30th Annual Soup Sunday Is A Feast For A Good Cause
Soup Sunday is a Memphis tradition. Every year, thousands of Memphians fill the Concourse at FedExForum to enjoy samples of soups, appetizers, breads, dips, and desserts from 50 local restaurants. It’s a smorgasbord, really. It’s impossible to eat everything there, though many may try…
Even better, all the ticket proceeds support Youth Villages. Soup Sunday 2019 is on February 17 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for kids.
This week, I sampled some things you can try at this year’s event, plus talked to a few Soup Sunday vets. This year marks the 30th anniversary of this important fundraiser, one that supports Youth Villages’ mission to help children with emotional and behavior problems.
Eat All The Good Memphis Food At Soup Sunday
First: the food. You need to know that Soup Sunday isn’t just a bunch of soups, it’s a full menu of delicious soups, stews, and gumbos, plus other snacks, samples, bread, dessert, and more. It’s also totally family friendly, and there’s even a Kids Zone. Most of the big dining events in town are in the evenings and aren’t 100 percent geared towards families, which is something that makes Soup Sunday unique.
Here’s what I tried.
I stopped into Amerigo in East Memphis to talk with Chef Frank Loyd. He was kind enough to let me try what the Italian restaurant will serve this year: a hearty, beef broth-based vegetable soup with gluten free noodles. It’s a nod to Amerigo’s gluten free menu (something you don’t normally see at Italian places).
Frank was born and raised in South Memphis, and has honed his culinary skills in several local restaurants over the years, including Cozy Corner’s original location on Watkins. Most recently he was at Char in East Memphis, before coming to Amerigo as chef six months ago. He’s inspired by his grandmother’s resourcefulness in cooking, “she’d use whatever she had in front of her, and she only cooked from scratch. Nothing came from a box.”
Allison Williams from Amerigo was also on hand, and described the excitement of the initial rush at Soup Sunday at FedExForum. “They ring the bell, open the gate, and the crowd rushes in to get the setup with the sample cups. People are very enthusiastic; it’s three or four hours of excitement.”
The soup (above) is pure comfort food, savory and packed full of veggies, perfect for a Sunday supper.
I also went by Riko’s Kickin Chicken on Madison in the Medical District. Tiffany Wiley and her husband Meriko Wiley opened a food truck in 2014, serving his recipes for flavor-packed wings, tacos, and salads. They were so popular that they opened a brick-and-mortar 2017. At the moment, they’re doing some upgrades and renovations, though they’re still open for lunch and dinner. Tiffany tells me that one day they’ll do brunch.
She says she’s known about Youth Village for years, and volunteered through her sorority Gamma Phi. Then, Riko’s food truck catered multiple events for Youth Villages participants over the years. It was only natural that they’d later join the list of local restaurants that participate in Soup Sunday.
On Sunday, you can sample their boneless wings in four different flavors, including the Honey Gold, which is what I tried this week.
I am here for this chicken, and you will be too. I especially liked how the sauce was less sweet than the usual honey-based sauces, and that they’re offering a small salad to lighten things up. You’re going to need some napkins, though.
Soup Sunday’s 30th Birthday
Amanda Mullen, development coordinator for Youth Villages, told me about the first days of the fundraiser, which started in 1990 when supporters and Mid-South restauranteurs were looking for a way to support local kids who benefitted from the organization. “The original event organizers, Danny Sumrall and Mike Warr, brought the idea to Memphis after a similar event in Little Rock. After three decades, thousands of gallons of soup, and almost a million dollars raised, Soup Sunday is still going strong.”
There were just 20 restaurants packed into Captain Bilbo’s downtown for the first event in ’90. Now of course, it’s more than 50 local eateries and caterers, plus more in the VIP area. It pretty much fills up FedExForum, which is not surprising. Memphis loves to eat almost as much as we love to give back to our community.
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For the 30th birthday, Youth Villages will welcome in several new restaurants including Strano by Chef Josh (VIP area) and Forest Hill Grill in the downstairs Concourse, plus the guys from Memphis 901 FC will be there to hang out. “Soup Sunday is a bucket list type of event for the Memphis area, right?!” Amanda asks. Yep! I think it is.
Tom Cassidy, III., is a longtime supporter for Youth Villages, and one of the 200 volunteers that help Soup Sunday run smoothly. He credits a couple different things with the event’s success. “I think the most obvious reason is the family atmosphere. Plus, you have up to 70 of the best places to eat in Memphis allowing you to sample a dish. It’s fun for the kids and a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon,” he says. “It is a larger task than people realize to prep and move all of the food, and get set up to serve. The setup starts up to 48 hours before the event.”
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What booths should you be sure not to miss this year? Tom goes for Huey’s potato soup, Folks Folly she-crab soup, and The Half Shell’s seafood gumbo, all Memphis classics. Amanda has a few recommendations, too: “The Youth Villages Food With Class program is sure to be a hit; Miss Pia Mitchell and the young men from our programs who help her cook do such a delicious job,” she explains.
She also mentions desserts from delicious places like Rizzo’s Diner (“Chef Michael Patrick knows how to make taste buds dance”) and the infamous lobster and shrimp bruschetta from the Half Shell (pictured above) probably the most famous thing to eat at Soup Sunday.
Are you hungry yet? If so, go snag a ticket and we’ll see you filling up your samplers on Sunday!
Youth Villages’ 30th Annual Soup Sunday
FedExForum, downtown Memphis
February 17, 2019
11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
$20 adults, $10 kids