Dining Review: Comfort food, homey atmosphere at Stone Soup

 The grilled mushroom with spinach, tomato and mozzarella cheese sammie is among the comfort foods served at Cooper-Young's newest restaurant, Stone Soup Café.  Below  is the restaurant's namesake Stone Soup.

Photo by Mark Weber, Photos by Mark Weber/The Commercial Appeal // Buy this photo

The grilled mushroom with spinach, tomato and mozzarella cheese sammie is among the comfort foods served at Cooper-Young's newest restaurant, Stone Soup Café. Below is the restaurant's namesake Stone Soup.

A more cheerful and relaxed place to dine than Stone Soup Café could only be the home of family or a great friend with a knack for brewing a good cup o' joe.

This new addition to the Cooper-Young restaurant lineup is open for breakfast and lunch only, coming to life not long after some of its neighbors are just cooling off from the night before.

It makes a nice start to the day, whether your day begins with an early morning breakfast or a bit later with a nice lunch.

October 25, 2011 - The Stone Soup from Cooper Young's newest restaurant Stone Soup Café . (Mark Weber/The Commercial Appeal)

October 25, 2011 - The Stone Soup from Cooper Young's newest restaurant Stone Soup Café . (Mark Weber/The Commercial Appeal)

  Stone Soup Café is located inside a renovated house in Cooper-Young and serves breakfast and lunch in a cozy, welcoming environment.

Stone Soup Café is located inside a renovated house in Cooper-Young and serves breakfast and lunch in a cozy, welcoming environment.

Our first meal was lunch, which we enjoyed on a sunny, crisp fall day. We were warmly greeted by several people as we made our way to a table in a side room, full of sunlight and happy chatter from other diners.

I'd looked at the menu online and thought the price for the cup of most of the soups was a bit high at almost $6. I asked our server about the amount so I could order accordingly, and she pointed to a diner's large bowl of chili and told me that was a cup. It was actually two cups, as I discovered later when I weighed a to-go order at home. The cup is a full 16 ounces, so order knowing you'll get plenty to eat.

The Stone Soup is, of course, a bit of everything, though it's served sans stone. The legend of stone soup is that hungry travelers boil a pot of water with a stone in it, and villagers are coaxed into adding a little something -- a carrot, a potato, an onion or whatnot -- until a pot of nourishing soup is created and shared by all.

At our café, sausage, ground beef, red beans, carrots, onions and tomatoes make a hearty bowl of goodness. It's topped with a dollop of sour cream and sprinkled with a few sliced black olives. The only thing it's missing, like a few of the other items we tried, is the right amount of salt.

Cooked tomatoes and potatoes both taste flat when not properly salted, and even as we try to cut back on sodium in these health-conscious times, these two foods demand a liberal hand. However, it's always better to undersalt than to oversalt, and a shaker at the table gave the soup the lift it needed.

The mashed potatoes that came with the meat loaf needed a sprinkle, too, though they were otherwise an excellent dense, skins-in version. And the meat loaf had a deep flavor, but I found it a bit too tightly packed and too meaty. I like to see some vegetables, and this was more along the lines of a tasty, huge meat ball than a meat loaf.

Red beans and rice were creamy, in the typical New Orleans style, with a split and grilled link of smoked sausage on top. Both the red beans, ordered as a meal and not a soup, and the meat loaf came with a simple but fresh salad. The soup came with house-baked peasant bread and a few squares of slightly sweet but mighty tasty cornbread.

The chili, which is not available every day, was hearty and well-seasoned, though it could easily take more heat; ask for hot sauce if you want it. The pimiento cheese is among the top in town, made with sharp cheeses and big pieces of pimiento, bound with just enough mayonnaise to hold it together. On toasted homemade bread with tomato and lettuce, this is a real treat.

There was no room for dessert, but had we known what we were missing, we would have better planned.

When we returned for a late breakfast on a gloomy, rainy Sunday, the restaurant was as welcoming as a warm fire on a cold night. There was little sunshine to filter in the windows, but we felt cozy and calm, sipping on coffee, grabbing bits of conversation and watching the faithful as they trickled out of church services across the street. (What is it about this place? Of course, a restaurant in a renovated house is almost always nice, but this one is particularly homey.)

The 2 eggs plus 2 brought two perfectly cooked over- easy eggs, grits, a big biscuit and two slices of spicy sage sausage, which I chose instead of bacon. Just to try it, I ordered a single pancake on the side and was shocked to see that it was enormous -- plate-size and fluffy, to boot. Even if I'd ordered that for my meal, I couldn't have eaten it. Parents allowing their children to satisfy a sweet tooth couldn't ask for a better bargain at $2.49.

The Western omelet was a standard example, full of cheese, ham, pepper and onions.

The back room of the house is a market where homemade desserts and breads and a few local goods such as honey are sold. You can order dessert to eat in, or you can pick something up on the way out. We were told by the general manager not to miss the banana pudding cheesecake, and we took his advice.

Wow. This tastes exactly how you would imagine the offspring of excellent banana pudding and perfect cheesecake to taste. There is a slight tang to the cheesecake layers, which resounds off the sweet custard of the pudding, which melds with the lush slices of banana, and it all is complemented by the crumbly graham cracker crust. Decadent.

Stone Soup Café offers a bit of outdoor seating in front and in back. There's a parking lot, too, so don't worry about having to find a place on the street, and co-owner Sharron Johnson said that First Congo allows parking in its lot. Johnson, who owns Stone Soup Café with Emily Bishop, was the co-owner of another popular Cooper-Young eatery, Buns on the Run. After it closed, she went to the Trolley Stop for a while and to another restaurant before they found the house in Cooper-Young and started renovations. Surely residents are happy to have a new neighbor, and the rest of us have yet another reason to make the trip for a good meal.

-- Jennifer Biggs: (901) 529-5223

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Stone Soup Cafe

Food:

Service:

Atmosphere:

Address: 993 S. Cooper

Telephone: (901) 922-5314.

Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 7 a.m.-3 p.m. (breakfast until 11 a.m., except on Saturday, when it's served until close); Sunday 9 a.m.-3 p.m., when breakfast and brunch specials are available all day. Lunch service begins at 11 a.m. all days.

Reviewer's choices: Pimiento cheese sandwich ($6.89 with chips and pickle); chili ($5.89 for a 16-ounce "cup" with bread); stone soup ($5.89 for a 16-ounce "cup" with bread); banana pudding cheesecake ($6). Be sure to check the Facebook page for daily specials.

Alcohol: None; take your own wine for $10 corkage.

Star Ratings

Poor: Zero stars

Good: One star

Very Good: Two stars

Excellent: Three stars

Extraordinary: Four stars

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Comments » 2

littleskippy writes:

Wow.. you were extremely generous in my opinion. Although everyone was super nice and spoke to us immediatly it has been years and years since I had service that bad. It boardered on beyond bad. And your comments about the food needing lots of salt. Not only did it need salt but it needed lots of salt because it was unbelievably bland. I also had the meatloaf. It was not good and despite that fact that there is a lot of bad meatloaf out there.. good meatloaf is easy to make. Only people who have no idea how to cook or have no concept of taste and flavor make bad meatloaf. I never really cared for Buns on the Run and only went there when others insisted. However, there is no amount of cajoling that will get me in Stone Soup ever again.

topsytourney writes:

It's sad that one bad experience will keep you out of Stone Soup Cafe. It sounds like your mind was made up to not like it when you went in. I have eaten there at least fifteen times. Every time, I've had great service and the food is excellent. I have also had the meatloaf, and it's grand. Not everyone has the same taste, thank goodness...what a bland world it would be. And I'm glad the food is low on salt because of health issues. It can always be added at the table. However, the other fresh seasonings added to every dish make it tasty. I will continue to eat there at every opportunity. It is a well-deserved and well-placed addition to Cooper-Young.

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