Best Bet: Tortilla Soup

Tortilla soup at Salsa Cocina Mexicana. MICHAEL DONAHUE/The Commercial Appeal

Photo by Michael Donahue // Buy this photo

Tortilla soup at Salsa Cocina Mexicana. MICHAEL DONAHUE/The Commercial Appeal

I’d never ordered “tortilla soup” at a Mexican restaurant because of the name. It sounds like a thick soup made with mushy tortillas and whatever. Last time I was in Salsa Cocina Mexicana, owner Cesar Parra said I ought to try their tortilla soup. I did, and my old image of the soup is dashed.

Tortilla soup may be thick at other restaurants, but at Salsa the soup is more like a souped-up vegetable soup. It’s made with shredded chicken, onion, bell peppers, bay leaf, garlic, stock, celery, carrots, Monterey Jack cheese and avocado with shredded corn tortillas on top. All I had to know was “avocado,” and I’m going to order it. Avocados and fried eggs make anything taste good. Parra said he uses “several distinctive flavors” that don’t overwhelm the chicken.

It’s fantastic. It’s the best new soup I’ve tried. When I mixed those ingredients with the melted cheese, I was in heaven. It’s hearty, extremely flavorful and very soothing.

Tortilla soup is an oldstyle soup. “My mother made it,” said Parra, who is from San Isidro, Calif., near San Diego.

So what makes Salsa’s tortilla soup so popular? “It’s a light soup. It’s not heavy. Since we make it fresh every day, that adds a big factor to it. It’s just, really, a fulfilling flavor.”

Salsa Cocina Mexicana, 6150 Poplar, No. 129; 901-683-6325

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