Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, July 29, 2022

River City: Co-op: Come for the sandwiches, have a frosé

Co-Op's chicken salad on wheat

Watching “Sesame Street” has helped several generations of children develop a solid vocabulary. Each episode, Elmo or Big Bird introduces a simple word and explains its meaning in a way young brains can understand.

I watched “Sesame Street” more than 50 years ago – and I probably still use all the words I learned.

I also continue to learn new ones. Regardless of how old we become, there are still words we don’t know, especially since society is continually inventing new ones.

For example, last week, I found myself at Co-Op, a new breakfast and lunch spot on Dorchester Road, asking what a frosé is.

Instead of Oscar the Grouch popping up to explain, a 20-something gave me a wearied – or perhaps a pitying – smile and described it in a way my still developing brain could grasp.

A frosé is – in the young woman’s words – a mashup of a frozen cocktail and a rosé wine. Imagine, she said, a frozen wine thawed to a slush and mixed with a fruity syrup.

That sounded good, I suppose. A friend of mine laughed when I told her this story because I’m not much of a drinker. She’s actually the only person with whom I consume alcohol – and I never drink more than one beer. When we met for lunch last week, I hadn’t had a drink since her birthday in December.

But there I was, staring indecisively at someone barely old enough to serve alcohol and thinking I should probably try a frosé, if only so I could provide a full write-up on the Co-Op experience.

After I made an eye-rolling joke about it being “5 o’clock somewhere,” the young woman assured me everyone was drinking frosé with their lunch and suggested “The OG,” a strawberry flavored variation.

When I agreed, she complimented my choice, like a waiter at a fine restaurant.

I was actually drawn to Co-Op by the descriptions of its signature sandwiches on its online menu (thecoopsi.com). As opposed to alcohol, I could consume a sandwich every day of the week, and the eatery’s selections looked delicious.

The California Turkey had caught my eye while I was browsing the website. Yet I still found myself struggling to choose as the line behind me slowly lengthened.

The Cowboy Chicken – which consists of chicken, bacon, avocado, mixed greens and ranch dressing on brioche – sounded good. But so did the Cubano, which comes with every ingredient you’d expect, including deli chicken, ham, spicy brown mustard, mayo and pickles, all pressed between a grilled baguette.

The other sandwiches on the menu – from the homemade egg salad to the Italian – followed suit. Instead of reinventing the sandwich or coming up with weird new recipes, Co-Op gives the classics a gourmet twist.

With that in mind, I went with the California Turkey, as I was eager to taste the comingling of turkey, bacon, avocado, tomato, sprouts and herb cheese spread.

As I waited near the counter for my food and drink, I surveyed the compact interior, which is awash in pink and contains several tables, all of which were fully occupied. More tables were located on the sidewalk outside, but they were full as well, save two seats at a table for four.

The two ladies at that table became my lunchtime companions after they agreed to allow me to sit with them. As I settled into one of the seats, the woman next to me eyeballed my frosé as she took a bite of her Veggie Sammie.

Apparently, the girl who’d taken my order was mistaken, as everyone was not drinking a frosé. Veggie Sammie lady and her friend were both drinking iced teas, as were several other patrons. The rest were drinking soda or water.

Finding myself in the rare position of being the only lush in a gathering of people, I felt compelled to explain why I was drinking at noon. Both women nodded and said they understood. (One also appeared to give me a pitying smile.)

They also asked how the frosé tasted. I told them it was good, I suppose. It was cold, which was nice since it was hot outside. And it was slushy – as advertised. It also tasted like strawberries and wine.

But was it actually good? You’ll need to ask someone with more of a palate for wine than me. Or try one yourself.

The sandwich, however, was delicious.

Co-Op’s California Turkey is stuffed with quality ingredients. The titular protein is the good stuff – not the cheap stuff that contains an ingredient for every letter of the alphabet. Plus, the herb cheese spread is fresh and tangy and the sprouts add a nice crunch.

I can’t say I’d buy another frosé, but you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be back to Co-Op to try another sandwich.

I might even grab breakfast there one morning. While the parking lot of the shopping center in which Co-Op is located – the one anchored by Southern Squeeze just off Hixson Pike – was full when I arrived for lunch, it might be more accommodating in the morning.

That would make Co-Op’s fried egg sandwich, avocado toast, breakfast burrito and other comforting selections a quick grab. (Co-Op also sells a “heart healthy” sandwich with two fried eggs and cheddar cheese. Maybe “heart healthy” means “no bacon.”)

The Chattanooga Co-Op is the fifth overall site for the company, which also has four locations in South Carolina. I’d like to think the owners saw something special in the Scenic City that convinced them to expand beyond their home state.

Co-Op certainly brings something special to Chattanooga. Depending on the person, it could be the sandwiches, or the frosé, or the breakfast offerings, but whatever you order, l predict you’ll return for more.