If you haven’t been to Czarnuszka’s soup bar, grab a pen or pencil (or iPhone app) and add it to the top of your cool weather bucket list. The first time you walk into this little eatery you’ll see why it’s a local favorite and one of Ephraim’s hidden gems. The soup bar is small in size, housed in a cottage hidden behind the storefronts on Highway 42 in the core of Ephraim. The space has communal table seating and bar seats, making for a cozy atmosphere on a cold, grey day.
The black chalkboard hung behind the counter announces the four made-from-scratch soups of the day and two sandwich options, one with meat and one without. Options change day-to-day and are posted daily to the business Facebook page to alert customers. On this chilly day the board read: Bohemian Potato Chowder, Chicken Booyah, Tomato-Dill with Rice and Kapuśniak (Polish cabbage & kielbasa). The sandwich options included a Honey-Ham with Cheddar and Vegetable Swiss.
I recently learned of the history behind chicken booyah – it being a speciality of Northeast Wisconsin, stemming from the Green Bay area – and I decided it was time to get familiar with this staple. The legend goes that the soup was made to sell for a fundraiser in the early 1900s, and the local paper misprinted the name from “chicken bouillon” to “chicken booyah,” and the community embraced this new name. Ordering a bowl, the owner and soup chef Paul Wanish handed me a wide dish of creamy soup and half of a roll. When asked if it’s a classic chicken noodle soup, Paul describes it as, “more of a farmer’s chicken stew.”
Finding my own corner of a table, I had flashbacks to my mom making her homemade chicken dumpling soup. This soup appeared similar, except the chewy dumplings of my childhood are replaced with halved red potatoes. The herbal spices came through strong with bites of chicken, celery, carrots and onions. My bread roll was impressively effective at soaking up the savory broth, helping me leave my bowl soupless. A bowl of the booyah plus the bread was a filling lunch for one. Open all year except in March, I’ll be adding frequent lunch stops for a daily soup to my plans.