The Coop – Taste from a Traditional Style Southern Kitchen

The Coop - Southern Affair Cooking

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.    

 The Coop


Harry P. Leu Gardens

On June 5, 2017, Art and I visited Leu Gardens. The Harry P. Leu Gardens are semi-tropical and tropical gardens in Orlando, Florida, United States. The gardens contain nearly 50 acres of landscaped grounds backdropped by the serene Lake Rowena. Meandering trails shaded by 200-year-old oaks and forests of camellias have a bayou effect like walking back into history in the old south. The gardens are well kept and manicured displaying the natural beauty of many species of plants, indigenous, exotic and adopted. We enjoyed the many colorful flowers in bloom and species that we’ve have never seen before.  The historical home is a beautiful old country house, overlooking Lake Rowena, and filled with antiques and history.  The tour through the house is a must.

The gardens and historical home were donated to the City of Orlando in 1961 by Mr. Harry P. Leu and his wife, Mary Jane.

Harry P. Leu and his wife, Mary Jane, purchased the property in 1936. Mr. Leu owned a very successful industrial supply company. The Leus traveled extensively and brought back plants and seeds for their garden. The beautiful gardens bear witness to the legacy Mr. Leu left to the City of Orlando.

Art and I enjoy spending the day here as a getaway date to spend time together. The beautiful gardens provide a special place for us to relax, reminisce, and wonder.
Harry P Leu Gardens

Scenic Boat Tour

While Mom was visiting us spring, 2017, I decided to take her on the Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour in Winter Park, Florida. Somehow, I thought we had previously taken her on this boat tour, but she said she never was. We cruised Lake Osceola, Lake Virginia and Lake Mizell through small narrow manmade canals. We saw many old historic Winter Park homes and learned about the history of Winter Park.

The Scenic Boat Tour itself is historical, starting tourist tours in 1938. It’s located on Lake Osceola at the east end of Morse Boulevard and is one of the oldest tourist attractions in Florida.

Mom was visiting Florida from Michigan for our daughter’s wedding,  held at The Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens. We were able to see the museum from lake view.