University City usually caters to the nearby college students, with their cash-strapped budgets and varied tastes that fluctuate between health-conscious and irresponsible comfort food. But the newly opened Co-Op, 20 S. 33rd St., is looking to give the grown-up residents and visitors of the area a more-upscale place to dine.
With outdoor-dining options and retractable windows that give indoor patrons a better view of Chestnut Street, the modern décor of the space provides great vistas of the foot traffic milling around the manicured streets.
The menu at Co-Op features locally sourced New-American dishes in either snack form, small plates or large plates.
On the snack side of the menu, the deviled eggs ($6) were pleasantly assertive and briny in flavor. The shishito peppers ($8) were abundantly plump, crispy and spicy, making for great finger food. The chicken-liver mousse ($9) had some complexity to it, with pickled shallots and mustard seed giving the mousse a kick to contrast its smooth flavor base.
The small-plates menu was especially well-rounded. The Maryland crab tartine ($16) was a nicely seasoned crab salad and served on toasted housemade sourdough bread. The Spanish rock octopus had a spicy Southern feel, with the perfectly cooked tentacles resting on some silky and buttery grits peppered with spicy chorizo and fennel.
The large plates lean more traditional in terms of refinement and technique but really deliver on the presentation. The blue-crab fettuccini ($21) and the mahi mahi ($27) are artfully and elegantly plated. The pasta in the former dish and the couscous that garnishes the latter are both creamy and feature an excellent texture and nicely roasted asparagus (green for the former, white for the latter), adding some garden freshness to the dishes.
University City might have plenty of options for burritos, cheesesteaks, nachos and pizza, but now non-students have an outlet to keep them from having to cross the river. So stop by Co-Op and welcome them to the neighborhood.