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Three Women and a Bowl of Soup 

by Sheri Boggs, Leah Sottile and Cara Gardner

Cyrus O'Leary's

516 W. Main Ave. * 624-9000

When the days get colder and a girl's budget is as wafer-thin as a ginger snap, few things deliver more comfort for less green than a good ol' bowl of soup. Cyrus O'Leary's isn't necessarily known for its soup, but we heard they have at least three toothsome varieties on the menu every day. Thus we found ourselves at this popular haunt, with its familiar green and white tablecloths, cheery waitstaff and faux Irish pub feel. We were tempted by everything else on the menu -- hamburgers, Cobb salad, pie -- but stuck to our soup guns. We also wondered when the waitstaff stopped coming to tables dressed en costume. There wasn't much time to ponder such matters, as our soup came within moments of placing our orders. (SB)

Sheri: Chili ($3.99)

After a hard morning of wranglin' up adjectives, a gal needs a little more in her belly than chicken noodle. I like the soup presentation at O'Leary's; it comes in a big bowl on a plate garnished with a little parsley -- just like a right purty real meal. And this is the basic stuff -- not too hot, not too mild, with a nice mix of beans (two kinds!), ground beef, green peppers, onions and a generous sprinkling of cheddar on top. With a few crackers, and a complementary Parmesan-dusted sourdough roll, this baby was more than adequate for my lunchtime needs, and I made it through the rest of my day without needing even my usual mid-afternoon coffee break. Hell, I barely needed dinner.

Cara: Cream of Broccoli ($3.99)

My first thought upon looking at this silky, creamy-based entree was, "Would you like some soup with your cheese?" A hefty portion of grated cheddar topped the bowl -- just in case you weren't getting your dairy from all the half-and-half in the base. Even as my mouth watered, my brain was racking up calories. But after the first spoonful, it was no use resisting. This is your Grandma's broccoli soup: cheesy and wholesome, with large broccoli florets and just a hint of pepper. It's good, thick comfort food accompanied with a soft roll. Even though the soup is rich and filling, the serving size is reasonable, so there's no use feeling guilty.

Leah: French Onion Soup ($4.99)

If you like French onion soup, like me, then you're probably picky about it. So I sat down prepared to lambaste this version for any transgression. But I was pleasantly surprised. For a reasonable price, O'Leary's doesn't stop at giving you a bowl of rich, sweet soup chock-full of thinly sliced white onions -- they do it right. My soup came topped with a sizeable soup-soaked crouton, and then covered with a half-inch thick layer of browned mozzarella cheese. The soup was the perfect mix of onion sweetness and hearty beef broth, which I noticed didn't leave any gross oily film covering the bottom of the bowl when I was done. The cheese was just how it should be -- gooey, stringy and carefully baked. I just wish it came with free refills.

Brooklyn Deli

122 S. Monroe St. * 835-4177

Although we're all regulars at the Brooklyn Deli, none of us had been in recently enough to see the deli's new painting. Proprietors Jody and Linda are depicted in a large canvas mock-scowling down at their patrons, ordering them to "Eat Your Soup!" The Brooklyn Deli does indeed have great soups -- there's a Mexican chicken one that I've been known to make a special trip for, and they usually have at least four selections every day. Paired with their equally fine and varied salads, or perched alongside a hefty hunk o' Brooklyn sammich, these soups satisfy and sustain. This place gets completely packed at lunchtime, but it's worth a little pushin' and shovin' if your visit happens to land you right in the thick of lunch hour. (SB)

Sheri: Clam Chowder ($3.50)

Because I was raised hundreds of miles from the nearest coastline, clam chowder always had a sort of allure for my weird little kid self, especially when I had "Manhattan" clam chowder for the first time on a ferry trip through the San Juans. Yep, kids from the Inland Northwest are a special bunch. Brooklyn Deli's clam chowder is the New England (white) kind, with plentiful potatoes, clam chunks, bacon and celery. The soup base was pretty thick and needed a little extra salt, but otherwise had good flavor. I appreciated the fact that the potatoes had their skins intact -- they're healthier and add more texture that way. Although we visited on a nice day, this would be extra comforting on one of those ghastly sleety days in mid-February.

Cara: Potato Bacon Chowder ($3.50)

I fully expect this baby to stick to my ribs -- for the next couple of days at least. Smothered in a very rich cream base were the promised potato chunks (nicely tender with the skins thoughtfully left on, thanks) and salty, chewy bacon morsels. There were some teeny tiny bits of carrot in there, too, along with a couple other ingredients I couldn't quite make out due to the soup's highly viscous nature. The flavor profile was slightly peppery, which I enjoyed. With a handful of crushed saltines thrown in, this was one soup that wasn't going to let me down anytime in the near future.

Leah: Minestrone ($3.50)

The first words out of my mouth when I saw this soup were, "Does minestrone usually have meat in it?" (According to my colleagues, it does.) While that didn't bother me, my reaction to every aspect of the soup came with that same element of surprise. This is not your average green-beans-and-light-broth soup -- at the Brooklyn Deli, a bowl of minestrone is a meal. Just looking in my bowl, I could see chunks of freshly chopped carrots, pieces of celery, zucchini, onions, chickpeas and spinach, as well as large clamshell pasta and pieces of hamburger. And the broth is almost shockingly peppery -- at times a little too spicy. This is a rustic bowl of soup packed with hearty ingredients and providing a filling autumn lunch -- all in one bowl.

Publication date: 10/14/04

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