Food Snob: Sampling the hot bar at Co-op Cafe 

We tried some cod, flank steak, sloppy Joe and steamed broccoli from the Concord Food Co-op's Co-op Cafe. THE FOOD SNOB / Insider staff
We tried some cod, flank steak, sloppy Joe and steamed broccoli from the Concord Food Co-op's Co-op Cafe. THE FOOD SNOB / Insider staff

We don’t always go to the Concord Food Co-op, but when we do, we try to get as much hot food as we can stuff into a tray. That’s exactly what we did for this assignment. 

Truth be told, the vast majority of the Food Snobs we’ve done have been at restaurants, so we decided it was time to check out the Co-op Café – the hot food bar inside the Concord Food Co-op.

The Co-op Café, unlike a lot of grocery store hot food stations, has a different menu every day, and it’s always interesting, healthy stuff, with plenty of vegetarian and vegan options (not that we’re really interested in any of that). They post it to their website,  concordfoodcoop.coop, before 10:30 a.m. from Monday through Friday, and you can hear what’s on the menu on Saturdays by calling 225-6840 (it’s closed on Sundays).

There’s also plenty of ready-to-eat food that isn’t posted online. Right next to the hot bar is a deli counter where you can order a sandwich or choose one of the already-made options. Next to that is a sushi station, full of fresh and mouth-watering rolls.

We went down there last week with high hopes. The food is sold by the pound, so you don’t have to worry about prices for individual items – just load that tray up as much as you can.

We went straight for the Sloppy Joe on brioche – yes, apparently you can get a Sloppy Joe from a natural foods store, and you better believe we weren’t going to pass that up.

The next thing that caught our eye was the cod with avocado vinaigrette. There were big, white pieces and lots of sauce and greens, so it seemed like a good choice for this seafood-loving Food Snob.

Then, of course, we found the steak – roasted flank steak, to be exact. It was served with some light seasoning.

To fill out the container, we grabbed some steamed broccoli, which had a lot of different spices on it.

We grabbed a seat outside and dug right in, starting with the steak. The flank steak slices were a little on the dry side, but they were still fairly tender. They were seasoned with parsley, lemon, garlic, turmeric, salt and pepper, but those flavors were all pretty mild – this tasted like straight-up steak, which was fine with us. We might have liked it better had there been some kind of sauce to add some moisture and more flavor.

Next we took a bite of the cod with avocado vinaigrette. The first few bites didn’t have any of the vinaigrette, but it allowed the taste of the fish to come through. The cod was cooked perfectly – nothing worse than dry, rubbery, overcooked whitefish, and that wasn’t the case here. Once we did get to the sauce, it delivered a nice zip to the palate. The vinaigrette had a bit of spice to it, but also some citrus flavors. It paired well with the fish.

Up next was the broccoli. The first bite was shocking – it was really loaded with flavor, which we weren’t expecting. Coated in salt, pepper, garlic, lime juice, thyme and chili powder, these things were the liveliest bites in the bunch. Each bite was a mini explosion of flavor, and these came as a welcome surprise.

We saved the Sloppy Joe for last, figuring we’d like it the best. We did. 

This wasn’t your elementary school cafeteria’s version of the world’s messiest sandwich – this was the version you’d serve to the pope or the queen (on one of those silver trays with a cover). Served on a shiny brioche bun – a classy presentation – the sandwich contained ground beef, onions, peppers, garlic, ketchup, mustard, brown sugar, oil, salt and pepper, and every one of them was noticeable. This felt like an adult’s Sloppy Joe, if such a thing exists.

The meat felt heartier than what you’d expect in this type of sandwich, and the sauce was homemade rather than canned. It actually tasted a lot like a meatloaf sandwich, which is one of the finer things in life. 

If there’s one complaint, it’s that it wasn’t piping hot, but that’s what I get for not getting there as soon as they brought a new tray out. 

The beauty of the Co-op Café is that the choice is yours. Whether you want meat, vegetarian, vegan or all of the above, you can get that. And since the options are always changing, you’ll never get bored of going there.

If you’ve never checked out the Co-op Café, head over there on your next lunch break and see what you find.

Author: The Food Snob

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