It's been a while since I went scavenging underground, but with these early fall temps even the most committed tunnel dwellers have been spotted outside. However, with the arrival of what could be described as a slight chill in the air, I made a beeline for one tunnel concept that I've been curious about for a while: Soup Cowboy.
There are some truly phenomenal soups in this town — the French onion at Philippe and the corn soup at Haven come to mind — but downtown has a strange lack of eateries that focus on just stuff you can eat with a spoon. That, plus my weird love of cheesy restaurant names made Soup Cowboy a no-brainer.
Soup Cowboy earned immediate points by being really, really easy to find — it's literally straight across from the stairs leading down to the tunnels from the main Pennzoil Building entrance. The set up is a bit backwards, though — you order at the far end of the counter, meaning the line waiting to order gets mixed up with the crowd waiting for their food by the entrance.
I had mixed feelings about the chicken fried steak soup. White and creamy, it definitely gave off comfort food vibes. And yet, despite double-checking the nutrition information, I couldn't shake the feeling that I was eating essentially a cup of gravy.
The menu is pretty huge, with about a dozen soup options on offer at a time rotating flavors from the standards — French onion, tomato basil rosemary, Gulf coast gumbo — to some novel creations like Jamaican jerk chicken, Thai coconut chicken and even cheeseburger(!).
I went with something old and something new, the Southwestern corn chowder and chicken fried steak soup, plus a Provence chicken breast sandwich. Unfortunately, while the name and menu of Soup Cowboy have a lot of spunk, the flavors don't. The corn chowder had a nice, subtle sweetness to it, but there was no hint of heat to give it "southwestern" cred.
I had more mixed feelings about the chicken fried steak soup. White and creamy, it had big chunks of beef, green beans and potato and definitely gave off comfort food vibes. And yet, despite double-checking the (not unimpressive) nutrition information, I couldn't shake the feeling that I was eating essentially a cup of gravy.
I was satisfied by the sandwich — the ciabatta bread was soft and pliant, and the chicken was moist, even if the chipotle aioli once again missed a certain spice.
Soup Cowboy serves up solid portions — the "junior" size sandwich alone could be a meal — but the prices are a bit dear, with a bowl of soup selling for as much as $8. If I'm paying that much for soup, I'm going to want a waiter and a white tablecloth.
If I worked nearby, I can totally see developing a Soup Cowboy habit based on nutrition and variety alone. But as a soup destination, it's pretty mediocre.