My wife, Carol and I debated on where to have brunch or lunch for our 43rd wedding anniversary. We decided on the Coop in Winter Park since we had not been there before though we heard about it through a family member and friend.
It is located at 610 West Morse Boulevard in Winter Park Florida. This building had been Mike Hage’s Market in the middle of the last century. First renovated by John Spang for the East India Market after standing empty for a time, it would later be occupied by a series of tenants who were not always so considerate of the vernacular commercial building. John River had the foresight to reimagine the building as the perfect place for his new southern style restaurant, The COOP. He brought the building up to current code standards added a lively vintage inspired sign. The COOP’s adaptive reuse and renovation preserve the building’s unpretentious character and honor the Hannibal Square history.
We arrived at the Coop about 11:20am. There was no waiting line so we placed our order right away, cafeteria style. Both of us chose chicken and dumplings, collard greens, peppered yams, cornbread, and biscuits. A slice of a Chocolate layered cake and a Pumpkin Bar was our delicious dessert choices. There was a tempting variety of desserts to choose from and it was not easy to decide! The entree and sides menu offers quite a spread of southern favorites, which the flavors of, should please the palette of most anyone, I’m sure.
The building and food at the Coop reminded me of my childhood in eastern North Carolina where I was raised. The support poles inside the dining area were also common to construction in the small towns where I lived as were the wooden floors. The soda beverage display was common in older Carolina but most of the containers I remember holding the soda bottles steeped in cold water. Ice is much nicer! The 610 W morse building was built in 1947. I appreciated greatly that in 2014 the founder of the Coop, John Rivers, renovated the building for the Coop restaurant and was awarded for his excellence of historic renovation.
My grandmothers were both raised in North Carolina and were well noted for their southern cooking. My mother held that tradition firmly as well. I remember my school and Navy buddies raving over our families southern cooking and mentioned it in their correspondence. The Coop brought back some memories of wonderful meals with them over the years. One of my grandmothers put a small measure of sugar in most of her dishes, including vegetables.
I noticed there was a measure of sweet in the collard greens at the Coop. My other grandmother didn’t use the added sweet which I preferred. Also, I was raised eating unsweetened cornbread but I did enjoy their sweetened version. Carol was raised in Michigan where sweetened cornbread called, Johnny cake, was the norm. We found the biscuits much like grandmas’, very authentic to our past southern dining experience. We appreciate and acknowledge the efforts to authenticity in keeping recipe traditions that have proven to be a dining favorite with so many folks. As we were enjoying our meal, we saw a continual line of people arriving, people of all ages. Carol and I had a tasteful time visiting the coop for our anniversary luncheon. We plan to make the Coop a regular visit and recommend it to others. If you are unfamiliar with southern cooking, treat yourself, your family or a friend to some new and delightful flavors. There is plenty of seating room for dining at the Coop, inside and outside. You get your meals fast and the dining is homey and casual.
The car parking can be tight but not unreasonable.