ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – A much-anticipated restaurant opened its doors Monday in Atlantic Beach.
Coop 303 opened at 303 Atlantic Blvd. in the Beaches Town Center, in the place of the former Al’s Pizza, which had been a staple in that spot for more than two decades.
The new concept is the latest from restaurateur Al Mansur, who started Al’s Pizza more than 25 years ago. More recently, he opened the Flying Iguana, a Latin restaurant and tequila bar, across the street at the Beaches Town Center.
Mansur said he wanted to try something new, so he decided on casual, modern, regional Southern dining with cocktails paired for the dishes.
Those dishes include buttermilk fried chicken with bacon waffles and Datil pepper jam jelly, locally sourced shrimp and grits, braised beef short ribs and risotto, and barbecue lamb with cauliflower gratin.
The restaurant also has a long list of appetizers with Southern flare, such as boiled peanuts, fried green tomatoes and pimento cheese.
Desserts include a bacon bourbon sundae, apple fritters and a chocolate waffle with peanut brittle.
Entrees can be paired with craft cocktails, local beers and wine. Snacks start at $2, while dishes begin at $10 and run into the mid-$30s.
Mansur is proud of his menu, which was developed by Chef Josh Agan, who was the executive chef at Flying Iguana, and uses local ingredients -- some grown on the property.
He’s also proud of the beach-chic buildout, which he admits was a gamble.
“I knocked down my busiest Al’s Pizza,” he said with a smile. “I don’t know if I’m crazy or if it was a smart move.”
Mansur opened an Al’s Pizza nearby in Neptune Beach. There are a total of seven pizza joints between Jacksonville and St. Augustine.
Mansur said he believed Coop 303's two-story complex is right for the diverse and walkable Beaches Town Center, where hour-plus waits for tables are common in several restaurants.
PHOTOS: A look inside Coop 303
While the first floor has restaurant seating, a long bar and an open kitchen, the second floor boasts a large modern bar with an outdoor patio, overlooking the strip of restaurants, shops and watering holes in the area.
There’s more to come. Mansur said he’s working on a rooftop terrace for dining and cocktails, complete with an herb garden. He hopes to have that part open by the end of the year.
It’ll likely be a popular place to be in a beaches area that has few options for rooftop dining and drinking.
The restaurant was well reviewed at a private pre-opening the weekend before.
Coop 303 is now open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and from 11 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
For more information, visit coop303.com.