Friday, January 2, 2009

European Street Style Beer Cheese Soup

When I was in high school, classmates Andy and Margaret Z's parents owned a cool deli in the mall in Jacksonville, Florida.  It was called Mr. Dunderbaks and it had an old world feel to it with imported European foods and music piped in that made you feel like you were somewhere in the Alps. Later on it was renamed European Street but it was still the same place. They also had an expansive line of high quality, hard to find beers that filled the length of a wall.  If you drank one of each kind (tracked on a card), you won a free beer a week for a year or something like that.  I don't remember because I never got close.  It wasn't easy to do because this was a cafe not a rowdy bar and you were limited to 4 beers per visit. 
My friend Carson worked there for a while.  Sometimes I'd hang out there and have a beer or two as he closed up.  My wife and I would love to sit in the "outdoor cafe" part which was really just the store front in the mall which was made to look like an outdoor cafe.  Great place to eat, have a few beers, and people watch.  Ahhhh good times.

The Park Street location where we would eat for lunch near our office.  Photo credit:
European Street also had inventive sandwiches, some were triple deckers.  They weren't cheap but they loaded about 1/2 pound of thin sliced meats, fixings, and hot German mustard on them.  The Smokerschmidt, Blue Max, and Pizzaroni were some of my favorites.  Their desserts were decadent pies like Snickers pie and Reese's peanut butter pie.  If you ordered a dessert at the bar the deli ferried it over via a wicker basket with brass bells attached to a swing line.  You'd hear the bells clanging and look up to see a basket scooting overhead to the bar, memorable and cute.  

But my absolute favorite thing that they made was their Beer Cheese Soup.  It was thick, creamy, and luscious.  When we moved to Knoxville, it was one of the things we missed the most about "home" so I tried making a few recipes that I found on line but none of them really hit the mark.  So I stole from this one, borrowed from that one, added a thing or two and this is what I ended up with.  This isn't a clone recipe, it is more of a clone of how I remember it.
This soup is smooth, rich, and will warm you to the core on the most frigid of days. Use a good quality beer as it is one of the stars of the dish.  For the cheese blend, you can use whatever you want but you want 2 cups to be some kind of cheddar (orange, not white), 1 1/2 cups of some type of "melty" cheese (provolone, fontina, gouda, edam), and the last half cup can be a flavored cheese (something smoked, sun dried tomato havarti, or something like that).  For the bacon you want something thick and smoked.  Finally, if you want a thinner soup, just up the broth to 4-5 cups.

Beer Cheese Soup Clone

European Street Style Beer Cheese Soup
servings:  10 bowls

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (one stick)
  • 1 cup finely diced onion
  • 1/2 cup finely diced carrot
  • 1/3 cup finely diced celery
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 12 ounces beer
  • 3 cups of chicken broth
  • 1/2 tablespoon Hungarian paprika
  • 3/4 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 3/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 cups shredded cheese 
  • 1/4 cup minced cooked bacon
  • 2 cups half and half
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce
  • garnish:  popcorn, ancho chile powder or more paprika
  1. Preheat a stock pot or other large pot over medium high heat.  Add the butter and saute the onions, carrots, and celery, lightly seasoning them with a few pinches of salt and pepper.  Saute the onions until they are soft and translucent, about 7-8 minutes.
  2. Make a roux.  Reduce the heat to medium low and while stirring continuously, shake in the flour until combined.  Cook until a blonde roux forms, about 3-4 minutes.  You can tell when the fragrance becomes almost nutty.
  3. While constantly whisking, slowly pour in the beer and broth.  At first it will seize up but just keep whisking and adding liquid and it will turn into a smooth soup base.  You can use this for many other soups.
  4. Stir in the paprika, chili powder, dry mustard, and Worcestershire sauce.  Increase the heat to bring to a simmer.  Maintain a low simmer for 10 minutes once it starts.
  5. Optional - If you like a chunkier soup, skip to step six.  If you like a smoother texture, use an immersion blender for a few minutes to further break up the veggies.  If you want a velvety texture, then run it through a blender until completely smooth.  I prefer the middle ground with the immersion blender.
  6. Stir in the bacon.  Then stir in the cheese in small batches until melted.
  7. Remove from heat.  Stir in the hot sauce and half and half until blended.
  8. Taste for seasoning and add salt and white pepper as needed.
  9. Serve garnished with popcorn and a light dusting of ancho chile powder or paprika.
There is a good bit of prep for the mise en place but it is smooth sailing after that.

I like ours smoother so I give it the "motorboat" treatment with an immersion blender.

This will do a soul good on a cold winter night.

European Street moved out of the mall decades ago but you can find them all over Jacksonville, Florida.  If you are ever there, be sure to check them out.  They have fantastic food, exceptional beers, and live music events.  If you can't get there, at least try this soup.


  1. Food... Allll riggghhhhtttt! Beer cheese soup is my favorite!!! Seriously. Can't wait to try this out.

  2. This is a really interesting idea. I've never even thought of a beer and cheese soup, but I can't think why it wouldn't work. Two great tastes and all... is there a type of beer that works better than others? I'd love to try it with an IPA... or a stout...

    1. You have never "even thought of" a beer and cheese soup? Do you live in SIBERIA?

      What's weird is that you have the... INternet... and speak ENglish... but have NEVER heard of "beer cheese soup"??

      Have you never been read nursery rhymes either?

      I'm sorry - This one just caught me by TOTAL surprise... I completely feel like someone just shot me in my thorax

  3. Fearless - I used Fat Tire Amber Ale and it gave a nice flavor to the soup. I'd like to try Newcastle Brown the next time.

  4. I used to live in Jacksonville (Orlando now) and distinctly remember Dunderbacks. I lived in Riverside for years and went to European Street everyday after work for beers. My favorite item on the menu was the beer cheese soup (with extra swiss on top that would slightly melt...yum). My second favorite was their Champagne Chedder Cheese. OMG!!! Put that on your pretzel and you were in cheese heaven. Anyway, I plan to make your beer cheese soup tonight. Can't wait to see how it turns out. Thanks!!

  5. Ha, you weren't kidding. Awesome :)

  6. Thank you thank you thank you... I actually just moved from Jax last year, and was thinking about that soup this morning. I found you by just googling recipes for "Beer Cheese Soup." Thanks for posting this!

  7. I also found you like Ginger. :) I have looked and looked for something close to their beer cheese soup. I am a native of Jacksonville (now in Kentucky) and I crave it sometimes. We always went to the one in Riverside. I am definately going to give this a try! I loved having it in the bread bowl! YUMMM!

  8. Oh, my lord, I just ate lunch and now I want this decadent soup! Greater depth of flavor than my quickie version, absolutely. And smoked cheeses ... sigh.

  9. I had this last night at European Street Cafe on Beach Blvd. I did manage to get out of them that they use Hacker Pschorr Oktoberfest for the beer in their soup, which is also one of my favorite beers!

  10. I had this last night at the European Street Cafe on Beach Blvd, here in Jacksonville. One thing I did manage to get out of them is that they use Hacker Pschorr Oktoberfest as the beer for their soup. Will definitely try your recipe! :)

  11. Steve - Hacker Pschorr was always my favorite beer there, so it doesn't surprise me that was what they used. Andy also told me that they use provolone in their recipe for creaminess.

  12. I grew up in Jacksonville florida in riverside too actually and I grew up going to European street on the regular since I was like 3 im 22 now and have lived in Denver Colorado for the past 2 years so many miles from my home and one of things I have missed the most (other than the ocean that it) is Beer cheese soup in a bread bowl from European Street for me it was a foundation of my childhood I even went to elementary school right across the street from the riverside location (west riverside elementary) so I pretty much grew up in that place and I got to say your recreation is the closest I have found by far I was almost brought to tears by how homesick it made me I was right back in that café I could almost hear the cheesy background music and smell the odd scent that wafts through that place. Thank You so much for taking the time to figure this out and share it us you have made this very homesick 904 girl very happy :)

  13. I will try this!! We had a Mr. Dunderbaks here in Tampa at University Square Mall, But now they have moved into a strip center and doing 10 times the business! I have always loved their cheese soup!

  14. Does anyone happen to have a recipe close to their spreadable champagne cheddar cheese? I have tried, in vain, over the last two decades to find any recipes even close to theirs? I'm not even sure if they still have their champagne cheddar in their restaurants anymore. Thanks for any response (sorry to bump a seven year old post, but it took me forever to remember the name of the place in Jacksonville mall we used to take special trips to from GA.)

    1. They have not sold the champagne cheddar in their stores for years. Coincidentally though, your comment is how I found their thread because my husband is desperate to try to recreate it. I will come back here and let you know if we have any luck.


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