Not that we want to encourage emotional eating on a regular basis, but sometimes a slice of cake or a hot casserole can ease the pain, even if the daily financial news has you reeling. After all, Campbell Soup was the only stock that finished higher on the S&P 500 on Sept. 29 — the date of the massive selloff. We hope you'll throw a little support the way of local restaurants, which offer the ultimate in comfort: heartwarming soups (Note: These appear regularly on menus, as opposed to occasional "soups of the day"), thick sandwiches, cozy atmospheres, gooey desserts and hot drinks. Also, we sent five brave taste-testers to figure out the best in chocolate cake, macaroni and cheese, and braised meat. Tough job, but someone's gotta do it. By Kate Andrews, Susan Early, Bethany Emerson, Harry Kollatz Jr., Melissa Minetola Leddy, Hollister Lindley, Megan Marconyak, Sarah K. McDonald, Gail Plante and Paul Spicer
AMBIANCE | SOUPS | DESSERTS | DRINKS | SANDWICHES
Tom Ka Gai
Thai Diner & Café, 8059 W. Broad St., 270-2699; Thai Diner Too, 3028 W. Cary St. 353-9514
$3.50 a cup
A steamy cup of tom ka gai — a chicken-and-mushroom soup with a coconut-milk base — will add some heat on the coldest night. Thai Diner's broth is creamy but not unduly thick, and the flavor is brightened considerably by lemongrass. We like this soup as an appetizer (it's all about tasting many flavors at a Thai restaurant, after all), but you can also get a bowl or a hot pot of this Thai classic.
Tuscan Tomato Soup
8 1/2, 401 Strawberry St. 358-8505
Fan takeout joint 8 1/2 serves three soups, and the one you should try is the Tuscan tomato. A sweet-tomato taste accented by hints of onion, pepper and parsley makes this soup a sure cold-weather winner that will immediately warm you up and make you feel full without feeling stuffed. The best part of all: It comes with a toasted slice of Italian-seasoned garlic bread.
Matzoh Ball Chicken Noodle Soup
Boychik's Deli, 4024-B Cox Road 747-1030
$3.50 a bowl
One incredibly light matzoh ball or two? Your choice is added to the handful of wide noodles and small chunks of herbed roast chicken floating in a flavorful chicken broth to appease your craving for an old-fashioned starter before a true deli-style meal (think New York City's Lower East Side) or just a light supper after a hectic day.
The Hard Shell, 1411 E. Cary St. 643-2333
$4.95 a bowl
Smooth-as-silk consistency? Check. Sweet and plentiful lump crabmeat? Check. Ding-ding-ding, we have a winner! You'd be amazed how many alleged bisques and chowders around town have very little seafood in them (we know, we tried several). Not so at The Hard Shell, which puts the crab in she-crab soup; sherry applied with a light hand enhances the taste. Great for a cold afternoon.
Beth Furgurson photo
TJ's, 101 W. Franklin St., 649-4672
$7 a bowl
Richmonders of a certain vintage may remember the peanut soup at Miller & Rhoads' Tea Room; the velvety broth at TJ's, the downstairs restaurant at The Jefferson, is quite similar. A server brings a shallow white bowl with diced peanuts and parsley in the center, then pours soup into the bowl from a small silver pitcher. The ceremony ends there, and the soup itself is blessedly simple, nourishing and peanutty.