The Coop in Winter Park, Fla., is one of those restaurants that frustrates me. Not because of the quality of food, service or anything like that. Rather, I am irritated with myself for waiting so long to try it! I have now found my new favorite spot in Orlando for reasonably-priced comfort food.
Led by Chef John Rivers, which operates the 4 Rivers Smokehouse chain, The Coop's lineup features Fried Chicken (which you can purchase by the bucket), New Orleans Po-Boy, Chicken Pot Pie, Mom's Meatloaf, Chicken n' Dumplings, Fried Catfish & Grits, and a number of other Southern-inspired apps, sides and salads. The atmosphere is decidedly casual. You order at the counter, and servers pile up your food on a tray. I was worried about our food being cold by the time we got our drinks and sat down, but it wasn't!
First, let me tell you about the yummy Fried Chicken. It came out looking dark, so I was worried about the taste. I shouldn't have been. The breading was tasty and crispy, and the inside was surprisingly moist. We loved the coleslaw and homemade mashed potatoes, but the gravy - we could eat that by the gallon. However, the accompanying biscuit - billed as "the best in Orlando" - was not, in my opinion. I have had better Southern biscuits at many restaurants in North Carolina, Georgia and elsewhere - biscuits that are lighter and not so dense.
The Chicken Pot Pie was our other favorite dish. While the crust was a bit tough, we loved the flavor of both the crust and the filling. It had all the essential ingredients of a perfect pot pie - plus a kick of heat. I am still thinking about it. I would also highly recommend the Organic Roasted Chicken, which is very moist and flavorful. It may simply be seasoned with salt, but that is fine in this case. You must also try the Anson Mills Creamy Grits. We loved both the flavor and the texture.
We also love the value The Coop provides. Nearby Rollins College students could eat here, and it wouldn't break the bank. Most entrees with two sides are priced between $8.99 and $9.99.
If you are looking for other top Winter Park restaurants, see:
Yummy TV Dinner and More at The Porch
Go to Blu for Upscale Food, Great Service
Excellent Food, Wine and Atmosphere at Carmel