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Friday, January 19, 2024

My 18 Favorite Arkansas Soups.

Tasked with providing a list of the soups I adore the absolute most by THV's The Vine, I'm thrilled to share some of my favorite heartwarming cups and bowls from around The Natural State.

The Meal of Sorgheloos (allegory on Carelessness); a group of five figures dining; a servant with food entering the doorway at left, a child reaching up to the table at right and a small dog in the foreground; in a roundel. c.1490-1500. Holdings of The British Museum.
January is National Soup Month, and for good reason. Soup, as ancient as the cooking pot, has warmed us from within for millenia. Warmed broth has always been winter's delight, and over time has evolved. In medieval times, upper class individuals would dine on meat broths augmented with chunks of domestic or wild proteins, while peasants consumed pottages filled with grain and vegetables. Clear consomm√© was once the height of haute cuisine. Every generation and every culture has some variety of soup that's popular, from New
England Clam Chowder to Hungarian Goulash to Japanese Ramen. 

But why soup? Restaurants love soup for a simple reason - speed. Even back to the lunchrooms of the 20s through the 50s, soup was one of those things that could be placed on the menu and served up quickly, which meant more customers could come in, dine, and leave quicker, leaving space for the next round. The combination of soup and sandwich made the idea even more palatable - after all, satiety is best settled

Soup is served to patrons of the restaurant at the El Dorado Inn, 1965. Postcard photo by Johnnie M. Gray.
when you have more than one flavor to enjoy, and sandwiches tend to also be quick service items.

Arkansas has its fair share of soups. At home historically, bean soup is common, being a variety of brown beans boiled together with or without broth but with a chunk of ham or bacon within. You'll also find chicken broth soups popular here, particularly using homemade broths that begin with garden vegetables boiled along with the bird. 

Not all bowl-borne entrees are considered soups. Chicken and dumplings dithers along this line - some folks make theirs with a great deal of broth, but in our house dumplings soak up the broth for a more solid creation. Chili, which tends to have far more solid matter than liquid, is considered a type of stew.

Here are my favorite soups across the state of Arkansas.

French Onion Soup at Colonial Steakhouse in Pine Bluff. Rich, flavorful, and with more cheese than you might expect, this classic cup from one of the city's most beloved restaurants is dinner and a show.  

Curried Seafood Chowder at Rogue's Manor in Eureka Springs. I am happy with the soup - at a restaurant known for its extravagant dishes. Mind you, I'll enjoy every second of a full meal at this Eureka Springs delight, but I've dreamt about this soup. The cumin, turmeric, and cardamom notes in this lush tomato base somehow never contrast with crabmeat, scallops, shrimp, and lobster in its unctuous countenance. A marvel amongst soups.

Vegetable Beef Soup at Black Angus Steakhouse in Little Rock This is my go-to when I need true warmth. I will drop by any time I'm chilly, cold, wet, or in need of some soul warming for this humble soup. It's packed with vegetables and chunks of ground beef in a translucent tomato broth. Just like homemade.

Roasted Red Pepper Soup at FayRay's in El Dorado. Ah silk, rendered in savory red pepper. This simple yet mighty combination of roasted peppers, tomatoes and cream is all you ever really need for an opening course. Just enough Creole seasoning to set you up for a magnificent evening. 

Beer Cheese Soup at Hugo's in Fayetteville. If you're in Fayetteville, head down the stairs at Hugo's and get yourself a bowl of beer cheese soup. It's heartwarming in all the good ways, and it's beautifully cheesy. It's also the perfect salve after a night of imbibing. Yes, I do know this from experience. 

White Cheddar Dill Soup at PattiCakes Bakery in Conway
. UPDATED. The interview on soup we had at THV's The Vine on the 8th included a lot of soups, including the White Cheddar Dill at PattiCakes Bakery in Conway. Sadly, a few days ago, the second PattiCakes location where production for both the bakery and the two Stoby's locations happened, burned. For now, the remaining PattiCakes is closed while the Stobaughs sort things out. When it returns, you owe it to yourself to procure yourself a bowl of the savory, unique White Cheddar Dill soup. It's unlike any other Arkansas soup I've tried, with piquantly bright notes in a delectable cheddar broth. Pair it with a sandwich or just get yourself a croissant alongside. Looking forward to this returning soon.

Tom Kha Soup at Thai Kitchen in Bentonville. The delicate notes of ginger and lemongrass in this light coconut soup are absolutely restorative after a busy day. I have many times gone in just for this soup. So amazing.

Pho Tai Nam Gan (brisket and tendon soup) at Pho Thanh My in Little Rock. This is my usual order when I go to this marvelous Vietnamese spot near my home. The tendon is always very, very tender, and the portions are ridiculously large. I also love that the brisket doesn't lose flavor in the broth. Great varied notes in the broth, and this is one dish where I love the fresh onion. 

Madelaine's Gold Soup at Crepes Paulette in Bentonville. One of my favorite soups ever comes from Bentonville's original crepe maker, Crepes Paulette.  Madelaine's Gold is this lush, rich, buttery vegetarian root vegetable soup that's like velvet, especially when it's stupid cold outside and you need to warm yourself from within. So good it stands on its own as a reason to visit. 

Tomato Basil Soup at Two Sisters in Sherwood.
A thick tomato basil soup that'll sustain you through the day. This dense and textured version of the classic is a knock-out, with lavish heft. It's beautiful and it's tasty, and you can get it at either of the Two Sisters Cafes (Sherwood or downtown Little Rock). The perfect grilled cheese dipping concoction.

Bean Soup at the Monte Ne Inn Chicken Restaurant in Monte Ne. This right here is, if you were to press me on it, what Arkansas's native soup would be, a homemade bean soup prepared with a light dose of onions, steeped all day, and served to every table at a restaurant all-you-can-eat. Match it with a loaf of the fresh bread and it's a meal in itself - which is crazy talk, because it's the opening act in the famed family-style chicken dinner that's the only entree on the menu there. 

Red Curry Soup at Asian Cafe in Fort Smith
.  Tangy and bright, packed with your choice of protein and a generous accompaniment of vegetables, this soup sparks joy. I mean, it's tasty and I dig it.

Hot and Sour Soup at Mei Li Cuisine in Eureka Springs. Built on a luscious beef broth, this savory yet tangy soup has depths that will enrich one's soul.

Broccoli Cheese Soup at Sweet Treats in Lamar.
Never to skimp, when broccoli cheese soup is on the menu at Sweet Treats, it comes surmounted with a motherlode of shredded cheddar, making for a beautifully stringy cheese experience.

Minestrone at Roma Italian Restaurant in Ozark. 
Packed with vegetables, this bowlful is hearty yet nicely varied in its contents. Honestly, it can fill you up quite succinctly on its own, even before the lunch specials.

Egg Drop Soup at China Taste in Little Rock.  When I'm sick, the fam knows to go get me a double order of China Taste's excellent, rich egg drop soup. It's a cure-all, and sometimes all I can handle in my darkest days. Not too salty, with plenty of protein and a perfectly seasoned broth. I don't have a photo because I only tend to order this when I'm sick, and... well, I'm not shooting anything when I'm sick.

Carrot Ginger Soup at Louise at Thaden Field in Bentonville. Dinner and a show, restaurant at a small regional airport with a museum to boot -but never mind that, this soup is extraordinary! It's not on the everyday menu but pops up as a special from time to time. Velvety with surprisingly bright notes. A winner.

Tomato and Fresh Basil Soup at Hammontree's Grilled Cheese in Fayetteville. Delightfully vibrant, this soup has attained national attention as a great combination of Arkansas fresh ingredients and vivacious flavor. Pairs wonderfully with about every single sandwich on the menu.


  1. soups all look yummy, Heber Springs smokehouse has good cheeseburger soup too

  2. They all look and sound delicious.

  3. Gaskins Cabin Steakhouse in Eureka Springs has to die for Mushroom Soup.


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