Oh Coop. I had such high hopes for you, and you made me want "fly your coop" within my first few bites. I will be the first to say that perhaps my visit was a fluke and the kitchen was having an off day, but after talking to a few foodie trusted friends I know I am not alone in my disappointment in Mr. Rivers new southern-style concept.
We arrived before the dinner rush on a Thursday around 5 pm and the restaurant was maybe a quarter full and there were no lines, just how I wanted it for my first experience. I decided I wanted to try a few different things so I got "nibble" portions of chicken and biscuits, fried green tomatoes and hush puppies.
The hush puppies were left off my plate and not rung up so when I mentioned it to the cashier she was quick and courteous to fix the error and not charge me which was not necessary but appreciated. As I looked for a place to sit I noticed there were not any places for two-tops only, so we sat at a table for 6, just the 2 of us! So needless to say if you have a larger group dining with you there will be plenty of seating, indoor and outdoor, for you and your friends.
I started by diving into the fried green tomatoes and was immediately put off by the breading that was on them. It was hard and had a very harsh flavor. It literally irritated my mouth. I moved on to my chicken and biscuit and sadly my chicken was very dry and the biscuit was far from fluffy and moist. It was a dry brick of carbs. The only ingredient giving any flavor or moisture to the dish was the syrup.
Feeling fully frustrated my last hope was the hush puppies, which were the best item I had chosen, but that wasn't saying much. They were just ok. All I could think was two things:
People wait in a line outside in the heat for this!?
This can't be John Rivers restaurant. It can't.
My dining companion had the fried catfish with grits, mac & cheese and green beans. He said the catfish was ok, but he enjoyed all of the side dishes. If there is one thing I knew wouldn't disappoint it was the variety of side dishes that we have all come to love at 4Rivers that are duplicated and expounded on at The Coop.
I didn't finish anything I ordered and my mouth continued to burn. I didn't understand, until a friend I was texting me told me that some dishes on the menu have Sriracha in the recipe. If that is true, that is an odd ingredient to throw in without any warning since some people like myself can't handle too much heat in their cuisine.
On a good note the decor is fresh and adorable and the staff was very friendly.
I won't give up on a The Coop just yet, and I have been told about how good other items are that I did not try. I just wasn't expecting such a lackluster showing on some more simplistic menu items. My suggestion if you visit The Coop, go during a low-traffic time, so if you find yourself disappointed like me, at least you can be happy you didn't stand in the scorching Florida heat and get pit stains beforehand.
Check out the menu here.