Frank Sabatini Jr.
A jigger of sherry pierces through the hot, light pastry crust of Dobson's mussel bisque.
There are soup recipes so synonymous with a restaurant’s name that consumer rioting would ensue if a chef dared alter or eliminate them. Among the most noteworthy are several we found within San Diego’s 92101 zip code, each selling strongly while keeping customers slurping without fuss.
The potato-leek soup at Café Chloe was authored by Executive Chef Katie Grebow, who has rotated it through the menu for the past six years. A perfect starter to the café’s popular steak frites, the creamy liquid is accented with truffle oil and served in lion’s head bowls with crostini.
Mock turtle soup is a stubborn mainstay at the Grant Grill, despite the menu’s modern cuisine that Chef Chris Kurth changes seasonally. “The soup has been on this menu for at least 60 years,” he says, noting that the “turtle meat” nowadays translates to cow tongue and short ribs. “We go through about 20 orders a day.” The soup is particularly evident during lunchtime because it’s included in a prix fixe lunch special called 2010, which affords customers three courses for $20.10.
Few pass up the piping hot, pastry-capped mussel bisque en croute at Dobson’s, which hails to La Rochelle, France, when Paul Dobson was lunching there at a small restaurant nearly 30 years ago. The chef, who insisted Dobson try the shellfish creation, handed over the recipe afterwards and Dobson added it immediately to his menu when returning to San Diego soil. He sells about 400 orders of it each month.
Ingrid Croce of Croce’s Restaurant & Jazz Bar recalls falling in love with the recipe for French onion soup the moment it was made for her by first chef Fay Nakanishi in 1987. “It’s wasn’t only me. Everyone who tries it says, ‘Oh my God.’” Fresh thyme in the recipe resonates to two books Croce authored: Thyme in a Bottle and Jim Croce: Time in a Bottle, in commemoration of her late husband. In an ironic twist, Croce’s first date with second husband, Jim Rock, occurred at Dobson’s over none other than an urn of mussel bisque en croute.
Chef Luke Johnson changes the wine-pairing menu at Red Velvet every Tuesday and features a creative soup each time, such as the recent watermelon soup we encountered that is made from a rare autumn melon called moon and stars. Its opaque-orange color had us wondering if he snuck another much sweeter fruit into the recipe. Turns out it was pure, with the unique melons originating from Suzie’s Farms that same day.