Hit Souper Jenny any weekday around noon, and you'll see a line out the door, as Buckhead bluebloods and business button-downs cram together to see the menu of soups, sandwiches and salads. But don't worry -- the ladling goes quickly, with big grins all around. While the spot has a reputation for the best soup in town, owner Jenny Levison is hardly a "Soup Nazi," welcoming one and all to indulge in her healthy, hearty fare.
Leading lady: Budding movie stars are always looking for a restaurant they can back once they reach the big time, but Jenny and pals are doing it another way. A part-time actor, Levison opened the place so she'd have a day job while she toiled on stage at night -- hence its daytime-only hours (takeout is available until 6 p.m.). So instead of schlepping as a waiter, Jenny's a proprietor, and she's employed her acting buddies to help out. Check the walls for headshots and theater posters from around town.
Just like Dad's: The only "soup" on the menu every day is the ever-popular My Dad's Turkey Chili. The mix of beans (I detected black, kidney and white in my cup), tomato chunks, assorted vegetables and ground turkey offers a rich blend of flavors. It's purportedly a spin on a recipe Levison's dad concocted -- and though it doesn't pack much kick, it's certainly a stick-to-your-ribs pleasure.
Bread in hand: The sandwiches ($4) rival the soups in beauty. A baguette stuffed with arugula, prosciutto, brie and roasted tomatoes was fresh with flavor and lovingly prepared. A runner-up is the sauteed wild mushroom, with goat cheese, field greens and roasted tomato. Wraps such as the curry chicken salad in a spinach tortilla aren't much to look at, but are surprisingly tasty. The tuna salad is a trail-mix treasure. Is that carrots and apples? A raisin?
Around the world: Soups ($2.50 cup, $5 bowl, $9 quart) get a decidedly Mediterranean treatment. On one day alone, I found soups with Moroccan, Italian and Greek influences. The best was the Tuscan Mish Mash, with its kitchen-sink variety of ingredients -- tomatoes, macaroni, squash, celery, carrots, chicken sausage, and tons of herbs and spices. The warm, soothing mix could trump Grandma's. A lamb and white bean soup was strong and gamey, with large, tender hunks of lamb in a rich, dark stock.
Daily affirmations: The feel-good vibe at Souper Jenny carries over into random acts of Oprah-esque kindness. There are daily affirmations in a basket by the door. The one I picked up about the kindness of strangers could easily apply to the restaurant itself. After dodging SUVs and beamers in the parking lot, you may not get a seat inside. Half-filled tables contribute to a compartmentalized feel and wasted space. If wraparound divans and common tables were employed, folks might spend more time slurping soup and less time cursing those Buckhead Betties.