The weather is turning chilly. It's time to think about soup.
Kansas City hasn't had such great luck with soup-only restaurants. A popular Westport restaurant in the late 1970s, the Souper, by all accounts served very good house-made soups and freshly baked breads until (rumor has it, anyway) the owner vanished one day after hastily taping a "Closed" sign to the front door. Several decades later, another soup restaurant, Souperman, chef Rob Dalzell's clever spin on the theme, opened at 1724 Main for a few years. It was a popular lunch venue until it also seemed to disappear, all too quickly, in 2010.
The good news is that Kansas City has so many traditional restaurants serving excellent, soothing and nourishing soup, who really needs a soup-only restaurant? The possibilities range from Plaza III's legendary steak soup to the once-famous (but not so fabulous in recent days) French onion soup offered by Houlihan's; if you really want French onion soup, order it at Aixois or Le Fou Frog.
The thing about soup is that, with a few exceptions (stew, chili, pho), it can't effectively pass itself off as a main course. But it is a great way to start a meal, particularly in tough economic times. If you start a meal with a cup of soup (and crackers or bread), you can order - or even share - a smaller, less costly entree.
The wisdom of this dates back at least to the Great Depression. Author Mary Drake McFeely, in her 2001 book, Can She Bake a Cherry Pie: American Women and the Kitchen in the 20th Century wrote:
"Soup as a first course gives a meal a leisurely and lavish air, but Depression-era cookbooks pointed out that it also took the edge off of appetites. When money was scarce, the main course could be smaller and simpler without leaving people hungry."
Do you ever order soup as an entree or do you prefer it as a way to start the meal? And where is your favorite place to find soup in Kansas City on a cold and dreary day? That is, when we have a cold and dreary day...