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Lunch for Two for Under $15: Soupbox

By Caitlin Klein in Food on Feb 15, 2011 8:00PM

It appears that Soupbox may have raised their prices since the last time we checked, but even still, you can do lunch for two for under $15 at this media darling of a soup joint. We visited the newest Soupbox spot, the Gold Coast location on Chicago Avenue. Unlike the Broadway Street location in Lakeview, the Gold Coast store does not deliver, so you're going to have to go pick it up yourself.

The Good: The Soupbox has a large selection of soups (12 daily), so you are sure to find something you like. The soups are listed online and show you which are vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free. The Soupbox also has a very friendly tasting policy; if you want to try a soup before you buy it, the staff is happy to give you a little plastic cup with a taste of the soup you are interested in. The operation is bare bones; small cauldrons of soup display the day's wares, and if they're out of a soup, they're out. Takeouts are convenient, and staff seems cognizant of making sure your paper bag isn't overloaded with too much weight, so your soup doesn’t end up all over the sidewalk. We walked our Soupbox takeout for five blocks, and it was still hot upon arrival, although we would be remiss if we didn't give the Soupbox a big tsk tsk for using polystyrene containers. Nutritional information is thoughtfully provided on the website.

The Bad: The Chicago Avenue location is poorly laid out. The soups are in front, the register is through a narrow doorway and down a small hallway, and the salads are located somewhere in between, creating mass confusion and blockage for soup buyers who just want to pay and get the heck out. Crowds can swell, especially on weekends, thanks to the nearby Michigan Avenue shopping herd. Expect much elbow bumping and “oops, excuse me” encounters, which we wouldn’t mind except for the fact that we are, uh, carrying very hot soup.

The Soup: We liked nearly all the soups we tried at the Chicago Avenue Soupbox location, with the glaring exception of the chicken noodle. The broth was oily, the chicken was an off shade of grey, and the egg noodles were clearly straight out of a frozen package. However, the lobster bisque is a joy; creamy and fragrant, it sits in your bowl like liquid gold. The beef stew is also a winner, especially for these cold days when you want something hearty. The thick and rich potato with bacon was delicious, and we imagine that a whole bowl of it would be quite filling. Also of note is the broccoli and white cheddar. For cheese lovers, this is a must-try. Two 12-ounce bowls of soup ran us just under $14, and Soupbox provides generously-sized hunks of sourdough and whole grain bread with your soup purchase to round out the meal.

What do you think, is Soupbox the place to go for soup in Chicago? Is it overrated? Underrated? Where are you getting your soup?

Soupbox's Gold Coast location is at 50 E. Chicago Ave.