BY KEN THOMPSON
PHOTOS BY CHRISTINE PETKOV
On a cold winter’s day, or even a warm summer evening, a bowl of soup can be a meal or a side dish to a grilled cheese sandwich.
A good bowl of soup can bring customers into a restaurant, and there are several Greater Lafayette establishments that offer a variety of homemade soups.
“Soups are comfort food,” says Jody Bahler, founder and owner of The Homestead, which has locations in West Lafayette and Remington. “It’s like balm to the soul to enjoy a delicious steamy bowl of homemade soup.”
The Homestead believes in offering a wide variety of soups each month. Including its tomato basil, which is available daily, The Homestead usually has nearly a dozen soups on its monthly menu.
“There is enough to satisfy everyone’s taste buds,” Bahler says. “Everyone enjoys a steamy bowl of soup, especially during these cold wintry months.”
The Homestead’s website, homesteadbuttery.com, has a daily lunch calendar that allows patrons to see what soups are available on a daily basis. The Homestead also packages its soups frozen for customers to heat up at home, a popular business strategy during the COVID-19 pandemic.
When asked which is the most popular soup among her customers, Bahler couldn’t stop at just one. There are five on her list: tomato basil, baked potato, Boilermaker stew, chicken noodle and cheesy broccoli noodle.
“We have several that rank up at the tip top in sales. Those five are in constant demand, which thrills us that our soups are enjoyed by so many,” Bahler says. Bahler’s personal favorite is tomato basil in combination with The Homestead’s grilled cheese sandwich. She also recommends getting the Boilermaker stew topped with sour cream, crushed cheesy Doritos and extra shredded cheddar cheese.
“Our soups are hearty and do not contain preservatives or fillers,” Bahler says. “They are made completely from scratch in our Homestead production kitchen in Remington, Indiana.”
In case you were wondering, The Homestead offers several gluten-free soups: chicken and rice, chicken tortilla, Homestead chili, tomato basil and white chicken chili.
The Homestead’s West Lafayette location, which is tucked inside Bell Plaza next to Wolf’s Chocolates and Boutique & Gifts by Michele, boasts 22 different varieties of frozen entrees along with pies, cookies, breads and sweet rolls. If the food isn’t enough, The Homestead sells candles, chocolates, jams, Amish noodles, deli meats and cheeses and locally raised freezer beef.
At Trish’s Red Bird Café in Dayton, chicken corn chowder has the honor of being the most popular soup. Not far behind, though, is the breakfast soup.
“I believe that these are so popular because they are so fresh tasting and just warm you up on the inside,” says Red Bird Café owner Trish Brown, whose personal favorite is her tomato basil soup.
“It’s not a traditional tomato soup,” Brown says. “It is very chunky.”
Brown believes the secret to her soups’ popularity is simple.
“I would say our soups are so special because we make them completely from scratch and I can tell you every ingredient in every one,” she says. “Our soups are not the ‘normal’ soups you see in other restaurants. We offer several that were created just for us.”
Trish’s Red Bird Café sells homemade soups by the quart, hot or cold, for $10. The current list includes stuffed bell pepper, loaded potato, broccoli cheese, chili, chicken tortilla, chicken corn chowder, tomato basil bisque and the breakfast soup. All are gluten-free.
“I feel that the Greater Lafayette area likes soups and chili because it is a good way to fill up, and it just makes you think of family,” Brown says. “Growing up in this area most of us ate a lot of soup, so at least for me personally it brings back happy memories. It’s just good comfort, feel-good food.”
Partially for space reasons, Great Harvest Bread Co. doesn’t offer a variety of soups like The Homestead and Trish’s Red Bird Café. However, Great Harvest owner Jerry Lecy says a great deal of care goes into each batch coming out of Great Harvest’s kitchen.
“We make these soups from scratch, so it’s not easy to perfect so many options,” Lecy says. Those options include butternut squash, cheesy broccoli, cream of mushroom, cheesy potato ham, and chili.
Like The Homestead and Trish’s Red Bird Café, Great Harvest customers list tomato basil as a favorite along with velvet chicken.
“The popularity contest between the tomato basil and the velvet chicken is a toss-up,” Lecy says. “Both are desired just as much. My personal
favorite is velvet chicken. I just love the creamy taste and shreds of chicken. The seasoning tops it off.”
For customers who desire to have Great Harvest soups at home, there are dry soup mixes for sale.
“We offer over 20 varieties of these soups that are easy to make and tasty,” Lecy says. “They can be tweaked to a person’s liking with additional ingredients, or it’s simple to just add water and heat up.”
Just as easy is Lecy’s explanation for why he believes soups are a staple of Greater Lafayette dining.
“I believe soup is so desirous in our area for two reasons,” he says. “First, it is a simple meal – don’t need to figure out which main course you want or which sides you want with that. It’s one easy decision: which delicious soup do I want?
“Second, it’s a comfort food (which) warms the soul and body.” ★