Ten local chefs will vie Saturday to see whose bowl of soup best warms and fills the stomachs of diners in the Starkville Convention and Visitors Bureau’s third annual SOUPer Bowl.
Tickets for the event, scheduled from 4-6 p.m. at the Dawg House Sports Grill on Main Street, are $15 in advance and $20 at the doors. The day-of ticket cost is reduced $5 with a can donations for local soup kitchens. Children under 12 can enter for $5.
This year’s menu includes: drunken chicken, sausage, shrimp and corn chowder from Bin 612; camp chowder from the Camphouse; Irish stew from Harvey’s; chicken bacon soup with ranch whipped cream from Dawg House Sports Grill; chicken taco soup with cilantro lime sour cream from Central Station Grill; beemster cheese and ale soup from DeRego’s Bread; shrimp and cantaloupe bisque from Commodore Bob’s Yacht Club; crawfish chowder from Old Venice; Vardaman sweet potato gumbo with shrimp crusted fried okra from Restaurant Tyler; and smoked chicken tortilla from Two Brothers Smoked Meats.
The SOUPer Bowl is part of the Greater Starkville Development Partnership’s Savor Our South tourism push, which focuses on the city’s blossoming culinary scene from February through May. SCVB is one of many groups managed by the Partnership.
The event was previously managed by the Starkville Young Professionals but was suspended for a few years before it was eventually picked up again by SCVB.
Other Savor Our South events include Feb. 25’s UNWINE Downtown, the March 28-April 3 Starkville Restaurant Week and May 13’s King Cotton Crawfish Boil.
While the cold weather impacts out-of-town turnout for tourism events, GSDP Special Events and Projects Coordinator Jennifer Prather said Savor Our South events still draw significant interest across the state.
“Starkville has always celebrated its widely successful culinary scene. You’re starting to see people outside of the community buying into how we’ve become a culinary destination,” she said. “Locals have it even better, because this is a great opportunity for the public to network and have one-on-one interactions with the chefs and restaurants at which they’re eating all year. And also, who doesn’t love a warm bowl of soup when it’s cold outside?”
A link to purchase SOUPer Bowl tickets can be found at Starkville.org/visit/events/souperbowl.
SRW charity nomination period approaching
While the Partnership previously announced the dates for this year’s restaurant week, its charity nomination period has not yet begun.
SRW typically begins the week after students return from spring break, but this year’s event was pushed back another week in hopes of capturing the expected fans coming to Starkville for the Mississippi State University-Ole Miss baseball series.
The event features a charity aspect, in which diners vote for one of three groups to receive tiered cash donations.
The public nomination process is typically held in early February, but Prather confirmed the Partnership has not yet set a date for the effort.
“Since we pushed the event back this year, we’re doing the same with the nominations. I expect the nomination process to begin later this month, and it could continue through early March,” she said.
Prather also said the Partnership has verbal commitments from last year’s prize sponsors to again participate this year, but the organization is still awaiting firm commitments.
SRW launched in 2012 as a way to boost restaurant visits in March, as the spring break exodus of students means a drop in sales and 2 percent food and beverage tax returns for local eateries.
Ballots are used to determine SRW attendance, track advertising effectiveness through entries for zip codes — where diners come from — and grow the Partnership’s database with provided email addresses.
Last year, MSU’s Autism and Development Disabilities was the top charity vote-getter and won a $5,000 cash donation, beating out Starkville Habitat for Humanity and the Salvation Army.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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