probably be shared between two people when you throw in the sides. The roasted chicken was well cooked and seasoned just right. I enjoyed the candied yams, which were just a sprinkle of brown sugar away from being too sweet. Sabrina really enjoyed the Hoppin’ John, which is a mixture of rice, black-eyed peas, tomatoes, onion, and ham hock. I also tried an order of the Fried Green Tomatoes, which was probably my favorite item of the day!
On my second visit, after doing some research, I decided on the Meatloaf. This densely packed slice of meaty goodness is exactly what meatloaf should be. The gang in the kitchen made my day by topping the loaf in bacon and coating that with a layer of ketchup. The meat was juicy and seasoned well, and the bacon on top added a little salty sweet combo with the ketchup. Since this is a meal, I went with a few sides. The broccoli salad and the cream corn sounded like a nice change of pace, and the mashed potatoes and gravy come standard. The mashed potatoes were surprisingly chunky, and were topped off with a fantastically rich and creamy gravy.
As a Southern food geek, I will say that The Coop has done a fair job of impressing me. The expectations placed on it were immense, considering the owner and his track record of hitting it out of the park. The atmosphere is bustling with energy at lunch time, and it’s a little overwhelming at first. However, once you sink your teeth into their tasty southern fare, you’ll find that the only thing you can hear is your taste buds thanking you.