I have been patiently, patiently, patiently waiting for Coopers Hawk to open up in Town Center. When DJ Snuggle Monster first told me about it, he described it as a winery that happened to serve food. Winery? How do they do that in such a small space?! Well to clarify, they do have a winery in Illinois, but they are more of a tasting room/bar/restaurant than winery. They just opened up on Monday, so we got in on Friday – the first weekend for them.
You walk in immediately to find their dessert counter and to the right is their store and wine tasting bar. It’s all a dimly lit, open space with lots of friendly faces. I’m not sure if this will be a regular thing, but also immediately after we entered, we were offered a complimentary tasting of one of their wines – the Blanc de Blanc. Sure, Coopers Hawk, I’ll try your free wine. After checking our IDs (good call), the VERY friendly (genuinely so) hostess gave us a decent portion of the white sparkling wine. It was delicious – not too sweet, not too bubbly. A perfect accompaniment to any meal and sure to please any palate. We then proceeded further into the cavernous space until we finally reached the hostess stand (it was a tad bit confusing at first). The hostess stand was chock full of staff – at least five friendly hostesses were there to greet us. I made reservations for 9:00pm (because that was the only thing after 6 and before 10 that was available through their reservation portal on the website) but we showed up at 8:30, starving and hopeful. The hostesses were more than accommodating – we didn’t even have to ask to be sat early, as they gave us the option first. We were sat right away, in a decidedly better lit area of the restaurant (perhaps too bright? Keep the mood romantic and bump it down a bit like your foyer please!).
I immediately noticed two things (perhaps I’m ADD). The first was the impossibly chic and funky aerators for the tables for those who bought bottles that needed to breathe. They looked like ancient medical contraptions – not sure if it made the aeration process any easier, but it definitely scored cool points. Made me almost want to buy a bottle of red, and I don’t drink red wine. Score for the marketing strategy. The second thing I noticed was just how many employees they had working the floor – for a section of perhaps 15 tables, I saw anywhere from 15-20 staff milling about. It expedited service, but it also left me wondering why? Was it for extra training (they did just open), were they expecting more people, or do they always average so many personnel? Not sure…and not sure it’s relevant.
Our waitress, Megan, was warm, personable, and helpful. She gave us plenty of time to peruse the menu, answered all of our questions, it got whatever we needed quickly. I will say that she disappeared for quite an extended amount of time between greeting us and taking our drink orders (like literally disappeared), but we gave her some lead time since it was opening week. She showed up and apologized immediately, explaining that the computer system was new and somewhat difficult to figure out and she ran into technical issues. No worries! We get it!
Now, on to the food and drank. Their wine menu is, as it should be, EXTENSIVE. They have flavored sparkling wine – including almond? All in all, I’d say there are roughly 20-30 different wines on the menu. And, as I mentioned, it’s all their own wine from their own winery. (Don’t worry – they have an awesome bar/cocktail menu too). A glass is anywhere from $6.50-12. Here’s the kicker too – they let you sample ANY of their wines for free before you order. While I wouldn’t recommend getting crazy with this policy (no one likes someone who takes advantage, do they?), it is a great marketing tool to get you to find something you absolutely love and order more of it. I tried their sparkling sweet red, which was a bit dry for me (but I’m a sweet junkie) but went back to my new favorite – the Blanc de Blanc. DJSM tried their house white and their Riesling. Both were incredibly smooth and drank like water (can you say dangerous?). You can also do flights, including a make your own flight – which are anywhere from $12-15 I believe. They also do wine tastings, but I haven’t tested that aspect out yet (will do so soon, don’t worry!)
Because we were starving (hello, our stomachs were growling whole conversations to each other), we ordered an appetizer – their Crispy Chips and Dip. Homemade kettle potato chips and a caramelized onion-bacon dip. Think the sour cream-french onion dip your mom made back in the day, but modernized. The chips were crispy without being tooth-breaking, and were anything but greasy. The dip was smooth and creamy with a comfort food feel. Let’s just say, I remarked to the server that the dish was like crack and that I couldn’t stop eating it. In fact, two other tables near us saw our order and immediately ordered a round for themselves. SO good…and reasonably priced and a good portion for sharing. We also got their warm pretzel roll and butter (I never turn down hot bread). I appreciated that they asked before bringing it to the table, as a lot of people nowadays don’t like to eat that much bread (I call them crazy) and asking beforehand helps cut down on food waste. The pretzel roll was warm, as it should be. It smelled AMAZING! It was soft, and had just a hint of salt to make you want to eat more, and combined with the butter, could satisfy any hungry diner. Even DJSM ate some and commented on its deliciousness.
As far as entrees, DJSM ordered the Southern Grilled Shrimp and Polenta. He’d never had polenta before, but loves shrimp and I assured him polenta was safe – just like the creamy version of smoother grits. He said the polenta was delicious – he would eat it again (score!) and the shrimp had the best texture ever…not rubbery and not slimy. Unfortunately, he said the chorizo was unrecognizable in the dish and when I tasted it, I felt the same, and also chomped down on something unfortunately too crunchy that made me want to spit it out (because of the hard factor, not the taste!). DJSM seemed to really enjoy the dish and would recommend it to a friend.
I ordered the Country Rigatoni, which has chicken, sausage, roasted cherry tomatoes, and a tomato garlic cream sauce. I’ll admit that the chicken and tomatoes and mushrooms were amazing and the sauce was decent. But there was something in the dish that made it taste off…DJSM tasted citrus, I tasted something sour almost. And I think I figured out that the sausage was the culprit – it gave off a weird, sour note to the dish, that without it, would have been an amazing dish. Perhaps its just my taste buds, but I think the dish definitely could be improved on. I will come back again and order something different, as I’m still impressed with Cooper’s Hawk and want to try more.
So, all in all, Cooper’s Hawk is pretty impressive. The staff, the philosophy, the vibes, and the food/drink were pretty top-notch. I’m super excited to go back again and try more, not to mention try their wine tasting. I would absolutely recommend it to a friend, and head up there to the bar even to watch a game and drink/eat appetizers. It will be interesting to see what will change after their opening week, but I think Cooper’s Hawk is here to stay (and I’m stoked about it).