BY CHRISTINA STEUBE
PHOTOS BY LIZZIE MCINTOSH & BRUCE NEWMAN
Oxford’s nightlife has evolved dramatically in recent years, including the emergence of a diverse rooftop bar scene.
Balcony drinking has always been a pastime in Oxford. Who doesn’t enjoy an Old Fashioned from City Grocery’s elevated porch or a Planter’s Punch from the Boure balcony?
A few newer establishments have come along and upgraded the outdoor lounging experience with rooftop spots, including The Coop at the Graduate Oxford and Green Roof Lounge at Courtyard Marriott on Jackson Avenue.
Each Graduate Hotel is uniquely different, and the roof and the Oxford location was designed with the town in mind.
Its rooftop bar, The Coop, overlooks the downtown Square from four stories above Oxford.
“It’s unique Oxford,” bar manager Chip Moore said. “There’s nothing like this.”
The Coop has frequently been named one of the top 50 rooftop bars in the country, frequenting lists with other cities like Manhattan, San Diego and Las Vegas.
Moore is often surprised at the high-profile guests that continue to stop by The Coop.
“These are people that come through here, and they know nice things – they’ve seen it all. Everyone has taken to it,” he said.
The Coop, named after Cooper Manning and designed after a chicken coop, reflects the Oxford and Manning theme throughout the rest of the hotel. The rooftop roost is described by Moore as “shabby-chic,” with an elegant atmosphere combined with chicken wire, a hand-painted bar, and foxes throughout.
“It’s a great design,” Moore said. “It shows the laid back-ness of Oxford, but still has something nice. There’s something for everyone.”
That’s reflected in the drink menu. Moore said simple is best in his cocktail menu. For some casual fine drinking, bar-goers can get everything from a $5 Old Fashioned at Happy Hour to his accidental Frose creation – of which he sold 18 gallons alone just on the day of Double Decker earlier this year.
“No one wants to Google stuff on a menu,” he said. “The over-the-top mixology thing is fading.”
Moore said he prefers his menu to have tailored cocktails with 3 or 4 ingredients that take about 40 seconds to make.
The most popular drink at The Coop is the Moscow Mule. The classic vodka and ginger beer cocktail gets an upgrade at The Coop with the addition of ginger liqueur from Domain de Canton. Last year, Moore said The Coop sold enough Moscow mules to reach the top of three Empire State buildings.
“It really adds to it,” Moore said. “It’s just something different that no one else does.”
He attributes the success of The Graduate and its bar to the locals, who frequent the establishment.
“In order to survive, you have to have the locals on your side,” he said. “We’ve adjusted our prices and added happy hours and the locals really dig it.”
The Coop is also host to a Sunset Music Series. Each Wednesday night from 6 to 8 p.m. and Sundays from 3 to 5 p.m., local musicians will perform above Oxford, which Moore hopes will only make the atmosphere even more enjoyable.
“Oxford is an easy place to be influenced by the town. It’s easy to be inspired up here. I’ll come up here and look out at Oxford and wonder ‘what can I do to make Oxford happy today?’”
GREEN ROOF LOUNGE
The Green Roof Lounge at the Courtyard Marriott offers a rooftop garden escape from the chaos of the Square.
Though the hotel is part of a corporation, the lounge was created specifically for Oxford. The menu for the cocktail bar and tapas-inspired dinner spot was created by general manager and chef Cameron Bryant, who previously worked with The Ravine.
“The beauty of the rooftop makes you feel like you’re not in Oxford anymore,” Bryant says.
And the cocktails do not disappoint, either. All juices for the cocktails are fresh squeezed, and all liquor is infused with distinctive flavors made in-house, giving the local mixologists full control over experimentation with new drinks including the Lab Rat, which is the rotating special of whatever new recipe bar manager Mason Payne is concocting.
Bryant went through culinary training in Northern Italy and previously worked in Brooklyn, which means both places influence his menu in the form of fresh, seasonal ingredients. The tapas-heavy dinner menu includes items to be shared like cheese toast, a warm baguette with goat cheese and fig preserves. The street corn, a new dish for fall, is flash-fried corn on the cob with cotija aioli.
Bryant’s favorite dish is the burger, a two-patty monster on a potato bun with pepper jack cheese, bacon, dill aioli and pickled onions, which allowed him to put his spin on an otherwise classic burger.
Green Roof is open most evenings, but its weekend brunch is a unique experience. Open at 11 a.m. each Saturday, the lounge offers a full brunch menu with classics such as eggs benedict, frittatas and breakfast tacos – but not without a twist. The eggs benedict at Green Roof are on potato cakes with parmesan cheese, ham, a poached egg and basil walnut pesto.
The group seating with comfortable lounge chairs and large community tables on the fifth floor roof creates a fun and friendly vibe for both locals and hotel guests.
“Meals are meant to be shared, and this seating arrangement brings everyone together,” he says.
Green Roof is open Tuesday through Thursday 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., Friday 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. with free parking available at the Courtyard Marriott.
*Additional images courtesy of The Coop and Green Roof Lounge