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 S0up 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, shockingly 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 standbys 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, 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 Chicken & 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 one fateful day while living in North Carolina, that is.
Near my workplace, in Raleigh’s Cameron Village, there was a little hole-in-the-wall kind of place called The Community Deli. From what I’d heard, it was kind of legendary. But I was hearing that, mostly, from Barney Stinson, who sang that restaurant’s praises any time he got the chance. His choice meal was 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 had a selection of soups, which Barney also said were 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’d heard, was about the same thing as what we called Chicken & Dumplings where I grew up.
So I made that leap one day. I was hungry. It was cold outside. So I felt that trying this soup would be a good idea. And, may I say, it was well worth the three dollars. It wasn’t exactly like Howard’s, but it was the closest thing I’d found in these many years. The dumplings, or pastries, were different, but I could get past that. As winter approached, it was nice to know I would be able to have a warm meal on those cold days. If you’re in the Raleigh area and ever make your way to Cameron Village for lunch, go check them out. It was pretty good stuff.