Everyone has an addiction or two, but it's probable that no one suffers more than druggies and foodies. My roommate? Total soup addict. And that's why when I was digging for new places to try and happened upon one that generally has generally has 5-10 soups on offer every single day (less in the warm months, more in the colder months), it went to the top of her to do list fast. That place was Sun Ray Cafe. After that, it was just a matter of waiting until she was devoid of children for a few hours, which happened during the aforementioned lovely Autumn afternoon, as evidenced by the sign out front.
|Definitely truth in advertising here.|
I'm not going to lie to you. Based on the location (Hyde Park) and the menu, I was expecting something kind of snobbish, but I couldn't have been more pleased or more surprised. This was the epitome of diner atmosphere. I wasn't able to get a picture of the inside because there were no other customers and all eyes were on us, so you'll just have to take my word for it. After a quick perusal of the menu, the roommate and I showed our yin/yang dynamic when she chose a half sandwich with a bowl of soup, and I chose a full sandwich with a cup of soup. We snagged a bucket of napkins, salt and pepper with instructions on the proper way to play rock, paper, scissors on the side, a couple of big Mountain Dews, and headed out to the patio.
The importance of dining al fresco can not be overstated. I don't do it as often as I would like because the prime season for it is Summer, when I want to be in a nice, climate-controlled environment. I'm a Fall guy (pardon the pun), so I took advantage of the unseasonably warm weather to enjoy a little patio time. I was so engaged in the conversation and the rustling of leaves all around me that I honestly couldn't tell you how long it took for the food to arrive, that's how blissed out I was. All I know is that suddenly our table was full of dishes.
|Sun Ray Club|
For my sandwich, I'd chosen the Sun Ray Club. I honestly don't think I've ever reviewed a club sandwich, and since it was a namesake item here, it seemed like a good time. All the requisites were accounted for: a big pile of thin-sliced turkey breast, some nicely flavorful and crispy bacon, Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato, and mayo. But what put it over the top was that bread: rosemary-studded focaccia, and I'm almost certain it was brushed down with butter. I'm a sandwich fan, and this was far better than you'd find in most diner-style eateries. Interesting to note is that you get one bag of chips if you order a half sandwich, and two bags if you order a whole sandwich.
|Lisa of the Lochsa|
The roommate went with the Lisa of the Lochsa (don't ask me what it means or how to pronounce it), a pretty standard turkey on toasted sourdough with Swiss cheese, lettuce and mayo. Usually there are tomatoes as well, but she don't like 'em. Once again, good ingredients, good sandwich, nothing mind-blowing. It might be because they put the bulk of their efforts into the soups...
|Chicken and sausage gumbo over rice|
I have to be honest and admit this isn't the best gumbo I've ever had, but then again considering I've had gumbo in Louisiana, it was probably foolish to think I'd be able to order it here without making comparisons. I can tell you that like everything else, it was flavorful and competently executed, with everything cooked perfectly and just a little bit of spice to make it interesting. I actually quite enjoyed this once I made myself stop thinking of it as gumbo. Still, it paled by comparison to my roommate's soup...
|Creamy broccoli bleu cheese soup|
I don't know what that picture does to you guys. To me, it makes me want to lick my screen. That is a thick, rich, robust bowl of goodness right there. Perfectly blended for uniform texture, cooked just long enough so that the broccoli wasn't either grainy or mushy, a nice pungency from the bleu cheese, yet not so overwhelming that it was all you could taste...it was damn near perfect. Easily one of the best soups I've ever had, and that includes both restaurant and homemade. And lucky for me, the serving was so big that my roommate couldn't finish it. I was more than happy to polish off the leftovers.
Sun Ray Cafe is one of those places that makes me a little angry just because they're so inconveniently located. They're not near home, they're not close to work, and none of my family or friends lives in that area. And it's really too bad, because it's the kind of place I'd go to on a regular basis, especially in early Spring and Fall when the patio is at its best and the weather is perfect for soup. I'll make it back soon, they're just too good for me NOT to make it back soon. In the meantime, I will continue to watch their Facebook page for their periodic soup updates. I fully expect that sooner or later there will be one I simply cannot resist.
Food: Diner-style comfort food with a very refined edge. A-
Service: Nice, fast and professional. A
Value: Hence comes the trouble in paradise. Eight bucks for a turkey and Swiss on sourdough? You should be getting something special for that. B-
Atmosphere: Diner comfort inside, Hyde Park quaintness outside. A
Final Grade: B+