After his barbecue-centric 4 Rivers Smokehouse success, John Rivers has branched out with The COOP in Winter Park. Those lucky enough to snag a table at the 116-seat eatery (plus picnic tables out back) will find the kind of food Rivers grew up eating, like mac ‘n cheese, deviled eggs, creamed corn, fried okra and shrimp ‘n grits. But it’s the fried chicken that’s the star of the show, the best version on a flaky, buttery biscuit with a drizzle of maple-bourbon syrup. “We spent a year perfecting the fried chicken,” says Rivers.
Standouts include the mac ‘n cheese made with Gruyere, Parmesan and Cheddar; shrimp and grits with house-made Tasso ham and grits cooked in chicken brine and cream; fresh fried okra with just the right amount of crunch; and that fried chicken, both on a biscuit and atop waffles with a side of maple-bourbon drizzle. There’s N’Awlins flair in creations such as the po’ boy (shrimp, oyster, catfish or fried green tomato) but the menu is decidedly Southern with chicken ‘n dumplings, rice and gravy, hoppin’ John, and fresh collards.
Desserts carry the Southern theme further, with several varieties of pies (such as coconut cream, Georgia peach, shoofly and sweet potato) made daily, plus old school banana pudding, fried hand pies, moon pies and more.
Early risers will find eggs from Lake Meadow Naturals in signature creations like the Low-Country omelette with sauteed Gulf Coast shrimp, smoked Andouille sausage and spicy red sauce over Anson Mills grits. Pancakes with blueberry and lemon compote are a sweet way to start the day.
Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday. 601 W. Morse Blvd., 407-843-2667; asouthernaffair.com