There's something delightful about ordering a dish that sounds simple enough on paper but once you get it you're blown away that first bite. So goes the story for the menu at CO-OP, nestled inside The Study Hotel in University City.
On the surface, it has crowd pleasers that will appeal to grads, their parents and locals yet approachable enough for an international crowd that stays at the hotel – but chef Craig Russell's kitchen shines through through the execution of the dishes. Serving up breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner, as well as happy hour in a beautifully designed, modern space that will appeal to mid century modern interior design fanatics, CO-OP patrons get the best of both worlds on warmer summer days when you want to hang outside but not deal with arid temperatures.
In terms of atmosphere they've done a good job rendering it as a restaurant that stands alone and doesn't feel like a “restaurant hotel” as one can enter via The Study’s main lobby or through CO-OP’s own entrance on Chestnut Street.
The kitchen not only serves restaurant clientele but also the banquet and room service needs. It's a complex operation that strives to provide a top notch experience to those dining in their rooms or in the restaurant itself.
On one visit I tried one of their daily specials, a Southern Fried Duck Leg with blackberry sauce and slaw, a interesting take on the American fried chicken classic. The duck skin was wonderfully crispy while the duck meat was tender, perfectly medium rare and well seasoned. The tart blackberry sauce plus the slaw combo was addictive.
The blue crab fettuccini with crunchy asparagus, sugar snap peas, beech mushrooms and basil pesto was also another highlight, a perfectly fresh and satisfying bowl of summer pasta. The addition of tiny bits of pickled onions add a little extra something that completes the dish in an unexpected way.
The salads and small plates include Caesar salad, Spanish Rock Octopus with buttermilk grits, chorizo and fennel, Baked Mac n Cheese with braised short-ribs. Prices range from $11-16.
The dinner menu's entree section hits all the protein notes and includes sea scallops, Pocono trout, Black Sea bass, a grass-fed beef burger, Rohan duck breast, Lamb Pot Au Feu, rotisserie chicken and a dry-aged ribeye. Prices for that ranged from $17-$38.
Non-meat eaters are also covered with delicious options including ricotta gnocchi served with spring peas, black truffles and parmigiana, cauliflower dukka that comes with pistachio, fennel, sesame and cippolini. Roast asparagus with farm egg, green goddess and puffed quinoa, the “CO-OP salad,” served with quinoa and walnut, pickled cranberry and preserved lemon, a selection of crudités served with ash-roasted eggplant dip. Prices range from $11-$20.
The drink menu will entice the seasoned cocktail drinker but isn't intimidating to those who might want something simple, straightforward – and fairly priced. The Moro Mule was an interesting take on the classic Moscow Mule, made with blood orange vodka and featuring orange and ginger beer slush, it's tangy, sweet, spicy and citrusy. There aren't a ton of local beer and spirits options but that's by design as this menu tries to appeal to international guests by featuring beers and spirits that they might be most familiar with.
The wine list on the other hand shines with a very affordable and wide ranging selection of bottles, as well as pleasing wines by the glass, including a selection of rosés that range from crisp and tart (that pair well with appetizers) to sweet enough to enjoy solo or with desert—deserts by the way are very good and made in-house, they feature a selection of cakes and ice creams. Bottle prices range from $36-$221.
In summation? CO-OP is an elegant space with elegant food and a really cool atmosphere to match.