Yes, it's small. And crowded. And it's not so cheap. But Soupremacy, a tiny soup shop located just off the Circle in downtown Indianapolis is absolutely worth a visit.

I've been several times now, and each time I've liked the little soup seller more and more. But take a look at those first five sentences, and you'll notice that I've mentioned the size of the place three times. Small. Tiny. Little.

Are you getting the picture? Soupremacy has squeezed into the space formerly occupied by Tea Pots n Treasures at 7 E. Market St., and there seriously isn't much room. There are maybe a dozen counter seats — some that face the window, which is appealing, others that face a wall, which is less so. Going out for lunch with the office gang? Soupremacy is probably not the place if there's more than two of you. And if you're sitting along the wall, and it's around noon, and you need to go fill up your fountain drink, you'll have elbow aside all the folks waiting in line to get back to your seat.

That being said, I like Soupremacy's chalk board/tin ceilinged look, its crowded city vibe. And whether you eat in or carry out, the food is worth the effort. A cup of soup is $3.49, a bowl is $4.99 and half a salad is $3.49, so a soup-and-salad lunch will take the better part of 10 bucks. And if you're like me and can't resist a sampler of anything, you'll want to get a trio of soups instead, which is $6.25. But trust me; order half a salad and a trio of soups and you won't walk away hungry. Service, strictly of the order-at-the-counter variety, is quick and pleasant.

Local chef Tony Hanslits, of The Chef's Academy and Nicole-Taylor's Pasta and Market, makes the soups and salads. The bread is from Amelia's, and desserts are made locally as well. I like the fresh, local focus, and so far the soups haven't disappointed.

On a recent visit, we ordered two trio samplers and two half salads. Combined with an earlier trio order and allowing for overlap (yes, I've had the chicken velvet twice), I figure I've sampled at least eight different soups. And, happily, I've liked them all.

Some more than others, of course. That chicken velvet is hard to beat, and I think it has to be the velvety-est I've ever had. Creamy without being cloying and, happily, not too salty, it's definitely comfort food at its most comforting — although the chicken noodle soup is a strong contender.

The chili is appealing for its slow-to-kick-in spice, and the lentil soup is hearty and flavorful (though not particularly visually appealing). The Casablanca harira, a vegan option, packed plenty of flavor as well, as is a caramelized onion soup that I enjoyed on a previous visit. But my favorite so far might be the thick and creamy roasted red pepper.

Of course, I haven't tried the lobster bisque or the broccoli cheddar, so there are a couple more options that might vie for the title of favorite soup.

Of the breads I tried, the light, fresh semolina won out over the baguette; I don't know why you'd opt for crackers over bread, but they are available, if you prefer. The salads we tried — the Kerouac blues and the Vonnegut wedge — were both winners, loaded with fresh crisp lettuce and lots of toppings, including plenty of blue cheese, bacon and, on the Kerouac, avocado.

I'll give the desserts, which include a key lime pie and carrot cheesecake, another try, because I was disappointed in my first choice, the cheesecake ($2.99). With bits of cream cheese still visible throughout the piece, it could have been creamier.


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