Soups are endless, and to me they can be endlessly appealing. There are soups for every occasion, for every taste, made with just about every possible ingredient: they can run from a fine broth to heartier, meaty, lumpy, and fully stocked with vegetables, legumes, pasta, meats, poultry, fish and seafood. Good basic stocks are important, too. They are soothing and some believe, as I still do, that certain soups can help cure the common cold, a la Mom's chicken soup.
So we set out on a local soup safari around the Rye area to find the best and here's where we've slurped so far:
Town Dock Tavern, 15 Purdy Ave., Rye, 914-967-2497
Anthony DeLuca, owner of , a bustling "upscale seafood tavern" long considered a sleeper for most of its years here, serves an eclectic menu of seasonal and comforting contemporary American dockside specialties. It is the restaurant you find along the water somewhere, albeit in the center of town, with good food to boot. Many do not know that DeLuca is a chef himself. Anthony had worked in such notable New York City establishments as Park Avenue Cafe under Chef David Burke, Aureole under Chef Charlie Palmer, and Jean-Louis in Greenwich. Impressive, right?
Customers entering Town Dock see the 15-seat bar/lounge area off to the left. The 65-seat dining room is straight ahead highlighted by pine wood booths, checkered and white tablecloths and charming print curtains accenting the windows. Walls are painted in sea blues and donned with tasteful nautical prints, artifacts and American folk art.
There are only two soups offered on his menu: classic New England clam chowder and French onion soup with Gruyere cheese and dry sherry. I opted for the clam chowder and within a short time a portion was heated for me and delivered to my spot at the bar. It was presented with a packet of those crunchy oyster crackers we knew as kids. I requested some fresh crushed peppercorn. The soup served in a shallow bowl was very good: big chunks of clam, potatoes and herbal. It hit the spot though I was thinking of asking for some bread and butter on the side. It turned out to be one of the better soups I found on this survey and it melded well with a glass of good Pinot Noir.
Open seven days, www.towndocktavern.com.
Cosi, 60 Purchase Street, Rye, 914-921-3322
Started in 1996 as a Parisian-style cafe named after a Mozart opera, has grown into a major national chain of eateries with over 100 units around the country. It is casual and comfy and draws a mostly young crowd who like to hang out and work on their laptops. I like it because they do offer some surprising specialties at reasonable prices. Soups, for example, are taken a bit more seriously here.
There is a weekly list of soups du jour along with ongoing standards like: pollo e pasta; tomato, basil aurora; and spinach artichoke florentine soup. The day I visited I debated between the daily special of roasted beef with vegetables and the others, but I decided on a large bowl of the pollo: tender chicken chunks chocked with Mediterranean vegetables and couscous pasta in an herbal broth. It was warming and a meal in itself when combined with Cosi's complimentary flatbread. For my taste, I did have to add some pepper though. And it was a bargain at the price.
Open 7 days. www.getcosi.com
Clino's Pizza, Pasta & Things, 529 Boston Post Road, Port Chester, 914-939-8000
Charlie 'Clino' Micelli has been in the re-named Kohl's Shopping Center since 1976, a bustling Italian pizzeria-com-restaurant operation that tries to offer everything for everyone in the family. Micelli's Deli is next door and he also owns Michelangelo's Pizza, Pasta & Things in Silver Lake. The staff is always quite friendly and will help you through the retro menu.
I came in early one afternoon ofter doing some shopping at A.I. Friedman's and sat in the more formal room in the rear. I asked if I could just order a bowl of soup and they were most amenable. P,P & T always offers a minestrone and pasta fagioli but I chose the special soup of the day, which was escarole and beans with sausage.
It was brought out in a steaming bowl, a good portion, and I could swear it must have had a whole sweet sausage sliced in. It made a meal along with their addicting signature garlic knots. A little sprinkle of grated cheese and hot pepper flakes kicked it up a notch. It was bargain priced, too.
Open seven days. www.pizzapastathings.com
Frankie & Johnnie's Steakhouse, 77 Purchase Street, Rye, 914-925-3900
For more than a decade now, some area beef aficionados have claimed their benchmark to be . It has been my personal experience that it has indeed improved with age. It is part of the Frankie & Johnnie's group operating steakhouses in Manhattan and Hoboken, N.J. since 1926. Housed in a former Rye Trust Bank building, this tri-level 130-seat restaurant with sweeping ceilings, classic bustling bar/lounge, giant mural, mosaic glass, booth seating on the main level and an inviting second tier above, certainly creates a dramatic setting for putting down a hefty hunk of high-end prime-aged steak.
But I walked in early one evening searching for soup. There were two standards offered: their lobster bisque and French onion soup, along with a soup du jour, which was not available that night. I went for the French onion soup, having just come off a lobster foray a week earlier. It came out in its crock in all its gooey, melted glory overflowing with cheese, which was not evenly charred, though it should have been. It was served at the bar with a good house bread basket, house made potato chips and sliced cucumbers. I was expecting Gruyere cheese on top, but I suspected it was not. After inquiring, the kitchen confided that is was mozzarella instead. Mozzarella on french onion soup?
But I have to admit, once I broke through the cheese cover, the delicous broth was classic beef stock with that wedge of French bread soaking up the juices at the bottom, and those lovely carmamelized onions. It was quite good despite the 'mozz', and a small meal in itself. I washed it down with a glass of beer.
And during the proceedings at the bar I had a celebrity sighting: former Yankee skipper Joe Torre was back in town looking dapper after his hiatus in L.A. His party took a seat in a booth in the bar/lounge as well.
Open Tuesday thru Sunday. www.frankieandjohnnies.com
The Verdict: Overall, I wish restaurants would pay more attention to soups. Aside from Cosi's offerings, I guess it is not the most important element in their menus. Having said that, one can still find a steaming bowl of soup to warm up to in Rye. But the best of the one's I surveyed would have to Town Dock's clam chowder.
Do you agree with Morris? Vote in our poll and tell us which of these eateries you think serves the best soup.
Morris Gut is a restaurant consultant and former restaurant trade magazine editor. He has been tracking and writing about the dining scene in greater Westchester for over 25 years. He may be reached at: 914-235-6591. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org