Smile Politely

Tis the season for soups

It sure is cold out there. Gone are the days of wearing my sundresses and sandals; it’s time for hoodies and socks. It is soup season, and I am super pumped. There is no better way to warm up on a cold day than with a bowl of hot soup. I have been making my own soups at home, thanks to the pandemic, but 48 servings of the same damn soup make me crazy. I want a variety of soups, and sometimes, I want someone else to make me soup.

We asked where you get your favorite soup in town, and you told us. Today, my soup list has five to-go soups, but if you’re needing even more soups, check out this soup list we shared last year, this one, and this one.

A white clam chowder soup from Esquire Lounge in Champaign is in a pink bowl on a wooden counter. There is a white towel with a soup spoon to the left. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Clam Chowder | Esquire

Sold only on Fridays, Esquire’s clam chowder ($4.25 for a bowl) hit just right. It was a warm, creamy soup with soft pieces of red potato, celery, clam, and onion. It was a feel good soup. The celery was minced, and the clams were just as small which made for a great textured soup: each bite full of tiny veggies and clams. This clam chowder reminded me of the New England clam chowder my dad from Boston makes. Even if you don’t have New England memories to recall, this soup is legit. The peppery flavor and the clam throughout make for a satisfying soup that is welcome on any cold day.

I called 217-398-5858 to place my order, and when I arrived for pickup, they were bagging my order. Parking is a bit tricky, so give yourself a few extra minutes, but I found a spot on a side street and walked less than a block to get my order.

Esquire Lounge
106 N Walnut
11 a.m. to 2 a.m., daily

In a small takeout container, there is an orange colored bisque from Neil St. Blues in Champaign. There is a large square of cornbread on a white paper napkin beside it. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Sweet Corn & Crab Bisque | Neil St. Blues

Neil St. Blues has a lot of yummy things on their menu, and this sweet corn and crab bisque ($6 for a cup, $10 for a bowl) is one of them. This bisque was a thick soup, like almost a sauce more than a soup — and I loved it. Cream, sweet corn, and crab claw meat compose this soup that was served with a thick square of savory cornbread. The meaty chunks of crab and the sweet bites of corn give the bisque great medley of flavor and texture. The soup has tasty red pepper and paprika notes, giving just the slightest heat and spiciness that balanced the rich, velvety bisque. It was topped with chopped cilantro (which I love), but if you’re one of those people who don’t like cilantro, you can request for it to be left off.

Neil St. Blues has a great online ordering set-up, so be sure to place your order here. You can call to place your order, too. When you arrive, pull into one of the reserved curbside spots just off Neil Street, and call the restaurant to let them know you’re there. When I picked up my order, a masked staff person delivered my food to my passenger side window, and I was on my way home to eat in no time.

Neil St. Blues
301 S Neil St
T-Th 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
F+Sa 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.
Su 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

An overhead photo of red pepper soup from Pekara Bakery on Springfield in Champaign. The soup is in a to go cup, and beside it, there is a white square plate with five pieces of bread. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Roasted Red Pepper Soup | Pekara

You can get Pekara’s roasted red pepper soup ($5.95 for a bowl, $4.79 for a cup) every day at the Springfield location. This is a blended soup: each spoonful was the same. This rich soup came with five pieces of bread, so this is not a diet soup; this is not a detox, low calorie soup: this is a fill-your-belly, stretch-the-pants soup. With notes of black pepper and herbs, this soup’s prominent feature was the Gouda cheese. The Gouda’s smoky, cheesy flavor paired well with the garden sweetness of the roasted red pepper and tomatoes. It tasted like an elevated tomato soup, and I was here for it.

You can call 217-954-1002 to place your order before arriving if you don’t want to wait. I called ahead, walked in, paid, and was out the door with my soup in less than two minutes. You can also place your order in the store and be tempted by the baked goods in the case.

Pekara Bakery & Bistro
811 W Springfield Ave
8 a.m. to 2 p.m., daily

On a white marbled countertop, there is a green bowl with a beef noodle soup from Sushi Siam. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Beef Noodle Soup | Sushi Siam

I shared about the gorgeous sushi I’ve had from Sushi Siam, but this beef noodle soup ($10.99) was amazing. I want this soup everyday. This soup had vermicelli noodles with sliced beef, bean sprouts, Chinese broccoli, cilantro, and green onion. The noodles and broth were packaged separately for my to-go order — and large enough portions of each for me to have leftovers the following day. The soup had depth of flavors: spicy, umami, and beefy. The mild thinly sliced beef and veggies balanced the savory broth. The portion of noodles provided was so large that every slurp of soup could contain noodles, and I think that makes for a good noodle soup. 

There was spicy heat to this soup which I enjoyed, but if you don’t like spicy, you can ask for it to be made mild. To order, call the restaurant at 217-607-1906. Pickup was easy as Sushi Siam has tables set up by the door, each with the check ready for the diner’s signature.

Sushi Siam
1729 W Kirby Ave
M-Sa 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., 4:30 to 8:30 p.m.

On a white marbled counter, there is a blue bowl of orange soup, a yellow curry from Sticky Rice in Champaign. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Yellow Curry Soup | Sticky Rice

Sticky Rice’s yellow curry soup ($12) might be my favorite soup in town. If you like potatoes and you like coconut flavors, you would love this soup. Served with steamed white rice, this yellow curry has a coconut broth base with potatoes and onions cooked with a sweet yellow curry paste. You can add chicken, beef, pork, tofu, or shrimp for $2, or you can add duck for an additional $5. Sticky Rice customizes each dish to the customer’s spiciness preference, so when you place your order, let them know how spicy you like it.

This yellow curry soup was creamy and coconut-y with a very light spice (I like to order this soup mild) and best served over a heap of rice. I ordered chicken as an addition to my curry soup, and the chicken was thinly sliced and well-seasoned. The ribbons of onion and the potato chunks were soft and delicious. You can place your order by calling 217-954-1929. There’s a small parking lot next to the restaurant, just off Neil Street, that you can pull into, and the Sticky Rice staff will bring your order to your car if you call when you arrive.

Sticky Rice
415 N Neil St
M-Sa 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Su noon to 9 p.m.

Top image by Alyssa Buckley.

Food + Drink Editor

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