I thought about starting this little story out with the phrase, "When I was a kid..." But really, I don't think I was a kid. It just feels like the following events took place so many years ago, that in my over 30 mind, I was a kid. Whatever the case, I think I was in college when I was introduced to Howard's Soup Kitchen. The possibility exists that I was still in high school, but somehow I doubt it.
I'm arguing with myself over frame of time, when that really doesn't matter. The point is Howard's Soup Kitchen. I'm fairly certain that the restaurant no longer exists, but when it did, it was amazing. It was this place in downtown Roanoke that served, surprisingly enough, soup. That's not all they had, but that was their focus.
Howard's was only open for lunch during the week and featured certain soups on certain days. Of course there were some stand-bys that stuck around five days a week: Chicken Noodle, Vegetable, French Onion, that sort of thing. But the one that I always looked forward to was only served on Tuesdays and Thursdays. That, my friends, was the Chicken & Dumplings. There were few meals I looked forward to more than a bowl of Howard's Chicken & Dumplings with a sandwich on the side.
In those days, my Mom worked downtown. So when I was in town from college on what happened to be a Tuesday or Thursday, I would constantly make plans to have lunch with her, just so we could make that trip to Howard's Soup Kitchen. I had to have that bowl of Chiken & Dumplings whenever I had the chance.
At some point, Howard's closed down. It was thought that I would never get to enjoy that steaming bowl of deliciousness again. But then I moved back to Roanoke after college and I heard that Howard's had reopened under new management. And they still had their Tuesday/Thursday helping of Chicken & Dumplings. I made one trip to Howard's under the new management, and that was all it took. The new management apparently had a new recipe. It was different. Maybe I was different. Either way, things just weren't the same.
Howard's has since closed for good, at least that's the rumor I heard a few years back. I have searched for a reasonable facsimile of Howard's Chicken & Dumplings (the good version) but have come up short every time. Until yesterday, that is.
Near my workplace, in Raleigh's Cameron Village, there's a little hole-in-the-wall kind of place called The Community Deli. From what I've heard, it's kind of legendary. But I'm hearing that mostly from Barney Stinson, who sings this restaurant's praises any time he gets a chance. His choice meal is the steak and cheese sandwich, which I tried on my first visit. It was pretty good. Upon further examination of their menu, I noticed that they have a selection of soups, which Barney also says are phenomenal. He had never tried the soup known as "Chicken & Pastry" but was willing to have me be the guinea pig. Chicken & Pastry, from what I've heard, is about the same thing as what we called "Chicken & Dumplings" where I grew up.
So I made that leap yesterday. I was hungry. It was cold out. So I felt that trying this soup would be a good idea. And may I say, it was well worth the three dollars. It isn't exactly like Howard's, but it's the closest I've found in these many years. The dumplings, or pastries, are different, but I can get past that. Now that winter's approaching, it's nice to know I'll be able to have a warm meal on those cold days. If you make your way to Cameron Village for lunch, go check them out. It's pretty good stuff.