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#Huangry: Souped Up

Originally published in the Greenville Journal on November 27, 2015.

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I'm not even sure I like tomato soup. I think this as I sit underground in the dim—but not too dim—confines of the Trappe Door. But it’s a bit late for second thoughts. I’m already staring down a bowl ladled full of the stuff.

Until the recent past—maybe as recently as sitting down at my table—I had only mediocre to awful experiences with tomato soup. They were invariably canned and somehow managed to be too much and not enough at the time: too sweet or too sour; too thin and watery; too little oomph to be an attractive choice on the wide spectrum of soups. I suppose it says something when my most positive impression of tomato soup—Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans prints—didn’t involve tasting the soup.

Walking down the stairs into the Trappe Door, I had every intention of eating something else, but I felt a sudden draw to the simple combination of soup and grilled cheese.  Perhaps it's the timeless, undeniable all-American appeal. Perhaps my tastes are evolving as the pressures of adulthood make clear that instant ramen is not an appropriate dietary staple. Or, maybe I was just drawn to the idea of soup on a cold day—a simple reason befitting the simple pleasure of being warmed from inside-out.

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Whatever the reason, there it was in front of me: a yellow bowl ladled full of thick orange soup and topped with croutons. To the side, a pair of crispy, buttery triangles—grilled cheese sandwiches overflowing with gooey Gruyere. It’s a combination that just looks warm, the edible equivalent to a fire crackling in a hearth.

Sampling the soup doesn't disappoint, either. It's velvety and creamy like Campbell's could never hope to be. The menu says something about a hint of cognac, and while it’s not a flavor I notice, its mention certainly doesn't hurt the impression of richness. As I spoon the soup into my face, a glorious heat simmers through the back of my throat—cayenne pepper, the server informs me—which lingers on, extending the inherent belly-warming, soul-filling properties of soup.

That's before I even get to the grilled cheese. When I dip it into the soup, these two simple elements combine in sublime juxtaposition: crunchy, buttery sandwich giving definition to the creamy soup; the nutty tang of Gruyere cutting through the richness. It’s a rather good example of simplicity and luxury in harmony. Which, I guess, is just a fancy way of saying it tasted really good.

As a general rule, I'm still not sure I like tomato soup. But this tomato soup? It ain't bad.

(-) CONS

  • The crunchy croutons quickly turn soggy
  • Grilled cheese is extra
  • If you’re not worried about your cardiovascular health, you probably should be after eating this buttery grilled cheese
  • Still probably not as good as other soups

(+) PROS

  • When is soup ever a bad idea?
  • Really hits the spot on a cool-to-cold da
  • Nothing tastes bad with this much butter, least of all a grilled cheese sandwich
  • Like taking a hot, relaxing bath—but in bowl form

Tasting Notes

  • Best for a day when you have no other plans. It's comfort food, but it's definitely heavy. After consuming, you'll probably only have enough motivation enough to click "Next episode" on Netflix.
  • This is not a dish really suited for photography for Instagram, or whatever. The longer you wait, the mushier those croutons get, and that just kind of ruins the eating experience.


The Trappe Door
23 W Washington St, Greenville, SC
(864) 451-7490, trappedoor.com
Tomato Soup: $5; add grilled cheese sandwich for $4