Atmosphere is star at Coop de Ville | Food | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Atmosphere is star at Coop de Ville

Atmosphere is star at Coop de Ville
CP photo: Maggie Weaver

Coop de Ville was one of Pittsburgh’s most anticipated restaurant openings. The latest concept from the Richard DeShantz Restaurant Group — a “Southern table” featuring a full arcade, duckpin bowling, champagne vending machine, and full coffee bar — was first presented to the city in 2017, with a projected opening date in 2018.

Two years later, after many delays, teaser pop-ups, and in the middle of a global pandemic, the concept finally opened in late October.

The previously bareboned building — most recently, specialty grocery store Marty’s Market — has been transformed into a retro entertainment space. A rectangular bar sits as the dining room’s center point, surrounded by food hall-style picnic tables and cozy cafe seating by the coffee bar. The majority of the activities — arcade games, a tiki bar, the champagne vending machine, and at the far end, bowling lanes — are held behind garage doors.

Food, for the main dining areas, and a coffee bar, is served by fast-casual counter service. (The coffee bar counter, in good weather, has a giant garage door that opens to the street for walk-up ordering.) The menu is mostly chicken — the fried chicken, in and out of a sandwich, is considered a Coop specialty — along with other handhelds, salads, and classic Southern sides.

I went for two sandwiches on my first visit to Coop, the classic chicken and the Korean-style K-town, matched with greens, seasoned fries, and biscuits.

The meal was a mixed bag. Some of the eats were standout, I’d go back for them in a heartbeat, while others didn’t quite live up to the expectations I had for the long-promised eatery.

The biscuits were something I’d order again in a second. They balanced the fine line of being dense with butter, yet not crumbly and dry, kicking with a sharp hit of black pepper that made the sweet match of a honey cinnamon butter even better. Greens followed the biscuits’ lead, tender, filled with a meaty savor, and finishing with a pleasant punch of spice.

The fries, though a bit over-seasoned for my taste, were otherwise crispy and crunchy. Next time, I’ll stick to the plain version.

I preferred the K-Town sandwich to the classic, though I wasn’t particularly blown away by either. The K-Town, stacked with glazed grilled chicken, gochujang mayo, fermented pickles, and a mint-cilantro slaw, had a better range of flavors (the gochujang added a nice sweet and savory piece to the handheld) than the simple classic, composed of mayo, lettuce, and pickles. The chicken on the classic, which reminded me of a better version of the McChicken, needed to be a bit crispier.

Coop isn’t like any other DeShantz Group restaurant; I don’t think that food is meant to be the star of the space. While the menu is filled with a few excellent items, it takes a supporting role to the atmosphere, which is unmatched anywhere else in Pittsburgh.

Coop de Ville. 2305 Smallman St., Strip District.

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