Soothing, filling and often cheap, soup is always a hot Dollar-Wise topic, one we’ve dipped our ladle into several times through the years. This time, the challenge was to avoid those I’ve previously written about—anything from much-revered La Bonne Soupe, for instance, or Star Ginger’s spectacular spicy Thai chicken soup (a personal favorite)—and find a few new ones. I didn’t include pho, and I limited my selections to bowls* (not cups) for $5 and under. Here’s the lowdown.
* Prices shown below are for bowls only. Cups are available at some of the listed restaurants.
Cafe Bernardo Five locations in Sacramento and Davis; paragarys.com
Roasted butternut squash, a creamy concoction with a hint of maple and a smattering of pumpkin seeds
Delicately nuanced flavors make for a very satisfying soup.
Soups change seasonally, and there are often two selections daily. For an extra buck, add a quarter loaf of fresh, fabulous bread from Paragary Bakery.
Mirabelle Cafe 7318 Winding Way, Fair Oaks; mirabellecafe.com
Mushroom, a rich brown puree heavily spiked with thyme and capped with croutons
$4.50 (includes bread and butter)
With its heavenly aroma and earthy flavor, this one sent me to the moon and back.
Mirabelle may be known for its pastries, but this charming European cafe also takes its soup seriously, making one or two varieties daily from scratch.
Muntean’s Soups Salads & Sandwiches
1225 J St.; munteansoups.com
Pumpkin leek, lightly creamy with a beautiful orange broth
Fresh and pure tasting. Pine nuts, the surprise ingredient, add a nice crunch.
If you want options, this is the place: I counted 17 soups and chilis, from Romanian Mulligatoni to seafood jambalaya, the day I dropped in. Samples are freely offered, too.
Petra Greek 1122 16th St; petragreek.com
Avgolemono (what else?), the traditional Greek egg-lemon soup with rice and chicken
OK, so it’s not my grandmother’s soup. (I grew up on this stuff.) But it’s tasty and the price is right.
Add some pita ($1.75) and garlicky tzatziki (75 cents) and you’ve got a meal.
Taj Oven 943 Pleasant Grove Blvd., Roseville; tajoven.com
Mullitgatawny, thick and robust, with lentils, carrots and potatoes in a tomato-y broth.
A knockout. Those bewitching Indian spices do it for me every time. (The chicken soup is amazing, too.)
Soups are prepared to order in this popular spot, so you can choose your own spice level—a real plus for wusses (like me) who like it mild.