Smile Politely

Fall into soups

I asked my friends where to get the best soup in town. Surprisingly, few had an answer. I thought that was weird. Really? In the entire town, there was no soup to get excited about? So, I went on the search. Given that we have so many good restaurants in town, I opted to look for in-house made soups. Sounds easy, right? Wrong. Turns out that many staff members in town believe that their establishment serves soup made in-house, but when I asked to speak to the person who made the soup, I found out that it came from a bag. Disappointed, I carried on. Here is a list of soups that I can confirm are made in house; I’m still on the hunt, though, and when I find more, I will pass them along to you. If you know of a soup that you are 100% sure is made in house, please leave a comment. I would love to hear from you.

The Bread Company, 706 S. Goodwin, Urbana

French Onion Soup $6

This is a dinner time soup served piping hot with crispy, melted cheese on top and a crouton inside. I generally don’t like the crouton in French onion soup because I don’t like soggy bread. However, this thick slice of homemade French bread holds its own against the bowl of soup. Also the diced onions, softened but not mushy, are in chunks, not in slices, giving a more robust bite in your mouth. The cheese is what makes this soup. The Bread Co. specializes in imported cheeses and gruyere is melted on top. This soup is bubbly and smooth and sweet and salty and piping hot, so be careful.

Dinner starts at 5 p.m.

Gazpacho, $3.50 bowl; $4.25 with bread

Gazpacho is fresh and wonderful and bursting with flavor and nutrients. Unfortunately, it is a very time consuming soup to make. Thankfully, Alex at the Bread Co. has the time to make it and let it sit overnight in order to, “let all the ingredients come together and be maximized. ” Fresh bell peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, red onions, tomato juice, garlic, balsamic vinegar and olive oil gently pureed in a food processor give a pleasantly minced quality. You can see the olive oil on the top and each bite is a burst of freshness. It is offered during the summer and during the early fall. We are in early fall people! It is not too late to make a request. Although not a regular soup on the menu, I believe that if we the residents of C-U request it enough, it could be. Hear my plea people, this is a soup that we need regularly! Join me in my cause!

The Bread Co. is open Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Saturday, 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.; and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Common Ground Co-op, 300 S. Broadway Suite 166, Urbana

All of Common Ground’s soups are made in-house, daily. For more info, check out the soup menu.

Potato Leek Soup, 8 oz $2.99, 16 oz $4.99, 32 oz $7.99

This potato leek soup is a lightweight comfort food that warms me and sends happiness through my body. It’s bright. (Is that lemon in it?) Made with cream and butter, it is not dairy free or vegan. But, it is vegetarian and wheat- and soy-free. Bits of potato skin give a little extra crunch and texture, matching the bits of herbs floating the pureed smoothness of the soup. It’s not too salty. I brought my own portioned containers from home to fill up so that I could have this soup for the week. Try it with wheat-free buckwheat roll, or a sweet cornbread muffin (each 99 cents). Extra spices are on the side ready for you to add; for example, salt or cayenne pepper to spice things up.

Also an excellent fall soup: split pea. 

Soups available 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.

Destihl, 301 N Neil St, Champaign

At Destihl, all the soups are homemade daily and are served with warmed ciabatta rolls and butter. The soups are perfect for a light lunch, afternoon snack, or an early dinner appetizer. Always on the menu are the tomato soup and the corn and chicken chowder. A revolving daily soup or soups completes the offerings; I recently had the seafood chowder.

Seafood Chowder, $4.95

This New England style of chowder is made with cream, as opposed to a Manhattan style which is tomato based. The cream was light, and so was the consistency. Not a thick, overly heavy soup, this is a delightful mouthful of different types of fishes. For diversification, the types of fish will change from batch to batch. My version had nice sized chunks of salmon, mahi mahi, tilapia, and clams. Garnished with a fresh curl of a green on top, perhaps a scallion, the soup was very enjoyable. 

Corn and Chicken Chowder, $4.95

This cream based soup came with chipotle espresso bbq sauce decorating the top! There was a lot happening with that sauce, and well worth the experience. It was an enjoyable, complex soup. Bite sized chunks of ancho chicken waited below the decorated surface, providing a sweet heat to each bite. A little jalapeno balanced with the red bell pepper and onions to complete the taste. ($4.95)

Destihl is open Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.; and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

All photos by Rebecca Johnson. 

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