Wild Mushroom Bisque

Steve Phelps, the chef at Indigenous,  first created his version of the wild mushroom bisque while working at a restaurant in Cleveland, Ohio. The soup, which contains porcini, shiitake and baby portobello mushrooms, has been on the menu since Indigenous first opened in 2011. Drizzled with truffle oil and rye croutons, the bisque is made from scratch almost every day using a secret technique. “The soup is savory but not too creamy,” says Phelps, “and on a daily basis people who hate mushrooms will taste a bit of the soup from someone at their table and then order a bowl for themselves.”  The soup is equally popular during the cooler winter months and hot days of summer. “In the dead of summer, when the air is as hot as the soup, we have guests who sit down outside at 5:30 in the afternoon and order a cup of the mushroom bisque,” adds Phelps, who believes that its popularity is a testament to how comforting the soup is for patrons. “We’ve had some VIP guests who, on their deathbeds, asked their loved ones to bring them the bisque for their last meal,” he says, “and I think that says a lot.”  Indigenous Restaurant, 239 S. Links Ave., Sarasota. 941-706-4740. indigenoussarasota.com

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Navy Bean & Ham Soup 

Opened in 1968, Marina Jack is one of the longest continuously operated restaurants in Sarasota. In the late 1970s, the restaurant struck gold with the navy bean and ham soup which has been on the menu at The Deep Six Lounge and The Dining Room ever since. “We tried to take it off the menu,” says General Manager Greg Corvelle, “but people were up in arms.” After about two weeks, the soup returned for good. The simple dish contains white navy beans, ham hock, bacon, onions, ham base and fresh potatoes, but demands a culinary chemist to elevate the ingredients into the beloved final product. Preparatory Chef Clyde, who joined the restaurant team in the seventies, has been making the soup for the past forty years. Clyde prepares the soup in six-gallon batches, beginning with cooking down the ham hock (bone included), soaking the beans to soften them and then stripping the meat off the hambone. “He knows that the beans are ready when they’re tender and squishy,” says Corvelle, comparing Clyde to a mad scientist who knows just how to follow the recipe through to the hearty end result. The meat and beans are then combined and simmered, with the faster-cooking potatoes added last. The soup, a meal in itself, takes seven to eight hours to make and is worth every second of simmering. Marina Jack, 2 Marina Plaza, Sarasota, 941-365-4232. marinajacks.com

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Sopa de Mariscos Seafood Soup Bowl

Mariela Pineda and her husband, chef Juan Pineda, opened Mariscos Aztecas ten years ago. Their beloved sopa de mariscos seafood soup bowl (right) has been a restaurant staple ever since. The soup is a medley of shrimp, fish, calamari, octopus and mussels as well as carrots, celery, onions and potatoes. “Juan puts so much passion into the soup,” says Mariela, “and that’s what makes it special.” Like everything else on the menu, the soup is made from scratch with ingredients sourced by Pineda himself. If he’s not happy with a certain product, he won’t cook with it. “It’s comfort food,” says Mariela, “and we actually had a customer who wanted to order it to make her feel better after watching a sad show with her family.” Customers who’ve dined at Mariscos for the last ten years come back again and again for the soup. Besides being rich in flavor, the soup is also a great hangover cure, according to Mariela. “A lot of customers order it to recuperate!” she adds.  Mariscos Azteca Mexican Seafood Restaurant, 1100 N. Tuttle Ave., 941-210-3873, Sarasota. mariscosazteca.com