Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Soup's on! Competition Was Heated among South Side Restaurants in Annual Contest

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Soup's on! Competition Was Heated among South Side Restaurants in Annual Contest

Article excerpt

Commonwealth Press was packed Saturday afternoon. Some people perused the South Side shop's T-shirts emblazoned with "Stillers," "Yinzer" or "412." Others joined a game of bean-bag toss, where one guy heckled another for standing in his throw line.

Most were there to visit the outpost for Piper's Pub, stop No. 14 of 23 restaurants entered in the ninth annual South Side Soup Contest.

Here at a back table restaurant employees ladled a thick Boxty and Rasher Chowder -- an Irish reference to potato and bacon -- into paper cups. This hearty soup stirred the energy here, although a spirited game and a crew of regulars from the bar helped.

Held in mid-February since 2005, South Side Soup Contest is run by the South Side Chamber of Commerce and and Brashear Association, which helps in-need families with food, shelter and other essentials. Proceeds benefit both organizations.

On Feb. 1, 1,100 tickets at $20 apiece sold out in less than an hour. Pittsburghers apparently like soup.

"Winter and soup go hand in hand," said Hugh Brannan, executive director of the Brashear Association and staff member for the past 30 years. Mr. Brannan didn't cite a favorite soup although he noted interesting new entries and more vegetarian soups among the offerings this year.

What makes soup good food? A bowl that complements the season and staves off the cold, said several participants. Who's cooking is another factor, because home-cooked favorites serve as a reminder of the loved ones who make them.

Some tasters savored a kick from chilis, the heartiness of potatoes or a layer of cheese. And for meat eaters, a wedding soup with little meatballs or a hearty bowl starring bacon can win hearts.

Many have done this soup loop before. They enjoy the stroll through shops and offices where restaurants set up tables from East Carson and 27th to 10th streets. Promoting South Side businesses and encouraging post-holiday shopping is a parallel goal.

From noon to 3 p.m., groups of twos and threes lapped the neighborhood. They stood in line at Pandora's Box, where volunteers marked punch cards for stop No. 18, in which Emiliano's staff dressed a tomato-based soup in tortilla strips, avocado slices and a dollop of sour cream.

"People like all this stuff in their soup," said an attendee who polished off her serving outside. "That's why this stop is so popular." She and her husband hit all 23 stops in 11/2 hours. It was their second year at the contest.

Restaurants set up in shops with whom they have a relationship or were nearby. Marty and Jennifer Maloney staffed the OTB Bicycle Cafe station at REI, a partner since they first entered in 2010. "It seemed like a good fit," said Ms. Maloney, who noted her restaurant won "best vegetarian" soup last year for a corn bisque with poblano pepper. …

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