Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Coop

I have been so excited since I first heard that the people behind Four Rvers BBQ were opening a second restaurant concept that would be Southern Style meals.
I knew right away that this was going to be a place that would require several visits before writing a proper review. I decided that I would visit 4 different times, and write about my experience each different time I visited. This would give me a better overall feel for the place and I could try several different items on the menu because I know there will be several that would appeal to me.

Now before I get started with my individual experiences at The Coop I wanted to list a couple of things that you need to know about their dining experience.

The ordering process is similar to Four Rivers where after your wait you go down the line placing your order then pay, then find a table and grab your drink from the awesome fountain station along with your silverware.

There are plenty of Desserts in the case to pick through as well so save some room for a sweet treat.

They also have unisex bathrooms that are rather nice, however there are only two and they could use a third or fourth.

Parking is limited, however I have not has a problem finding a spot when I have visited.
This building has been several different restaurants over the years and due to it being located a little off of the beaten path none of them have been able to survive.
After your meal you clear your own table, however this also eliminates the need to tip a server.

My first visit was on a Wednesday around 2pm. Due to the buzz that this restaurant has generated I was surprised to find no line and plenty of available tables.
I ordered the 2 piece Tender Generous Meal (Generous means 3 sides plus CornBread $10.99)    

and my friend ordered the 2 piece Chicken Plenty Meal (Plenty means 2 sides $7.99). With two drinks this came to $24.45.

I loved the Chicken Tenders. Each one was very large so 2 was definitely enough. The seasoning was wonderful and although some people might have called them a little dry they were perfect for me because I like all of my Meat a little on the well-done side.

I was also in love with the Creamed Corn, it was rich and super creamy and even had a little sweetness to it.
I did not care for the Mac N Cheese because although it was very creamy, you couldn’t really taste the Cheese and it was too bland.

I also hated the Green Beans. They tasted like what you would get out of a can, yet the Potatoes that were mixed in were still hard and the overall flavor was bad. Won’t be ordering that again!

The CornBread was fine, but unnecessary and I think that next time I will just get the “Plenty” serving with 2 sides because the “Generous” helping which comes with 3 sides and CornBread is too much.
My friend loved everything that he ordered, and raved about the Mashed Potatoes, so I might try them the next time I go. Actually there were several other things that looked really good that I am looking forward to trying.

My second visit was on a Friday around 3pm. There were five of us and I was the only one who had been here before. There was no line, no waiting. I decided to get the Chicken Pot Pie with Maple Glazed Carrots and Bread Pudding ($8.99 Just the “Plenty” plate would do now that I realized how large their portions were).

The cashier recognized me from being there before and offered me a ‘Coop Troupe” Loyalty Card. I loved this because I have always thought that Four Rivers should give out some sort of “Rewards Card”, they might but if they do I have never had it offered to me. Basically you swipe your card each time you dine there and after 10 visits you get a free meal.

Now on to the food. The Chicken Pot Pie (I later realized that this was NOT Chicken Pot Pie, but more on that later – keep reading) was served in a rather large bowl and tasted pretty good. At first I didn’t know if I had gotten the Chicken and Dumplings or the Chicken Pot Pie because rather then a “Pie” Crust it was topped with Biscuits.

The flavor and texture was good, however when I was just about through I found a Bone. I couldn’t eat any more at this point because I was grossed out (I just can’t stand Meat with Bones… It’s a personal thing and many people would not have minded). I will not be ordering this dish again, but again I must state that the flavors were good.

As for my sides I didn’t taste the Maple in the Maple Glazed Carrots, and I found them to be a little citrusy, and they also could have been a little more tender.

But the Bread Pudding…. We have a Winner!!!! First they scooped it into the serving dish and packed it tightly, then they covered it with Icing – and even made it pretty.
When I took my first bite I knew that I had made the right choice, it was like Dessert – Sweet, Rich and Hearty! This was definitely my favorite of the new things I tried.

Now I need to point out that all four of my friends told me how wonderful their meals were and they all thanked me for bringing them here. One of my friends got a Blueberry Fried Hand Pie ($3.50) but he was heading to work and so he gave it to me to take home. I had it later that evening and I must say that it was pretty darn good – too sweet for my taste – but definitely made with love.

 I can’t imagine anyone eating these on the road because they are really messy, but if you like a really sweet treat then check them out. This does indicate to me though that most of their Desserts will most likely be really sweet so I must keep that in mind if I ever decide to order one in the future.

On my third visit to The Coop I went again with my friend from my first visit. It was a Monday around 4pm, which I am finding is a good time to go because the line has died down since it is not a “peak” time. He ordered the exact same thing as he did the first time, 2 piece Chicken with Mashed Potatoes and Mac N Cheese. This time I noticed that the Mac N Cheese was different (previously a White Sauce, and this time a Yellow/ Orange Cheese Sauce). I gave it a taste and enjoyed it better and he did as well.

I ordered the Meatloaf with 2 sides ($10.99). First of all the portion of Meatloaf was very generous, and it was served on a bed of Mashed Potatoes (did not count as one of my sides), along with Fried Okra and Baked Pimento Cheese Grits.

The Meatloaf was covered in both a delicious Brown Gravy and a “Meatloaf Sauce” which seemed like a Ketchup/ BBQ Sauce Combo. The Meatloaf was also wrapped in Bacon and has a great texture and flavor. We definitely have a winner.

I found the Fried Okra not to be very greasy which was a nice surprise, it seemed to taste more like it was baked. Although I did enjoy the crispness and freshness of the Okra it was way too salty for me, won’t order it again. The Baked Pimento Cheese Grits were interesting, I prefer the Regular Baked Cheese Grits from 4 Rivers to these, but I also don’t particularly care for Pimento Cheese, so that’s just a personal preference.

4th visit – a Saturday afternoon at 2pm. Finally there is a line, a long line. This is what I have been reading about but never experienced for myself yet. Glad to see it, but also glad that I normally pick the right times to dine.
So I’m going down the line and I see what appears to be a real Chicken Pot Pie (but I have ordered this before and it was not like this). I asked the girl if that was indeed a Chicken Pot Pie? She said “Yes”, I said “Well then what is that?” (pointing to what I ordered before) She replies “Chicken and Dumplings”. A-Ha, this is starting to make sense (I then remember they specifically printed Chicken Pot Pie on my receipt before, perhaps not everyone there fully understands what they are doing yet? I do notice that there are still lots of employees standing around doing nothing)
So this time I order “The Real” Chicken Pot Pie with 3 sides and Cornbread ($11.49). Still wanting to try all new sides before I start to repeat I order Hush Puppies, Collard Greens, and Anson Mills Creamy Grits.

 The Chicken Pot Pie would be very  good according to most people’s standards. The portion was nice and the flavors were good (other then needing a little salt and pepper), however for me there was way too much dark meat. I recently had an All White Meat Pot Pie at another local restaurant and I definitely preferred that one to this. I have said this here already, but that is just a personal taste, but I don’t think I will order either the Chicken Pot Pie or the Chicken and Dumplings again here at The Coop.

As for the sides… loved them. The Collards were just the way I like them (and I was leary after not enjoying the Green Beans previously), they were just cooked enough but still had a little bite to them. Also when they scooped them out for me they drained most of the juice so they were not swimming in liquid, which was nice. The Grits were thick and creamy, and the Hush Puppies (although there were sadly only 5 of them to an order) were perfectly crisp and delicious. I had purposely ordered the generous plate so that I could take some home with me. They have great “to go” containers and my leftovers made a great late night snack.

Now originally I wanted to visit The Coop 4 times before I wrote a review. I have tried just about everything that I wanted to at this point, however I still want to make one or two more visits before I have all my thoughts together.

Visit #5 was on a Wednesday around 5pm. The line was forming but was not bad at all. I took someone new with me this trip and he was excited to be there. This time I ordered a Chicken Biscuit (1 for $3.99 or 2 for $6.99) and a Side Board Sampler (3 sides and Cornbread $7.49).

The Chicken Biscuit is simply one of their chicken Tenders on a Biscuit that has been drizzled with honey. I LOVED it! It was just enough, and if I had would have been hungrier then I would have ordered two.

By this point I have ordered most of the sides and so I selected three of my favorites  - Bread Pudding, Collards, Creamed Corn (knowing that my friend would probably want to try them as well).

My friend ordered the 3 piece Fried Chicken with Collards, Fried Okra and Mac N Cheese. I tried his Okra and liked it better then the first time I ordered it – it wasn’t so heavily salted this day and had a better crunch. I still don’t like the Mac N Cheese.
He loved his Fried Chicken, but his favorite side was actually my Bread Pudding. He thought that his were just ok.

Visit #6 was a Saturday around 3pm with two friends that have eaten with me here before. I had wanted to try one of their sandwiches and so this day I kept it simple and had the Fried Green Tomato BLT with French Fries $8.99. This was delicious – a big messy sandwich with tons of thick-cut Bacon and plenty of Cheese dripping everywhere. I really enjoyed it, and now I know there is a less expensive way to dine at The Coop, while still getting all of those big comforting flavors.

Their sandwiches come with either Fries of Hush Puppies, next time I will get the Hush Puppies since there wasn’t anything special about the Fries.

Both of my friends ordered the Chicken and Waffles this day, and they looked pretty good for when you have a larger appetite.
It doesn't come with any sides so you have to order them separately, however this is something that I definitely want to order at some point in the future!

I also want to try the Meatloaf Melt someday, cause I know enough about the way they do things to know that I would like it. So I think I am at the point now where I have been here enough and tried enough things so that I can actually put my review out now.

So for my recap I wanted to list some of my personal likes and dislikes. 

Let’s start with the dislikes…..
On every one of my visits I have thought that they have too many employees, and although most of them have been very friendly not enough that seem to know what they are doing.  There are several dishes that I will never order again such as the Chicken Pot Pie,  Chicken and Dumplings, Green Beans, Mac N Cheese and Glazed Carrots. 
I also don’t want to have any of their Desserts because I know they will be way too sweet for me.

Now as for my likes, I can honestly say that every one of the 6 people that I have taken to The Coop have enjoyed it and asked when we could go there again. It is definitely a crowd pleaser and everyone can find several things that they like.
I will gladly order the Chicken Tenders, Meatloaf, Creamed Corn, Collards, Bread Pudding, Hush Puppies, Fried Green Tomato BLT, Mashed Potatoes and Grits again because I thought they were all comforting and tasted great. 
I like the drink station and love that you can get refills.  
I also love the rewards card because it makes you want to visit often so that you can save up for your free meal.

I wish The Coop luck because I do think there is a need for this type of restaurant, especially in Winter Park. I have seen many places come and go in this location over the years and none of them have ever been able to make it, however I feel like if anyone can it will indeed be The Coop!

Ps – officially being my longest review ever, I thank any of you that actually made it to the end!
Xoxo FBL

The Coop on Urbanspoon

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Salito's - Sausalito, California

On our last afternoon in California we headed from San Francisco to Sausalito to walk around for a little while. We enjoyed the quaint town and asked a local where we should have a nice lunch and they recommended Salito’s Crab House and Prime Rib.

We walked in to the large restaurant, which had both indoor and outdoor seating and a breathtaking view.

Although there were plenty of fresh seafood options on the menu I noticed that they also offered a little bit of everything.
The first thing I noticed on the menu was something called House-Made Kettle Bread with Straus Butter and it was only 95 cents. I ordered it right away with our drinks because for that price – even if I hated it who would care?

It came out right away and I was blown away – it was an entire cast iron skillet filled with a huge loaf of bread and a side of butter. I cut it in half and began devouring the fresh, hot bread. It was so good! Quite honestly I would have been happy with just the bread alone.

Then our drinks arrived, he had the Chili Beer (choice of beer, tomato juice, chili rim $9.95)
He had it with corona and loved it, said it had a nice spice with the chili rim.

I had an iced tea. It was served with a carafe on the side, which was a very nice touch because they didn’t have to keep refilling me.

Neither of us were super-hungry (plus we had just eaten all that bread) so he ordered Bay Shrimp Cocktail (with house-made horseradish cocktail sauce $10.95).
It was as cute as could be, and he seemed to enjoy it very much and said it was just the right size.

I liked the sound of Organic Beets Salad (Mt. Tam Cheese, Avocado, Almonds, Red Onion $11.95) so that’s what I ordered.
It was also just the right size, and although it wasn’t in the description it also contained Hearts of Palm, which was a total bonus for me. The ingredients were all very fresh and had a nice citrusy dressing that I really liked.

For being someone that doesn’t like Seafood, I sure liked Salito’s. They have many things on the menu that cater to just about everyone, and the freshness and quality are top notch.

Salito's on Urbanspoon