Soup’s On!

A pot of soup has long been a vehicle for utilizing leftover produce and proteins, taking what remains in the pantry and fashioning it into something newly delicious. Yet these standout soups — thoughtfully prepared at five local restaurants — are no second-tier sustenance. They have arisen as signature dishes, tempting customers year-round to enjoy a bowl of steaming, nourishing goodness.

Warm your soul and whet your appetite with these six soup-er soups — winter’s chill begone.

Brunswick Stew and Turtle Bean Soup

At Pimiento Tea Room

The Brunswick Stew was the first item on the menu at Pimiento Tea Room, and it’s never left.

“Not a lot of places serve (Brunswick Stew) outside of barbecue restaurants,” says Christy Griffith, chef at PTR, which she owns with her husband Matt. “We are not a traditional tea room — who would expect Brunswick Stew at a tea house?”

Roasted chicken thighs are the only meat in the stew, a change from pork-packed versions at barbecue joints. PTR’s rendition is a tomato-based stew filled with corn, lima beans, onions, green beans, and served with a scoop of corn pudding on top.

“We don’t have room on the stovetop to cook it anymore,” says Griffith. “The giant pans slow cook in the oven for hours.”

Turtle beans are a type of black beans, which Griffith uses to make her vegan, gluten-free version of black bean soup.

“It’s got chili vibes, very comforting,” she says. “With lots of textures even though it’s pureed.”

The spice level changes throughout the year, based on the available crop of jalapenos. Corn chips, scallions, and house-made chow chow provide colorful complements to the dish.

“Our chow chow is pickled relish with cabbage, peppers, onions, and tomatillos,” says Griffith.

Also try: Corn Chowder or Creamy Chicken Soup.

Pimiento Tea Room
200 N. Main St., Holly Springs
(984) 225-4213

French Onion Soup

At Garibaldi Trattoria Pizza & Pasta

“It’s as traditional as it can get,” says Arken Elhicheri, owner of popular Italian restaurant Garibaldi Trattoria in Fuquay-Varina.

Garibaldi’s French Onion Soup starts by sweating white onions, pulling the sugar out.

“We catch the natural sweetness,” says Elhicheri. Cherry wine and homemade veal stock enter the pot next.

“Our veal stock takes four days to make. We roast the bones and cook it down for four days,” he says.

In keeping with tradition, the savory soup is served in a thick ceramic crock, topped with a house-made crostini and Gruyère cheese, then broiled to caramelized perfection.

Also try: Recurring special Lobster Bisque

Garibaldi Trattoria
900 N. Main St., Fuquay-Varina
(919) 552-8868


At Cristo’s Bistro

Italian Egg Drop Soup, Italian Wedding Soup, or Stracciatelli — many names for one classic dish that appears in countless variations at Italian bistros far and wide.

The “wedding” reference actually comes from an Italian phrase “minestra maritata,” which means “married soup,” referring to the marriage of ingredients — green vegetables and meat — that stand out in all varieties of Italian Wedding Soups.

Cristo’s Bistro’s wholesome version has egg whites and wilted spinach piled high in the bowl surrounded by steaming, flavorful chicken broth and sliced meatballs, served with Parmesan cheese and toasted bread on the side. Pair with a salad for a light lunch, an appetizer of toasted ravioli, or a slice of pizza for heartier fare.

Also try: Pasta Fagioli.

Cristo’s Bistro
5217 Sunset Lake Road, Holly Springs
(919) 363-8852


At Bep Vietnamese Kitchen

Adam Gilpatrick, one of the owners of Bep Vietnamese Kitchen, admits that traditional Pho isn’t difficult to make in terms of skill, but requires plenty of time to get it right.

“It’s all about the beef broth,” says Gilpatrick. “Our broth cooks for 12 hours, boiling the beef bones to extract the bone marrow and give the depth of flavor. It simmers all day long, then the spices are added overnight.”

Flavors include cardamom, star anise, and a special house blend of spices that Gilpatrick hesitates to reveal.

Upon ordering, a base of rice noodles creates the foundation for the customer’s choice of protein. Rare beef, brisket, meatball, chicken, and shrimp are all options. Steaming hot broth fills the generously sized bowl, topped with cilantro, onions, and scallions. A plate of garnishes accompanies each order of Pho, including basil, bean sprouts, sliced jalapenos, and limes. Add sriracha or hoisin sauce to taste.

“It has to be like you get it at home,” says Gilpatrick, who married into a Vietnamese family and enjoys many home-cooked Vietnamese meals courtesy of his relatives.

“Pho is not something you prepare just for yourself. You cook it for multiple people. It’s physically comforting, warm, and tasty, but it’s also about the shared table,” he says.

Also try: Lemongrass Pork Vermicelli Bowl.

Bep Vietnamese Kitchen
The Block on Main
300 S. Main St., Holly Springs
(919) 285-2477

Brewery Chili

At Bass Lake Draft House

Hearty, savory, with “a little bit of spice” and creamy toppings, the Brewery Chili at Bass Lake Draft House in Holly Springs is everything you want chili to be. In fact, the restaurant perfected this classic dish early on, and the recipe has hardly changed in 30 years.

The rich tomato-based chili contains dark kidney beans, choice ground chuck, and flavorful spices like chili powder, cumin, and Frank’s Red Hot sauce. It’s then topped with a blend of cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses, a dollop of sour cream, and sliced fresh jalapenos.

Owner Charles Miller describes the spice level as mild — present but not overpowering.

Stone Delicious IPA, one of 34 beers the draft house has on tap and uses in the chili recipe, is considered a gluten-reduced beer, referencing the brewing process that removes the gluten — good news for gluten-sensitive customers.

Also try: Tomato Bisque and a grilled cheese sandwich.

Bass Lake Draft House
124 Bass Lake Road, Holly Springs
(919) 567-3251

Prefer to cook at home?

Personal chef Jimmy Eskridge, owner of TasteBuds Innovative In-Home Dining, based in Apex, crafted three unique soups to simmer all winter long.

Jerk Chicken and Rice Soup

1 whole chicken
1 tablespoon jerk seasoning
3 chicken bouillon cubes
1 large onion, diced
4 carrots, diced
4 celery stalks, diced
3 bay leaves
1 ½ cups wild rice
2 tablespoons sherry

Clean the chicken, being sure to clear the cavity. Rub with jerk seasoning and cover with water in a stock pot. Add bouillon cubes, onions, carrots, celery, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 35-45 minutes. Remove chicken from the pot to cool. Remove bay leaves.

Pick chicken off the bone and dice into small pieces. Return to the pot.

Bring stock to a boil and add rice and sherry. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes.

Creamy Andouille Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cups andouille sausage, diced
1 large onion, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
8 ounces baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1 red pepper, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
2 teaspoons paprika
5 cups chicken stock
1 small russet potato, diced
1 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook sausage in olive oil over medium-high heat. Remove and set aside.

Reserve 2 tablespoons of oil in your pot and cook onions, carrots, mushrooms, and red pepper for 3 minutes.

Add garlic and paprika and cook for 1 minute.

Add potatoes and chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes.

Stir in heavy cream; add salt and pepper to taste.

Coconut Butternut Squash Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 medium carrots, diced
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 pounds butternut squash, cubed
2 tablespoons garlic chili sauce
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
64 ounces vegetable broth
1 can coconut milk
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil on medium-high heat in Dutch oven.

Add carrots, onion, and garlic. Cook until onions are translucent (about 4 minutes).

Add butternut squash, chili sauce, cumin, coriander, and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 25 minutes, until squash is tender.

Let cool.

Blend until smooth.

Stir in coconut milk; add salt and pepper to taste.

Chef Eskridge paired each of these soups with a complementary salad. Find salad recipes here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *