“Soup” is too stale a word to describe the following dishes we sampled for the first Restaurants section of 2014. “Soup” is a canned, microwaveable nightmare of a lazy meal that we scramble for when sick on a cold winter day. So we won’t be eating “soup” this month. Rather, we have put together an eclectic assortment of chilis, chowders and bisques that are so fresh and succulent you will forego the “rhymes-with-ambles” meal and enjoy something heartier from local southwest metro restaurants. Our gaggle of gumbos are also the perfect meals for those with New Year’s weight-loss resolutions. Bon appetit!
Our first stop on the southwest metro soup tour introduces the best of the Western grub in flavor and style. ChuckWagon Charlie’s in Chanhassen offers the best variety of smoked and roasted foods that are sure to buck your bronco. The famous Brisket Chili packs two southwestern specialties into one dish: Fresh-smoked brisket swims amid flavorful tomato base and comes decorated with scallions, cheese, cilantro and spicy jalapeños for an extra kick ($5.95 bowl). Owner Byron Korus also recommends the black bean soup for those looking for a milder meal. Southwestern black beans, chopped onion and cilantro come together for a low-calorie bowl packed with nutrients. ($2.95 cup/$4.95 bowl). 545 78th St. W., Chanhassen; 952.767.2929.
What’s the first thing you order at a Mexican restaurant? Chips and salsa? Steak fajitas? Whichever dish you prefer, your answer almost certainly wasn’t “soup”—until now. Patron restaurant in Chaska is always modifying its menu to create the most unique dining experience, and that includes serving items that might not show up on other Mexican restaurant menus. The tortilla soup is a customer favorite made with fresh Mexican rice, grilled chicken, tomato and onion, and garnished with cilantro and tortilla strips to add some texture. Or try the Azteca Soup, the same recipe as the tortilla with the addition of charro beans. (Owner Jarim Pacheco recommends this steaming selection for bold diners looking to branch out.) Both soups cost $4.99 a bowl. 207 N. Chestnut St., Chaska; 952.479.7053.
Some soups are born from legend. The pepperoni soup at Victoria House is so well loved, it was a bargaining chip used to clinch sale of the restaurant 13 years ago, when current owners Bobby Goral and his cousins Dan and John Lee bought the Victoria House on the condition the previous owners included the recipe. This tomato basil-based soup is so popular it’s sold by the cup ($3.99), bowl ($4.99), quart ($9.99) and even gallon ($35.99). That’s right, for those planning the best Super Bowl party in town, a full gallon of the pepperoni soup could be yours; just remember to place your order in advance to accommodate other gallon guzzlers. Manager Barbara Jo Kuzelka says it is Victoria House’s signature item, but insists it’s not the only item on the menu. 1715 Steiger Lake Lane, Victoria; 952.443.2858.
Chicken Noodle Soup
Crumb Gourmet Deli
No list would be complete without everyone’s favorite soup. Crumb Gourmet Deli in Eden Prairie describes theirs as “liquid comfort in a bowl” ($3.50 cup/$4.50 bowl), and we tend to agree. Crumb uses the highest quality ingredients to create a warm, soothing meal that can be paired with any sandwich on the menu. We recommend the Empire, packed with grilled chicken, swiss cheese, tomatoes, romaine and asiago Caesar dressing on toasted ciabatta ($7.25). Crumb also takes $1 off your tab if you purchase any of their soups with any salad or whole sandwich. 7910 Mitchell Road, Eden Prairie; 952.934.1717.
Lola’s Lakehouse in Waconia is the last stop on our soup journey; like a flowing river of chicken noodle, tortilla and cheddar, this journey ends at the sea. Lola’s has two fresh saltwater offerings that are so savory, you’d think you were on the coast. Lola’s lobster bisque is a hearty helping of creamy crustacean that can even be ordered gluten-free. For those who prefer a more traditional seafood soup, the New England clam chowder is just as good. (Both soups $3.50 a cup, $5.25 a bowl.) 318 E. Lake St.; Waconia; 952.442.4954.