Five soups for the soup season: Food & drink: Smile politely

Five soups for the soup season: Food & drink: Smile politely

It’s soup season! One of the benefits of living in central Illinois and experiencing all four seasons is the urge for soup in the winter. There is something wonderful about coming home to soup that has been heated in a crock pot all day at home. You smell the soothing aroma when you enter your home.

My wife asked me if chili was a soup, to which I replied, “Absolutely not!” So my community service to you, dear reader, was to help find good soups to enjoy here in CU. I tried five local soups and here is what I think of them.

On a table, there is a plastic bowl of egg soup next to hot tea in a white styrofoam cup.  Photo by Carl Busch.Photo by Carl Busch.

Egg drop soup | I-Wok

I tried the egg soup ($ 2.75 small, $ 3.95 large) at the Savoy Chinese restaurant. Do not let the modest building fool you, I-Wok has some of the best Chinese food in the area and their soups are no exception. If you choose to dine in, you can treat yourself to free hot tea. It’s a nice treat on a cold day.

Their egg drop soup was rich, buttery, eggy and served with a generous serving of fried ton-skins for a wonderful crunch. It was easy and wonderful. And it was made to order! How do I know? I saw them do it. This is not a soup that sits on a warmer all day – and it makes a world of difference.

113 Calvin St
T-Sat 10:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Sunday 11.30am to 9.30pm

On a white table there is a plate of crab rangoons and a white bowl of hot and sour soup.  Photo by Carl Busch.Photo by Carl Busch.

Hot and sour soup | Rainbow Garden Urbana

There is something magical to me about mushrooms, tofu and eggs in a spicy broth. I love hot and sour soup, and Urbana Rainbow Gardens hot and sour soup ($ 2.95) is one of my favorites.

The broth was rich, dark and thick. The balance of flavor was perfect and it had generous portions of eggs and tofu. The spice level was just where I like it to be: a slow mild heat that makes my nose run just as I finish. This soup was an excellent way to start a nice Chinese meal at a restaurant with delicious interior design. Do not be fooled that it is in a mall; it is a wonderful and warm place to enjoy eating in.

The rainbow garden
202 E University Ave.
T-South at 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Sunday noon to 9 p.m.

On a white plate there is a black bowl with a white empty kha chicken soup.  Photo by Carl Busch.Photo by Carl Busch.

Tom Kha Chicken | Siam terrace

Unique is the word that comes to mind with this soup ($ 5.99). It was incredibly unique. The taste was wonderfully powerful and there was a lot going on in this soup: coconut milk, fish sauce, lime juice, ginger, enoki mushrooms, chicken, lemongrass, cilantro, green onions and lime leaves. It’s an insane number of ingredients, and I’m sure I’ve left out some. They all worked.

The broth was silky soft and the sweetness of the coconut milk was balanced by the acidity of the lime juice. I added chicken to my soup, which added a nice heartiness, but this soup would still be excellent without the chicken. A small bowl was a generous portion. They also offer medium ($ 9.99) and large ($ 12.99) portions in addition to the small ones I had.

Siam terrace
212 W Main St
MF 11.00 to 15.00 + 17.00 to 22.00
Sun 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

On a beige plate with a white paper napkin, there is a beige bowl of red soup and a few biscuit hexagons on top.  Photo by Carl Busch.Photo by Carl Busch.

Roasted red pepper Gouda | Seven Saints

I was going to get Seven Saints tomato bisque which is offered every day and it is amazing. I can highly recommend it, but when our server uttered the words “our day’s soup is roasted red pepper Gouda,” ($ 5.99 toast, $ 3.99 cup), I was hooked. It did not disappoint.

The broth was deep red and very inviting. My wife disagreed, but I thought the soup tasted like a pizza. Whether you agree with me or not, you will love this soup if you like tomato, roasted red pepper and Gouda cheese. If you think Gouda is too strong a cheese for you, I still recommend trying a cup of this as the other flavors really soften Gouda, making it the perfect cheese for this soup.

Seven Saints
32 E Chester St
Sun-Thu 11.00 to 23.00
F + Sa kl. 11 a.m. to midnight

On an orange plate, there is a bowl of chicken tortilla soup, a silver spoon and toppings to add to the soup.  Photo by Carl Busch.Photo by Carl Busch.

Chicken Tortilla Soup | Three Nopales

One of my newer favorite places, Tres Nopales, is a wonderful place with lovely spacious cabins and an extremely relaxing atmosphere. What’s better to help with relaxation than a hot chicken tortilla soup ($ 5.99)? I love that they serve onions, radishes, cilantro and tomatoes next to it so you can add whatever you want. I love it all, so I dumped all those goodies right in.

The broth had a great flavor and the chicken and crispy tortilla chips added some heartiness and crunch to this large bowl. The dish was so generous that my wife and I shared it when we both also got an entree, but this soup could be your meal and you would be satisfied.

Three Nopales
114 S Race St
11.00 to 15.00 + 17.00 to 21.30

Top image by Carl Busch.

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