Souper Delicious

Hot Spots for Soup

Story by Janan Talafer  ❧  Photography by Sean Fabian Dumanal

When the weather turns brisk and a cool crispness fills the air, Floridians trade flip flops and tees for sweatshirts and socks, light the fireplace and begin dreaming of nourishing, hearty food like a simmering bowl of soup. What do we love so much about soup? “It’s primal and soul-satisfying,” says Judy Staunko of Spice Routes in St. Petersburg. “It’s the first thing mom gives you when you’re sick,” says Ilya Goldberg, of The Stone Soup Company in Ybor City. Soup is all of that and more—a soothing food to turn to or simply a delight.

Hot, cold, spicy, mild, creamy, chowders, gumbos, broths, bisques, chili’s and stews—soup comes in all flavors and styles; as creative and complex or as simple as you want. Here are some great places in Tampa Bay to satisfy your craving for soup this winter.


SOUTH TAMPA—Danielle Ward is in charge now, but she took over from her father, Woody Gilbert, who opened Woody’s in 1972. This small family owned restaurant is one of those out-of-the-way landmarks where everything is fresh and flavorful, especially the homemade soup. Their motto is “not frozen, not canned, no preservatives, not even close.” Even the herbs used to flavor the soups are organic. Woody’s Soup Collection is extensive, ranging from standards like Classic Chicken Noodle to the exotic Pagoda made with butternut squash, carrots, sweet potatoes, cilantro, tomatoes and cabbage, and Country Greek with tomatoes, fresh garlic, dry sherry, spices and feta. 


ST. PETERSBURG—Soups are a specialty at Spice Routes, which has a commitment to global soul food—“those things that taste of home to people from all over the world,” says Judy Staunko, who is also a co-founder of St. Petersburg’s Saturday Morning Market. Her Mayan Pumpkin and Corn Soup marries chicken broth, cream, coconut milk, pumpkin, corn, honey, turmeric and a touch of habanero peppers for a bit of kick. The down home Chicken and Dumplings is popular, too, and so is Judy’s Dad’s favorite—Green Bean, Ham and Potato, a very thick and homey soup, made with “potlikker” the liquid that remains at the bottom after cooking down the vegetables and meat. “Every culture has always put together whatever is plentiful to make soups and stews that are comforting and yummy,” she says.


YBOR CITY—Ilya Goldberg has been cooking for as long as he can remember, but he says his inspiration for his restaurant came from the hilarious Seinfeld episode “The Soup Nazi.” Ilya’s love for sauces, soups and good food are showcased at this small, Ybor gem. Some of his most sought-after soups include the creamy Lobster Bisque, which is more like a chowder with a hearty base that includes lobster, crawfish and shrimp; Thai Chicken Laksa made with a spicy coconut and green curry-based broth and chicken; and Steak and Potato Soup with mushrooms, slowly cooked beef steak and vegetables. In a salute to Ilya’s native Belarus, the menu also includes KGB Borscht, the classic Russian beet soup. Stone Soup has a philanthropic side—regular donations of soup are made to local charities. 


SEMINOLE HEIGHTS—It’s not surprising that Executive Chef Suzanne’s Curried Apple and Carrot Bisque has been on the menu from day one at this quaint Seminole cafe. Just a listing of the ingredients—sautéed carrots, Dijon mustard, fresh ginger, house-made vegetable stock, heavy whipping cream, brown sugar, Indian curry powder, Granny Smith apples, onions and seasonings—is enough to set your imagination on fire. Other popular soups, says Suzanne, include her Parmesan Cream Broth, which is topped with organic watercress and Tomato Bisque made with fresh basil and marjoram, gorgonzola cheese and a garlic crostini. For a little extra heat try the Pollo Diablo, a blend of chicken, tequila and black beans in a spicy broth.

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