From gag-inducing to utterly tolerable, here are ten soups offered by Columbia Dining that will make you say: “Yes, this is soup!”
Entering a Columbia Dining Hall can be overwhelming. It’s loud. Finding a seat can often be impossible. Once inside, you become but a drop of water in an endless sea of bodies, pushed, shoved, and thrown aside as you attempt to find something, anything, to eat.
By some stroke of luck, you manage to finally fight through the throngs of ravenous undergrads to a serving line. The spoils of your Homeric journey—the light at the end of the tunnel—lay before you: soup. However, making the wrong choice and walking away with a less-than-satisfactory bowl of soup would render all of your ardor futile. Fret no longer; with the help of this guide, you will no longer be susceptible to making the worst mistake one could ever make: picking the wrong soup. Though a non-exhaustive list, here are ten Columbia Dining soups ranging from gross to not-so-bad!
10. The Chowders
Yes, the chowders (reduced down to one category for the sake of brevity) at Columbia Dining are that bad. Though the chowder pictured above may be an attractive-looking option, I am haunted by a personal experience in which I once mistook the Manhattan clam chowder in Chef Mike’s Sub Shop for minestrone. The shock which coursed through my body upon taking that first misguided bite still lives with me to this day. Seafood fans (they probably exist somewhere) might enjoy what is offered by the various chowders, but my advice is: steer clear.
9. Three-Bean Chili
Wow. This sucked. Even I, an avowed chili fan, thought this was incredibly gross. The beans were overcooked to the point of mushy-ness and the flavor was simply off-putting. This is what I imagine Chum Bucket chum tastes like. Maybe my standards were too high, or maybe it was actually that bad. In any case, I wish I had chosen something else.
8. Italian Wedding Soup
Not like your grandma makes. I had high hopes for this one, but it honestly falls flat. While the meatballs were tolerable, the ratio of broth to balls was simply too high. I wouldn’t mind consuming the excess broth to get to the good stuff had it been flavorful and well-seasoned (but it wasn’t). It’s not the worst soup you could choose, but it’s nothing to get excited about. This one still disappoints me.
7. Chicken Noodle
Chicken noodle is the vanilla ice cream of soup. Sure, it’s fine. There’s nothing to complain about. But don’t you want to live a little? Spice things up? The chicken noodle soup from Columbia Dining is especially neutral, it barely tastes like anything at all! But, for the unadventurous among us, chicken noodle is always a safe choice.
6. Pasta e Fagioli
Now we’re getting somewhere. The pasta e fagioli served by Columbia Dining does not suffer from some of the flaws that afflict the soups ranking lower on this list. Where the beans featured in the three-bean chili were overcooked to obliteration, the beans in this soup are really the star of the show. The ratio of broth to that which is not broth is more balanced than in the Italian wedding soup. All in all, not bad!
5. Butternut Squash & Apple
Good. Really good even. Butternut squash is one of my favorite foodstuffs, and this soup is a great vehicle for showcasing its subtle but complex, nutty flavor. For fans of drinkable soups, this one’s for you. But for a soup to be truly great, it must have either a stronger flavor profile or more heterogeneous ingredients.
The lentil soup is where Columbia Dining soups go from good to great. Sure, this soup is not much to look at. A bit off-putting even. Skeptics could (justifiably) be turned off by its lackluster appearance. But trust me, don’t judge this book by its cover; the lentil soup is a hidden gem. A small disclaimer: though this soup is one of my favorites, the quality does vary from dining hall to dining hall. For best results, snag a savory bowl of lentil soup from Chef Mike’s Sub Shop.
3. Chicken Dumpling
Hell. Yes. The chicken dumpling soup is the stuff of dreams. A more mature cousin of the chicken noodle soup, the chicken dumpling is an improvement in every category. The egg noodles. The silky broth. Add a hearty crack of black pepper and this soup is nearly perfect. It’s even better if enjoyed on a sunny evening on the steps as I did. Yum.
2. Broccoli Cheddar
The broccoli cheddar is simply perfect. Creamy, cheesy, hearty, etc. What else could someone want in a soup? Although the broccoli cheddar isn’t taking the top spot in this list, this soup is by no means something to underestimate. One simply cannot call themselves a Columbia Dining soup enthusiast who hasn’t indulged in this tasty offering. Poor broccoli cheddar: always the bridesmaid, never the bride. :(
1. Tomato Bisque
It had to be the tomato bisque. Sometimes the best things in life are simple, but this isn’t just some flavorless, blasé canned tomato soup. It’s so much more. The classic pairing of tomato and basil adds a level of sophistication to the childhood nostalgia of guzzling a bowl of tomato soup with reckless abandon. This is the best soup Columbia Dining has to offer; it simply tastes like home. Pair with a grilled cheese sandwich like this Bwog staffer for extra nostalgia points! Or, if you’re feeling inventive, swap out your marinara sauce for a splash of tomato bisque the next time you enjoy some John Jay pasta. You’ll thank me later.
All Photos via Bwog staff.