Like the Mock Turtle, we've been thinking of soup: steamy, seasonal goodness that fortifies us against the bitter North Coast winds.
Some of the city's best debuted in 2002 with the SouperMarket in Ohio City (2528 Lorain Avenue, 216-737-SOUP), chef Matt Moore's hearty homage to the glories of cooking from scratch. The winter menu features 10 daily offerings, in individual servings or sizes to feed the whole tribe; the current rotation includes cream of wild mushroom, tomato-ginger, and lobster bisque. (Visit www.thesoupermarket.com for the complete lineup.) Many are meat-free, all are created without artificial ingredients, and an assortment of green salads provides variety. And at a mere $7.75 for salad, crusty bread, and 12-ounce portion of most soups (lobster and crab are $1 extra), it's a great value.
The only downside has been the SouperMarket's size -- too small to allow for sit-down dining. Look for that to change this winter, when Moore opens a second, 15-seat location at 14809 Detroit Avenue, in Lakewood. Also in store for Lakewood fans: new daily soup specials and an assortment of homey, modestly priced "small plates" -- crab cakes, short ribs, osso buco, and the like. Meantime, the search for an East Side outpost continues.
Zoup! is soup too . . . It's no SouperMarket, but a recent visit to Zoup! in Independence (6901 Rockside Road, 216-328-9300) held pleasant surprises. One of two area locations for this small Michigan chain (the other is in Solon, at 30050 Aurora Road, but a third will open shortly inside downtown's Q), the tidy eatery offers 12 daily selections, including vegetarian, low-fat, and dairy-free possibilities. Get the entire menu at www.zoup.com.
While they are crafted at a central commissary and shipped to the stores, the soups prove to be savvy travelers. In fact, creamy chicken potpie soup tasted fab -- chock-full of tender chicken and veggies beneath a buttery, pastry-crumb topping. Zoup also serves sandwiches and some notably good salads. In that latter category, an ample Sonoma -- crisp greens tossed with oodles of dried cranberries, sliced almonds, and gorgonzola crumbles -- exceeded expectations, and at $3.95, it was vastly superior to some we've had at twice the price. Score a "try three" combo, with a half-salad, half-sandwich, and an eight-ounce cup of most soups for just $7.79.