3 of 50 “Tastiest” Soups in NYC – Billi-Bi Scored a “B,” but I Scored a Meaningful Night Out

MY TASTEFUL OPINION:  Meh, not worth the $13 or the long wait.

This past Friday night, after T and I watched Up in the Air and left with the question of “Who was right (about love)?”, we met M for our 10:30 pm reservation at Minetta Tavern.  We were three women on a corner (at Minetta Lane and MacDougal Street) with one main mission – to experience a bowl of Billi-Bi (Cream of Mussel) soup that would satisfy our evening.

M and I were especially excited because we both love soup, and it had taken two tries before we could get any kind of reservation.  When we got there, the big bouncer outside asked what time our reservation was.  When I said 10:30, he looked at his watch and said, “Right on time!” and opened the door to let us in.  Was he going to make us wait outside if we were too early?  Or throw us on the street if we were late?  Right then I had an inkling that I wasn’t going to enjoy the overall experience.

Walking into the dimly lit restaurant, which was most certainly tavern-like (albeit more upscale than normal), the three of us were greeted by a scene that we normally wouldn’t seek out.  Stuffy and snooty, it just made me want to take some more cold medicine so I could blur everything out.  Our $14 house specialty cocktails didn’t help either since there was barely any alcohol in them.  Perhaps if they didn’t skimp on the liquor, I would’ve been more patient waiting 45 minutes before finally being seated.  At the very least, they offered us three glasses of champagne and a better table at a booth to apologize, but the wait was still inexcusable.  Improving their reservation method should be a top priority.  Nothing like angry guests to ruin your reputation…and sour their meal.

Minetta Tavern's Billi-Bi

When we finally got comfortable, our waiter took our order:  three Billi-Bi’s (and one special pork entrée that we’d share).  The Billi-Bi arrived as a beautiful hue of orange soup filled with fresh, plump mussels (three in the shell and three out), decorated with some parsley and topped off with a crostini.  Perfectly seasoned, it reminded me of a milkier butternut squash soup.  I know that cream is often one of the main ingredients and was surprised (and glad) that this version still tasted light.  The pleasantly meaty mussels were definitely the highlight of the bowl (even though I had one gritty bite).  But, I have to say, even with all my kind words, Minetta Tavern’s Billi-Bi didn’t blow me away, especially for $13.  I’d rather get three of Taste Good’s noodle soup for that price.

The real standout of the evening for me was the company.  Sitting there with T and M, two spectacular women – 7 years apart – who were sharing a few more pieces of their lives with me and making me laugh through non-stop conversation, my surroundings and initial experience were finally blurred.  I don’t know who was right about love in Up in the Air, but I do know that I appreciate thoughtful people (and more thoughtful restaurants).  While my friends and I may differ in many ways and disagree at times, I will always be warmed when they simply think to contact me to share a few more memories…so much more so than a $13 Billi-Bi at Minetta Tavern.

Minetta Tavern
113 MacDougal Street
New York, NY

Over $10 – These soups should have a gold leaf in them.

$6 to $10 – You’re not shellin’ out the gold, but also not gettin’ super lucky.

Under $6 – It’s your lucky day!


About Tynee

My latest adventure: trying all 50 of what New York Magazine dubbed the "Tastiest" Soups in the city in 2009. Read all about it here. View all posts by Tynee

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