A dining experience not to be missed.
By Jeffrey Spear
The Beaches Town Center, straddling the neighborhoods of both Atlantic and Neptune Beach, has become one of Jacksonville’s most popular entertainment destinations. Filled with an eclectic assortment of restaurants, bars, and cafes, not to mention its proximity to the beach, this colorful setting has something to satisfy every craving. One of the more noteworthy establishments is Coop 303, probably best known for its dill pickle brined Fried Chicken Basket. If you haven’t been to Coop 303 in a while, things have changed—there’s more to this place than contemporary Southern cuisine.
Set back from the main drag of Atlantic Boulevard to provide convenient parking, this modern eatery is a great place to meet with friends and family for lunch, brunch, dinner, and drinks in a warm and casual setting. With a variety of seating areas spread over two floors, you can enjoy the golden glow of a sunny afternoon on one of its outdoor patios, saddle up to one of two exceptionally well-stocked bars, or find intimacy at a table apart from the buoyant chitter chatter that Coop 303 inspires.
Before you get too far into the menu, be sure to check out the selection of premium spirits that line the back wall of the bar. Better still, take a little time and enjoy a few of their creatively inspired signature cocktails. While the Helen Dobson (Tito’s Handmade Vodka, elderflower liqueur, simple syrup, fresh lemon juice, mint, and watermelon) is quite popular, the Kill Devil (rum, bourbon, simple syrup, fresh lemon juice, and orange bitters) is a winner. The No Soul (Russell’s Reserve 10-year bourbon, ginger syrup, lime juice, and Peychaud’s bitters) is another tasty tonic worth checking out. Of course, there’s a nicely curated assortment of beers and wines to choose from as well.
If you’re looking for something snack-worthy, check out Coop 303’s Dilla (3 cheeses, corn chowchow, roasted jalapenos, and pickled Fresno peppers) that riffs on a traditional quesadilla. You can also whet your appetite with the showstopping Peaches & Cream (fried green tomatoes, burrata cheese, peach jam, and mustard balsamic reduction) or dig into their Loaded Tots (an impressive tower of drunken pulled pork, warm cheddar curds, hot sauce aioli, and pickled Fresno peppers).
Guided by the culinary prowess of Executive Chef Markus Crumrine, the main menu features an assortment of traditional favorites along with a few more distinctive and globally inspired offerings. There’s plenty of Fried Chicken, Beef Short Ribs, Crab Mac & Cheese, and a ton of Fish & Chips for those seeking something comfortable and familiar. For seafood enthusiasts, the beautifully fresh and expertly prepared Daily Fresh Catch (tomato seafood broth and parmesan risotto garnished with fresh clams) is not to be missed. For something a bit more adventurous, try the Crispy Skin Salmon (spicy coconut sauce, edamame souffle, and blue crab) as well as the Seared Scallops (rice noodles, spicy jungle sofrito, mushrooms).
For patrons who prefer vegetarian fare, or are simply hankering for vegetables, you’ll want to sink your teeth into the flavorful Marinated Cauliflower (prepared vegan with squash noodles, romesco sauce, escabeche, and chimichurri).
What’s apparent throughout the menu is the way shapes and colors have been configured to create a dazzling presentation on the plate along with noteworthy contrasts in flavors and textures that delight the senses. Crumrine explains, “I’ve learned from some of the best chefs around, giving me the insights, tools, and techniques to prepare exciting, flavorful, and distinctive cuisine without being pretentious or intimidating.” When asked about the more esoteric flavors that add dimension to some of the dishes he continues, “I love to infuse a touch of spice and global flavor into everything I prepare. While we retain traditional recipes for some of our dishes, you’ll find intriguing hints of flavor in others.”
Knowing that many of the individuals who frequent Coop 303 enjoy the more familiar southern-style dishes, we thought a wine pairing with their wildly popular Fish & Chips (beer battered cod, three cabbage slaw, COOP fries, and tartar sauce) would be enjoyable. The fish is impeccably prepared—crispy on the outside, moist and tender on the inside. A generous portion of fries is served alongside, displaying the right amount of crunch and spice, just as you’d expect. Paired with a bottle of 2019 Flowers Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, a classic chardonnay known for its bright citrus notes, white flower—rich and creamy on the palate with nuances of dried apricot—the combination makes for a completely enjoyable, familiar, and satisfying meal. It is important to mention that the Flowers Sonoma Coast Chardonnay was an excellent companion to just about everything we sampled, especially the Crispy Skin Salmon and Seared Scallops.
If you’re considering a relaxing day at the beach, a visit to the Beaches Town Center and Coop 303 would be an undeniably delicious and satisfying way to kick off or wrap up the day.
Coop 303, 303 Atlantic Blvd., Atlantic Beach, 904-372-4507, coop303.com.
Get the recipe for Coop 303 Seared Scallops here.
Pair it with:
2019 Flowers Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
Description: Bright citrus notes, white flower, nuances of dried apricot, and hints of flint. Palate is energetic with acidity and tension balanced with flavors of orchard fruit and almond, finishing long and bright.
There is a great deal of beauty and expression to be found in the 2019 vintage. The growing season began with a cool winter and heavy rainfall; we even had snow on our estate! We already had cover crop coming up at this time, so the snow really oxygenated soils and brought them to life. Spring was clear and bright, with early bud break and cool, sunny days. Summer followed with mild temperatures allowing moderate ripening and resulting in an eloquent and expressive vintage with superb fruit quality.
Sourced from a small selection of family-owned vineyards on the Sonoma Coast as well as our Camp Meeting Ridge estate. Each vineyard is carefully chosen for its farming practices, coastal influence, and fruit standards.