Where can you get a great bowl of soup? Readers share

swthompson@herald-leader.comJanuary 28, 2014 

Soup — from tomato to creamy squash — is what we love on a cold winter day.

Some of us savor the aroma of a homemade soup simmering on the back burner of a warm stove, while others prefer to eat soup someone else has made.

We asked readers to tell us which area restaurants make the best soups and we heard from several passionate soup lovers.

Krissy Fraser, co-owner and soup maker at Courtyard Deli, 113 Cheapside, has a strong following of fans who enjoy almost any soup she puts on the menu. Standards are chicken n' wild rice, white chili, Tuscan tomato, and French onion.

"If you are looking for the best soups in town, go to Cheapside," said Thomas Bunch, an attorney with Bunch & Brock. He and his friends eat downtown "at least five days a week, 51 weeks a year, so we have eaten everything on every restaurant's menu 10 to 20 times."

Fraser prepares special soups two to three times a week.

"Her shrimp diablo is a big hit among the lawyers who eat there almost daily. My preferences are her various lentil soup recipes," Bunch said.

David Archer of Lexington agreed, saying his favorite soup place is "definitely The Courtyard Deli."

All of the soup are delicious, said Archer, adding that his favorites are white chili and the chili mac.

"The broccoli cheddar is so good my wife actually cried when they took it off the regular menu and started rotating it in once a month," he said. "My kids, who would rather eat chicken nuggets than about anything, have several favorites on the soup menu at the Deli and are not afraid to try new ones."

Added Archer: "The best part is that they have been pulling this off every day for more than 20 years. Having worked downtown that entire time I can tell you that they have been consistently special and deserve to be at the top of your list."

William Craycraft, Jr. of Lexington concurs, and so does Gayle Haynes.

"Every single day there are soups there that could pass as world class and be in five-star restaurants. Chili, chowder, bisque, you name it, they have served it and wowed the crowd," Craycraft said.

"I think it is the only restaurant downtown that even has a variety of soups on a daily basis. The cream based bisques seem to be a special talent for Krissy and she knows how to use spices in soups," Haynes said.

Jessica Gies agrees with the others.

"My standard favorite is the crab and mushroom bisque. My new favorite is the shrimp and artichoke bisque. You really can't go wrong with anything she (Krissy Fraser) whips up," Gies said.

Mac Lacy of Lexington said he's also a big fan of Courtyard Deli's soups, particularly the shrimp and artichoke bisque.

"Courtyard Deli is generous with their shrimp and their artichokes in both soups and salads, so I always feel like I'm getting a value for the price," Lacy said.

While Courtyard Deli clearly has a faithful group of fans, we heard from others who are just as passionate about their favorite soups at other locales.

Here's what they had to say:

■ Lynne Gates of Lexington: "I especially love the soups at Le Matin (890 East High Street). Debbie (Larian) makes a variety of delicious soups, but my favorites are her cream soups: squash, broccoli, cauliflower and carrot-leek. Rich and flavorful, but with only a splash of cream, these soups along with any of the sandwiches offered on the crusty but lighter-than-air French baguette make Le Matin my lunchtime destination."

■ Dee Jones of Lexington: "The absolute best soup I've eaten in Lexington is the beef curry udon at Tomo (848 East High Street). This soup is a silky noodle-y broth that warms your soul. I have to admit that I love the sushi at Tomo so much that it was hard to not order it, but my husband is a soup fiend, so he ordered this, and we were hooked. This soup could easily convert non-ethnic food-eating people to Japanese food. I consider it a gateway food."

■ James Vincent of Georgetown: "I walked in to Double H BBQ (1244 Versailles Road) the week of the polar vortex seeking a hearty soup, and let me tell you, that's exactly what I found when I ordered their burgoo. There are probably thousands of recipes for burgoo around here but these guys have one that's tomato based with thick chunks of meats and veggies, with stew-like consistency. I have had burgoo at the racetracks and several restaurants, but this recipe, for me, is the best I've ever eaten."

■ Chris Geisler of Lexington: "A lot of people will swear by Double H BBQ's hearty burgoo and those people make a valid point, but for me and my money I'll take their white chicken chili. I have to get at least a cup almost every time I go in there. Add in some of their homemade hot sauce for extra flavor and you'll be hooked."

■ Arnold Shannon of Lexington: "My favorite soup is at La Petite Creperie (191 Kentucky Avenue). The onion soup is unbelievable. They make their soup from scratch in small batches."

■ Ben Becker of Lexington: "The tomato soup at La Petite Creperie is amazing."

■ Ron Pinchback of Lexington: "The chicken mushroom soup at Wallace Station (3854 Old Frankfort Pike, Versailles) in is really good."

■ Richard Stone of Sadieville: "The pho at Asia Café on (1600) Leestown Road is $6 for a giant bowl and the broth is just fabulous."

■ Linda Peevy of Lexington: "My favorite soup is the tomato soup served at Bella Notte and Smashing Tomato. It is a tomato bisque with flame-kissed grilled chicken just a wonderful combination of flavors — truly an all-American comfort food."

■ Derek Law of Lexington: "My favorite soup in Lexington is the spicy chicken soup at Jalapenos Mexican restaurant (I go to the Broadway one). It is an excellent soup to have when one is feeling an illness about to come on. It has big chunks of white meat chicken, rice, veggies, avocado chunks floating on top, and comes with a lime that when squeezed into the soup adds real depth to the flavor of the broth."

■ Other recommendations include: Any of the soups at Soup Kitchen, 376 Southland Drive; tortilla soup at Cheddar's; lentil soup at Sahara Mediterranean Cuisine (3061 Fieldstone Way); all soups at Windy Corner (4595 Bryan Station Road), bean soup at Winchell's (348 Southland Drive); smoked turkey tortilla soup at Sarah's Corner Cafe, 4300 Winchester Road; and tomato-celery soup at Shakertown at Pleasant Hill.

RECIPES

Krissy Fraser of The Courtyard Deli on Cheapside offers her recipe for shrimp and sausage diablo.

Shrimp and sausage diablo

¼ cup good quality olive oil

¼ cup diced celery

¼ cup diced onions

2 hot chili peppers (your heat choice)

2 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cubed

2 quarts beef stock

1 pound hot Italian sausage, cooked, crumbled

1 pound small peeled, deveined shrimp

3 tablespoons Jamaican Jerk seasoning

2 tablespoons hot sauce (your heat choice)

2 bay leaves

¼ cup heavy whipping cream to finish

Salt and pepper to taste

Pour olive oil in a heavy stock pot and sweat celery, onions and peppers in it. Add squash cubes and beef stock. Simmer until squash is fully cooked and mashable. Using an immersion blender, puree all ingredients.

Add sausage, shrimp, hot sauce, jerk seasoning and bay leaf. Simmer 5 minutes until shrimp are cooked. Finish with cream. Adjust seasonings. If soup is too thick, add more stock. Makes 8 servings.

LD and Ralph Egbert, owners of Sarah's Corner Cafe on Winchester Road, sent one of their most-requested soup recipes.

Smoked turkey tortilla soup

1 teaspoon olive oil

2 medium onions, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

3 celery stalks, cut into bite size pieces

1 yellow sweet pepper, chopped

1 red sweet pepper, chopped

1 orange sweet pepper, chopped

2 cans (10 ounces each) Ro-Tel tomatoes with green chilies

3 cups chicken broth

1 pound smoked turkey breast (cut into 1/2-inch pieces)

Shredded Monterey Jack cheese and crushed tortilla chips, for garnish

Warm oil in a large pot over medium heat for 1 minute. Add onions, garlic, celery and peppers. Sauté until tender crisp. Add tomatoes, broth and turkey. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes.

Garnish with shredded Monterey Jack cheese and crushed tortilla chips, if desired.

Elizabeth Farley of Lexington said she couldn't recommend a good soup at a restaurant, but she sent us her favorite stew recipe.

"It's from a much-loved niece who, sadly, has passed away. Her name was Debbie Mason Yates, and she was a terrific cook and loved to entertain family and friends. She supplied me with this recipe that is called sweet potato stew. It is unusual, very fragrant and I make a soup pot full at least twice a year." Sweet potato stew

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large onion, chopped (about 2 cups)

2 cups chopped cabbage

3 cloves minced garlic

1 can (14½ ounces) diced tomatoes

1½ cups tomato juice

¾ cup apple juice

1 to 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger root

½ teaspoon red pepper

1 can (18 ounces) sweet potatoes, drained and chopped

2 cups frozen green beans

1⁄3 cup peanut butter

In large pot, add oil and onion and sauté until onion is tender, then add cabbage and garlic. Cover, simmer 6 minutes or until cabbage is tender. Add tomatoes, juices, red pepper and ginger root (start with 1 teaspoon, you can always add more). Cover and simmer 10 minutes, then add sweet potatoes and green beans. Simmer 5 minutes. Stir in peanut butter. Heat 1 minute. Serve with rice and crusty bread.

Note: Instead of using canned sweet potatoes, bake a sweet potato, about 9 ounces, at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Cool and dice.

Sharon Thompson: (859) 231-3321. Twitter: @FlavorsofKY. Blog:flavorsofkentucky.bloginky.com

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