One of the things we set out to do with this blog is discover new places, events and attractions in Tampa. In order to do that we have to check the local newspapers, online resources and of course all of our social chatter. While browsing 83 Degrees Media (One of my favs) I stumbled across Cooper’s Hawk, a new restaurant winery concept coming to the area. So I did what I normally do and made a reservation. Not knowing much about it besides that they make their own wine in Illinois, I signed Nicholas, Rob and a friend up to venture out. Usually these things go horribly wrong or extremely well… luckily this past Friday was a treat.
Did you know that Cooper’s Hawk has 10 locations in the midwest and this is its first outside the area? Neither did we but our waiter Brian and the manager Cara were not shy about telling us all about the company’s history and mission. Brian explained to us that the restaurant had only been opened 5 days (no wonder it was slow), but his enthusiasm for the brand was not lackluster. The wait staff seemed to work together seamlessly to deliver a world class meal. Not to mention, Cooper’s Hawk is about community and making sure every patron wants to come back for more.
As its name states, Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant, this place delivers on both. All the wine on their menu is produced by their facility in Illinois so they are able to offer high quality wines at very reasonable prices (almost all glasses are under $10). PLUS when you sit down for your meal they offer you a complimentary taste of their house wine and a wine of your choice (who doesn’t love some free booze). It also helps that they are so down to earth that you don’t feel pressured into picking a wine. For each meal on the menu they provide a pairing number with a recommended wine. So when you are ordering your Short Rib Risotto as I did, you know exactly what red wine (with chocolate undertones) will work with your palette.
I am going to tease you a little longer before I tell you about our meals… or just show you. I just needed to mention that Cooper’s Hawk also offers a WINE CLUB. Not that any of us need a reason to have one (or two) bottle(s) of wine delivered to our front door once a month… but we would all enjoy it. Better yet, just make it a point to stop by Cooper’s Hawk once a month and they will have the wine ready for you, kept cool and perfectly angled for maximun enjoyment.
Dinner was definitely the highlight of the night. After quizzing every member of the staff about what their favorite menu item is… I chose the Short Rib Risotto (5/5 recommended), a little heavy but worth every bite. It even put me to sleep soon after. Nicholas chose a chicken dish, Dana’s Parmesan Crusted Chicken, in an effort to lean on the light side and wasn’t successful. The portions are definitely enough for two or to take home for a delicious lunch. Rob went with the Anne’s Chicken Saltimbocco and our friend went with the Jambalaya, both delicious options that I should have had a taste of… no worries though, we definitely plan to go back.
Two reasons for us to return… to try a new dish and HAPPY HOUR. Fun fact: Happy Hour doesn’t exist in any of their other locations because of the legal restrictions that don’t allow them to discount alcohol (thanks for the background info Cara!). Luckily here in Florida we get to experience happy hour on the norm. Cooper’s Hawk is going to be offering every glass of wine for just $5 and half-off select appetizers.
Sometimes as a team we all discuss how many foodie entries we have and we need to do other things. Although this was a great foodie experience, I felt it was so much more. We got to enjoy wine, food and dessert, all while finding a new spot to come and hang out. This place is especially great if you enjoy learning about and tasting new wines.
I hope you all have a chance to head out to this new location and get to tell me all about the things I missed.
Cheers until next time…
PS. I usually never opt for a dessert but I was just having such a good experience that I convinced Nicholas to split this with me…