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SAVOR Sunny Bowls
by Andrew Davis
2021-09-11

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Looking for a comforting, healthful option for lunch? Then look no further than Sunny Bowls: Souper Food (theMart, #201.; sunnybowls.com/&, which specializes in various soups?

Part of the food court at theMART (which some also call Merchandise Mart), Sunny Bowls is located next to the CTA "L" platform at the venue—a clever location that owner Bob Wolkoff chose, as the health-focused spot (with wall quotes such as "A spoonful of self-care") can catch workers/visitors as soon as they arrive or on their way home, and it's one that he said made him feel comfortable. (Citing his real-estate investment background, Wolkoff said to Windy City Times, "How many people open during a time like this? I do believe in investing when times are bad.")

In discussing his spot's location, Wolkoff said, "The other thing that's unique about this area is that there are a lot of apartments here—and nobody's open on Saturdays. I don't understand why nobody's open then." (Interestingly, Sunny Bowls is only open during the week as well, but that may change.) He also mentioned the possibilities of offering soups to go during the evening as well as an overnight oats option for breakfast.

However, this brings us to what might be the major bump in the road for many possible patrons and for the spot: Sunny Bowls is not available for delivery, making the restaurant hyperlocal—and Wolkoff said finances are the reason. "Right now, I don't plan on using delivery because it charges so much," Wolkoff said. "I'd lose money on every order. I can't afford to do delivery."

Sunny Bowls aims to provide good feeling coupled with tasty, globally influenced dishes. Wolkoff stated, "When I started my career in the late '80s, I wondered, 'Why isn't there a really good franchise that focuses on soups? We have salads, but they're side [dishes] and we have spreads that come with two pieces of bread. I don't want to have a cafe; I really want this place to be soup-centric—and I believe that really good soup will sell the whole year."

And soup-centric it is, although Wolkoff holds fast to certain beliefs regarding his largely vegan-friendly menu. (Six of Sunny Bowls' 10 current soups are vegan.) When gazpacho is mentioned as a possible option, he said, "I don't think our country is really cold soup-oriented. We have light soups like sweet potato lemongrass and chipotle butternut squash. Also, our corn chowder is pretty light; it's made with coconut milk."

The variety of the flavorful soups—even with only 10 items—is impressive. (They come from recipes originated by legendary chef Gale Gand.) Along with the previously mentioned sweet potato lemongrass, chipotle butternut squash and vegan corn chowder, there are the only two items that Wolkoff called distinctly American (tomato basil and Bubbie's chicken soup). Then, there are Thai chicken, ratatouille, tomatillo chicken (my personal favorite), the carnitas and green chile stew, and the spiciest of them all: the hangover soup—a melange of Asian flavors with noodles, egg and beef.

The aforementioned spreads include apricot-and-almond chicken salad, spicy tuna salad, vegan herbed ricotta, spicy carrot hummus and smoky goat cheese. And the breads that accompany the spreads come from Publican, so it's top-quality. By the way, be sure to pick up Hope's Banana Bread Bites—a trio of mini-muffins of various flavors that's the brainchild of one of Wolkoff's daughters.

In the end, though, "we want to be considered the best soup place around," Wolkoff said. However, there's one thing you should NOT call him: "Don't call me the Soup Nazi," he said with a smile. "I hate that term."

—COVID protocols: Patrons are required to wear masks inside theMART when not eating and drinking. Also, Sunny Bowls staffers wear masks.

Note: This visit was arranged.


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