We Investigate the Hype – Soho’s (lunch)

Soho’s - Capitol Market, Charleston, WV

Susan says:

SOHO\'s

The Five were encouraged by a reader to review Soho’s.  This reader, as you might guess, was a bit unhappy with the food & atmosphere at Soho’s and was curious about whether those views would be shared by any (or all) of The Five.

Let me begin my portion of the review by saying that I am a fan of Italian food.  In fact, I have a policy which states: “any time you drive north of Route 50, you must eat at an Italian restaurant”.  There are a lot of great, authentic Italian restaurants in Bridgeport and points north and I hate to be near such fine eateries and not take advantage of their offerings.  My background on Soho’s includes one dinner visit during which I enjoyed a pizza, mostly because I thought everything was priced too high and I didn’t want the individual paying for dinner to be sticker-shocked when the bill arrived.  I have eaten lunch here once before but it was a long time ago and don’t really recall how I felt about it, but I hadn’t been back – so what does that tell you?  In addition, I love the food at The Blossom (for dinner, that is) which is created by the same chef, Bill Sohovich.  Sohovich….Soho…get it?

I studied the menu briefly.  One of my colleagues alerted me to the astonishing soft drink price of $2!  Shockingly (not!), I was the only one to order a soda.  I did so because I had not fueled up with any Diet Coke yet today and normally I would have one under my belt by this time.  I should also mention that if they were in the Pepsi camp, I would have passed.   I do appreciate that Soho’s at least has the guts to print the price in the menu.  A lot of places don’t do that and then you feel ripped off when you get the final tally and see how much you actually paid for that carbonated refreshment.  I let Jamie, our quick-witted server, know right away that for my whopping $2 I would be expecting a lot of refills.  He was up to the task and did a great job at keepin’ ‘em comin’.  Thanks again, Jamie.

To go with my $2 Diet Coke, I chose the $8.95 “Pollo alla Provolone”, a sandwich of rosemary-seasoned chicken, tomato, lettuce, and rosemary tomato aioli on fresh-baked Ciabatta served with chips.  Or so the menu said.   By now faithful readers know that I am going to scrutinize two aspects of this sandwich more than any other:  that would be the lettuce and the bread.  I got totally ripped off on the bread.  It was not Ciabatta.  It was a cross between a French roll and a sub bun.  The bread that came with the spaghetti and meatball could have been Ciabatta, but if that had been used for a sandwich, I prefer to slice it horizontally so you get the full surface area of crust.  The slices that came with the spaghetti were cut vertically so you had only the rim of crust.  My bread did have some nice thickness and density to it, but it was not toasted.  What a missed opportunity.  And they even had the nerve to put the bread halves together right-side-up.  The bread would have been so much better if it had been toasted, better still if it had been toasted and actually been Ciabatta like I was led to believe.  (You can get real Ciabatta at a restaurant on Washington Street East.)  The menu titled the sandwich section “Panini” which, coupled with the provolone on the ingredients list, implied to me that my non-existent Ciabatta bread would be buttered and grilled with an Italian sandwich press.  Didn’t  happen.  I guess Soho’s is going for the non-grilled panini variety.

Soho\'s Pollo Panini

Pollo alla Provolone

As for the lettuce.  There was one large romaine leaf.  That’s much better than iceberg lettuce but not enough to wow me.  It was actually the lettuce I expected.  There were 4 small tomato slices, which is fine with me since I don’t really care about tomatoes.  The aioli was not at all what I expected.  I thought it would have a mayonnaise texture, which is why I ordered it on the side.  It looked and tasted like super-thick tomato sauce and I didn’t see any signs of rosemary in it.  It didn’t do anything for me so it stayed on the side.

The chips were just regular old potato chips and I think at an upscale place like Soho’s is pretending to be, they should have been kettle chips at a minimum, if not homemade.  There was a nice-sized pile of chips beside my sandwich, I just didn’t find them carb-worthy.  I didn’t find the bread carb-worthy, either so I ate most of my sandwich off the bun with a knife and fork.   The chicken was plentiful and tasty and the cheese was melted to my satisfaction, although I didn’t taste the “smoke” in the provolone the menu description promised.  Perhaps it was overpowered by the aioli I didn’t use, the tomaotes I removed, and the one lettuce leaf with a thick stem.  Thankfully, there was no pickle to leak juice all over my fake Ciabatta bread.

I wanted to order the Caesar salad, but I just couldn’t bear to pay $6.25 for a bowl of romaine lettuce, parmesan cheese and some croutons and then add $5.00 to get some chicken with that.  The addition of protein would have made the salad $11.25.  No way!  I had already spent all my money on my Diet Coke.  I also didn’t order the lasagna for $16.95 or the pizza for $10.95.  Here’ a suggestion: Try offering some of the same dishes as the dinner menu, but in smaller portions with smaller prices.  If you compare the lunch and dinner menus, most items are exactly the same and priced the same.  I might be willing to pay a little more for dinner, but there’s no way you’re getting seventeen bucks out of me for a piece of lasagna on my lunch hour.  How many lunchtime lasagnas do they sell?  Who are these crazy people buying them???

Open KitchenI will agree with our reader that the place is pretty noisy.   We had three different conversations at our table-for-five because we couldn’t hear from one end to the other.  I think a Bill Sohovich restaurant trademark is the open kitchen area which leads to the increased noise level.  It looks cool but makes conversation tricky.

The best thing about our visit today was our server.  We got quick, attentive service with attitude, which we told him we liked.  He even made a smart remark to Misty about the way she was picking the caraway seeds of out her meatball which elicited a roar of laughter from the entire table, including Misty.  Ben and I thought Jamie deserved a fist-bump for it, it was so good…but he was already gone to attend to one of his other tables by the time we finished laughing.

My main gripe about this place is that I think it is way overpriced.  When you compare Soho’s to Bluegrass Kitchen, there is no competition, in my opinion.  I give Soho’s  TWO FORKS.

Misty says:

I was excited to hear that we were going to Soho’s for lunch.  It had been a long time since I had eaten lunch there and I am always in the mood for pasta.  We (or at least I) were a little concerned that we would have to wait for a table since there were 5 of us and we arrived at 12:00.  (for those of you who notice, this is a concern of mine, because I am always too hungry to wait.)  We were in luck…there was one table left that was big enough for all of us and one chair left for mine and Susan’s purses.  We sat down and I scanned the menu.  HUMMMM…there wasn’t much that interested me.

Everything that I thought sounded good was much more than I wanted to pay for lunch.  For example, there were several pizzas that I thought I would like to try.  But, they were all $10.95.  Yikes!   Maybe they were big (maybe 10 inches from what I remember), but still, I wasn’t interested in taking leftovers home.

Maybe I should try something lighter, like a salad.  Again, there were a few I would like to try.  However, the salads ranged from $5.95 to $9.95.  And, I would have liked to add chicken, but that was an extra 5 bucks.  A basic salad with chicken for $10.95.  Yikes!  Too much for me.

Then I spotted 2 chicken sandwiches that I thought looked interesting.  But they were both $8.95 and looked huge and I really wasn’t in the mood for a sandwich.  I wanted pasta.

So then, I saw the child’s portion of spaghetti with a meatball.  Now, this may have scared some people…but I have no shame asking for a child’s item off the menu.  Usually it is the perfect portion for me (especially for lunch) and if the restaurant has a problem with it or would like to charge me additional money, they usually just come out and tell me.   And the more I thought about it, this item wasn’t on a separate menu or in a special kid’s section of the menu- so, I thought I would try.  And it was more reasonably priced at $6.95.  All you can do is ask, right?  Well, it was no problem ordering the child’s portion of the spaghetti.   In fact, I believe Phil also ordered this.

Children\'s Spaghetti

Child’s Pasta

When my spaghetti came out, it looked delicious.  I told the table that they would have to excuse the way I was going to eat…I was not going to twirl, but cut my spaghetti, because I didn’t want to slop it all over the place (I am a bit messy sometimes).  So, I dug in.  I cut my spaghetti on the right side of the meatball and began to eat.  After a few bites, I noticed that my mouth was a little tingly.  I thought to myself…” surely this wasn’t spicy; I think I’ve had the marinara sauce here and it wasn’t spicy.”  I decided not to share this with my dining friends, because they like to make fun of my inability to tolerate spicy foods.  But after a few more bites, I didn’t care and had to bring it up.  I asked Phil about it and he confirmed that it had a little spice to it.  So, I didn’t get ridiculed at the table too much.

Next, I decided to try the meatball.  I cut it into it and took a bite.  I thought it tasted a bit odd, so I took another bite.  Odd, again.  Now, I do not have all the food knowledge that Daniel and Susan have…I just know if I like the food, and there was something weird about this meatball and I couldn’t place it.  So, I asked Daniel if he would take a bite and see if it was just me.  After tasting it, he thought that it had caraway seeds in it.  I quickly began dissecting the meatball.  I thought if I got the seeds out then maybe the taste would go away.  Well, it didn’t.  The only thing it got me was a hard time by our witty waiter (who provided great service).  As he was walking by, he must have noticed my dissecting process and just as I pulled another seed out to show to Daniel, he said, “just because you got a kid’s meal, doesn’t mean that you have to eat like a kid.”  Well, everyone thought that was hilarious.  I finally got caught disassembling my food by an outsider.  And, I have to admit, this comment was well warranted and I have learned two things from this experience:  1. Maybe I should be more discrete when picking through my food and 2. I do not, I repeat DO NOT, like caraway seeds.

The only other food item I have to comment on is the one thinly sliced piece of cold bread that I received with my spaghetti.  It was OK.  It did have some olive oil drizzled on it and when I dipped it in the marinara sauce, it made it a little better.  I just prefer my bread toasted or warm.

I thought about giving Soho’s a bump up for letting me order a child’s portion of spaghetti.  But, really, this just seemed like a lunch portion to me- which they should have on the menu anyway.  So, I decided against this.  I rate Soho’s- TWO forks.

Dan says…

I had eaten a couple of lunches and several dinners at Soho’s pior to this reader-prompted visit. I live in Charleston and I prefer to patronize restaurants located in town. I hate going up to South Ridge to wait 45 minute to belly up to the trough. The dinners that I have had at Soho’s have been memorable, but the lunches have not.

I love the Capitol Market and wish I visited it more often. Soho’s occupies its east end just past the Wine & Cheese Shop. The market is located in an old train depot with bare brick walls and high ceilings. These two architectural features make a for a unique, but very noisy interior. The noise is so loud it is nearly impossible to hold a conversation with anyone that is not seated directly next to you.

The lunch menu consists of zuppe, insalada, panini, pizza, specialita, and dolci. If you don’t know what that means, that makes two of us. Actually, SoHo’s has translations for all it menu items, but fancy Italian names don’t change the flavor of the foods. After surveying the menu and noting the two dollar soft drinks and ten dollar pizzas, I decided on the Italian Chef Salad. During a previous visit for dinner I tried the SoHo Lasagna and it is very good. It is also a very big portion for $16.95 at lunch and dinner. I echo Misty and Susan in saying half portions at smaller prices would be appreciated.

Italian Chef Salad

Italian Chef Salad

The Italian Chef Salad was a bed of chopped mixed greens, fresh heirloom tomatoes, cucumber, green olives, prosciutto, salami, sweet capicolla, gorgonzola cheese, hard cooked eggs and dressed with the house balsamic vinaigrette. This salad is a good choice if you visit SoHo’s. They de-seeded the cucumbers so they look like little C’s and the balsamic vinaigrette is one of the best I’ve tasted. I do wish they would present it differently. The meats are just piled in the center of the salad preventing me from figuring out what is what. I would like to see the meats arranged in rows or little piles so I can taste each one separately. Also, cut the butt ends off the tomatoes.  I don’t like eating tomato butts.

Tomato ButsIf you like Italian and get turned away at Fazio’s for a lack of reservation try SoHo’s for dinner. Lunch is a different story and I rate SoHo’s THREE Forks. If you do go for lunch during the summer save some room for Ellen’s Ice Cream avaiable outside with the seasonal vendors.

06.18.08 Comment from the Peanut Gallery……

Ron Says…

Soho’s…

The name alone should give this joint away… SoHo…. or is it SoWhat??   I’ve eaten here twice for lunch as my office is just down the street – within walking distance down the street, and about four times for dinner….

Bill Sohovich – (btw my name is spelled very similiar  thus I feel related (is he Polish or Lithuanian ?? – and if Mr. Sohovich was to embrace his heritage, he’d lower his prices to meet his roots))  Nevertheless, this dude’s restaurants also include Blossom’s – which is good but not as orgasmic good, as Dan would proclaim…..

SoHo’s – where’s the deal?  About four years ago I went out with one of the Chef’s at this joint and again – she agreed… “Where’s the beef?”  to sum up the sentiment.

I’ve eaten here after that… yeah, the food’s good, but is it great??????   I’ll give $1 to the first moron that says it is!    It’s simply glorified “Olive Garden”.     It’s good but it’s not worth the Hype… you be the judge if it’s worth the price.

TWO FORKS….. updated review coming this summer

Soho’s
800 Smith St
Charleston, WV 25301

Get Directions
(304) 720-7646
Soho's Italian Restaurant on Urbanspoon
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10 responses to “We Investigate the Hype – Soho’s (lunch)

  1. Dan and gang…thank you so much for reviewing SoHo’s at my request and vindicating my (often annoying) contention that it is the most overrated place in town. It’s not that the food is bad…it just doesn’t live up to its hype or its price. And call me old, but I just can’t eat or drink at a place where I can’t hear the people I’m there with. Again, thanks…and keep up the good work. I’ve told all my friends and co-workers about your blog and have given it a definite 5-fork rating!

  2. Pay up that dollar, bee-yoch! I’ve eaten there a number of times (for dinner – it’s too expensive for lunch – what’s the matter with you people?) and I can say I’ve never had a bad experience – other than getting a dinner bill for two with a couple of martinis, couple of imports and a glass of wine – and the roll for the rare roast beef sandwich hurts the roof of my mouth, but that’s the price you pay for chewy bread (and Doritos) sometimes. Pasta dishes are spicy because THEY ACTUALLY FLAVOR THEIR FOOD! It’s not supposed to be Chef Boyardee. Not everyone knows it, but spices are expensive and Soho’s doesn’t skimp. Plus, the dishes are very filling and “bigger” than they look. I love the chicken dish they do with pine nuts – very unusual combination of tastes. Stacy loves the chai-tinis. Noisy, yes, but less so toward closing time – then it qualifies as atmosphere. And always great service (they know they’re getting tipped on a percentage). Yes, it’s just food no matter what you pay for it, and Soho’s is pricey for this state. But a restaurant with high-quality, handmade food, top-shelf bar, great service, inventive dishes, live jazz on occassion. Did I mention the great bar selection they have there? How can you give that establishment – in Charleston – any less than four forks?!

  3. Are you sure it wasn’t a fennel seed in the meatball? It’s a standard ingredient in Italian sausage.

    I agree that the place is overpriced, and I think the menu needed to be revamped about 5 years ago. But you think the marinara sauce is spicy? Really? You might just be a wimp :-)

  4. Whew, I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks this place is way overrated. Aswith Fazio’s, I’ve given both multiple tries but from a true Italian who once upon a time lived in the northern panhandle, the joints just don’t cut it!!

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  7. HK,

    It was fennel seed. I stand corrected.

  8. Have you updated this review lately because it sounds like more of same now. The open kitchen is in need of a update. (We only want to see so much of the happenings in there) .

    I ordered a wedge with a side of salmon. The iceberg lettuce was brown (I got my dressing on the side). The red onion slices were tough and very strong and huge. Pancetta, I am thinking it was bacon instead and and the salmon was not grilled, but deep fried. AWful and cold.
    Ice tea (one refill) salad and 2 small pieces of salmon ($15.00) Sorry I could have had a better salad at MacDonald s, and saved 10 bucks.
    It is loud and cold and needs a good cleaning. My friends had salads that were drenched with dressing and the cold slice of bread and olive oil on it was just laughable.

  9. I ate here last night with my boyfriend before going to the movies. We are not drinkers, so we felt a little out of place when we didn’t order wine. In fact our waitress gave me a strange look when I told her we didn’t drink when she asked what wine we would like. I started with the chopped salad, It was good, but not worth the $5.95. What’s with gutting the cucumbers and only giving you the peels? The balsamic vinagarette was much better at Lola’s pizza. The bread they gave was good. I had the roasted red pepper ravioli. It was very tasty, but the portion was WAY to small for the $15.95 we paid for it. My boyfriend enjoyed his sausage and pepperoni pizza, but again it was not worth $10.95. Overall we enjoyed our food and the atmosphere of the restraunt and our service was excellent, but we probably will not go back just because it was pricey.

  10. I ate at Soho’s last Sat night. The chicken was overcooked and dry. Prices are way too high for quality.

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