First Look: Split Peas Soup Cafe

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2533 McKinney Avenue is one of those locations.

Vaguely familiar yet often overlooked, the unusual Mediterranean-style building with the wrap-around patio has always suffered from something of an identity crisis. Expect a few rounds of "It was that French place, remember? Then the Italian place...didn't they move?" when arranging a date at its newest incarnation, Split Peas Soup Café. And then buckle in for more multiple personality confusion.

One thing this nearly month-old Uptown spot has going is ample parking. The décor is also stylish, in soothing green with a long bar stretching down one side of the dining room. Smart pendant lights suspended from the ceiling and cloth napkins add to the 'one step up from fast-casual' atmosphere. But the thumping techno music playing on our lunchtime visit was more to suited to a Saturday night at PM Lounge. Five minutes in, we were praying for a stereo intervention.

A read through Split Peas' menu might also leave you scratching your head. One side of the all-day list offers soups, salads and sandwich plates in the $12 range. To the right, however, you'll find dishes like Filet Mignon and Grilled Lobster Tail for $22-32.

This all-in-one concept may have been popular in Split Peas' hometown of El Paso, but here in Dallas they might find a little trouble getting folks to shell out for steak and lobster when the table next door is having soup and salad.

We settled on a couple of lunch-appropriate choices, but a conversation with our friendly server threw a wrench in the plans when she explained that the signature soup wasn't available that day. Interesting, considering "split pea soup" makes up three-quarters of the restaurant's name. Disappointed, we went with chicken noodle instead. As we awaited the food, a manager came over and fiddled with the stereo, switching the techno drone to Billy Ocean's Caribbean Queen. (In other words, be careful what you wish for.) Luckily, slurping and chewing soon drowned out the lesser (?) of the two musical evils.

Food quality was good overall. The soup held chunks of white meat chicken and firm noodles in a rich broth scattered with fresh parsley. Unfortunately, though, some flavorless stringy white cheese had also been tossed into the bowl, making it difficult to eat in polite company. A Greek Wrap featured an abundance of fresh, crisp spring greens...but so did the salad alongside. Just about the only distinction between the two was that the former was wrapped in a bland, orange-colored tortilla. Finally, a parting incident ended our visit on a mysterious note.

Leaving the restaurant, we'd just reached the car when our sweet waitress came trotting up behind us. Had we taken both credit card receipts, she asked? No, we replied, and showed her our one Customer Copy as proof. Somehow, the second Merchant Copy, along with a tip in cash, had managed to disappear in the moments since we left the table.

Andrea, if you're listening, we sure hope the money turned up. And Split Peas, we're coming back for that soup--next time, we hope you're ready.

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