I am a big fan of soup. I eat it all year, I enjoy making it, and I feel that the quality of a soup is a good measuring stick for the cooking ability of a chef. But plenty of you don’t think about soup like I do — you only feel a hankering when temps drop and you can’t take that morning run on the beach without some serious windburn. Well, for those of you that aren’t always scanning a menu for the soup selections, here are some of the best (but by no means the only delicious) soups on offer right now in the area. There’s plenty more on plenty of menus, so grab those spoons and start sampling.
Soup Sampler / Five Loaves Cafe
Hands down, if someone asks me for a soup suggestion, Five Loaves immediately comes to mind. Back in the days when I had a 9-5 job, the Cannon Street location was a go-to for myself and my office mates. What made it such a standby was this sampler, which can be composed of any three soups on the board and then served in combo with a half salad or sandwich. One of those three should always be the Tomato Basil or the Tomato Tarragon with Crabmeat.
She-Crab Soup / 82 Queen
82 Queen St.
Tradition, a seat in the courtyard, and a generous dollop of sherry make this the she-crab soup to taste when you have a craving. It one of the most famous dishes in the city, and this is the most famous spot to get it, and for good reason. It couldn’t be any richer or creamier, but remember, it’s definitely not low-cal.
Caldo de Camaron / Santi's
1302 Meeting Street Road
Ever since I ordered this years ago at Santi’s, I’ve eschewed all other menu items at the old-school joint on Meeting Street Road. This bowl of fresh, light broth is so satisfying with surrounding plump shrimp, veggies, avocado, and a hefty dose of lime, that I simply order chips and a beer and I’m set for the evening.
Braised Pork & Lentil Soup / Butcher & Bee
1085 Morrison Drive
Butcher & Bee is often listed in the Lowdown, and it’s because Chef Chelsey Conrad simply offers outstanding seasonal choices. This is a soup that perfectly illustrates the winter months and is definitely a meal in itself, especially since it also includes kale and Shawarma Pita Chips.
Clam Chowder / The Darling Oyster Bar
513 King St.
Years ago, I worked at a restaurant in Florida where the clam chowder came out of a milk carton and into the warming pot, so I’ve been turned off for years. That is, until The Darling turned me back on with their version. First, it’s sporting a green chimichurri swirl garnish upon its arrival to the table; second, it includes the most petite baby red potatoes and plenty of bacon; and third, you can order it over French fries for a take on poutine.
Ajiaco / Getaway Bar
541 King St.
Emily Hahn is back at the helm of another bar-centric restaurant, this time at The Getaway, and her delightful menu of Caribbean- and Cuban-inspired dishes already have guests staying longer than one round. Case in point, this Ajiaco, otherwise known as “hangover chicken soup,” that comes with made-to-order chapa bread and a salty, crispy fried chicken skin on top, and is filled with good veggies and braised chicken just like mama would make you if she wasn’t mad you missed curfew.
French Three-Onion Soup / goat.sheep.cow North
804 Meeting St. No. 102
This is one of the soups I love so much that I often consider trying to make it at home, but frankly, French Onion Soup (FOS) takes a lot of work for me to get it right. If you are a FOS lover, then you know that each element is equally important, and at Goat.Sheep.Cow, they do too. Onion-y broth is capped with crusty bread that holds its shape under the pressure of the soup seeping in, and it’s all topped with the spot’s signature delicious cheese.
Stephanie Burt grew up in Charlotte on good Southern cooking and lots of books. She received both her BA and MA in English from UNC Charlotte and was a former instructor of English and American Studies there. She has made Charleston her home since 2005. Stephanie also is the host of The Southern Fork, http://thesouthernfork.com, a weekly podcast of culinary conversations with a Southern twist. Reach her at email@example.com.