Saying goodbye to Darn Good Soup

Iris Kreilkamp, Staff Writer

Darn Good Soup has been a staple of Bloomington life since 2011 — located on the Square, and known for its delicious daily soups and friendly employees, it is a quintessential part of living in Bloomington. 

Even so, the pandemic is shuttering restaurants nationwide for dine-in eating, and even restaurants as beloved as Darn Good Soup have had to close for the foreseeable future. 

Darn Good Soup on the Square, Indiana Public Media

“I felt it was my duty to my employees and the greater community as a whole,” said owner Nels Boerner, who had temporarily closed the restaurant in March. “I had the luxury of being able to choose to walk away from [my lease], and maybe have the option to start over sometime in the future.” Keeping his employees safe was a major part of Boerner’s decision to shut down.

So when might DGS reopen? Boerner isn’t sure, and said, “The pandemic is introducing so much uncertainty on so many levels… both economic and health and safety-wise.” It’s hard for everyone to know when things will return to normal, and what normal will even look like in the coming months or years. “What does a post-pandemic restaurant look like, and is it even feasible?” asks Boerner. The CDC has released tentative guidelines for what reopened restaurants might look like, suggesting things like distancing seating between customers, lowering capacities, and introducing procedures like disposable menus and utensils. Masks are likely to be a requirement with employees and servers, and much stricter hygiene and cleaning practices will be required. Despite this, Boerner does hope to reopen Darn Good Soup sometime in the future. 

Darn Good Soup was open for almost exactly 9 years, starting in March 2011. Boerner said that running the restaurant was hard in its early days — he worked 7 days a week, 14 hours a day. “Like any job, you had good days and bad days, but in general the good days really outweighed the bad days,” said Boerner. “It was really nice to be part of the greater community, and be a place where people could see and meet each other… sort of be a hub of positive social activity.”

Of course, the idea of a “hub of social activity” sounds borderline dangerous these days, but Boerner said that running Darn Good Soup was rewarding for him. “I think all restaurants are… happy good places to be. They bring people together and allow people to create positive connections with each other. That part [of running the restaurant] was fantastic.”

Many South students were regular customers of DGS. Seniors Joey McRoberts and Rachel Michelson said that it was their favorite. “Whenever I went to the [annual Canopy of Lights ceremony] I would get soup there,” said McRoberts. Michelson said that they “just had very nostalgic, homey, comforting vibes. And their whole wheat bread slapped.”

Senior Maisie Fiedler was also a dedicated customer who was upset to hear of the closing. “Darn Good Soup was truly a national treasure. They were the only reason I worked [on the Square] for so long. Everything was [so bomb] and everyone was so nice! I am truly in shock,” said Fiedler.