This photo is property of Tea With I was so hungry by the time I finished my soup, I ate it and forgot the final picture!

My shoes are soaked. My jacket is dripping. It’s officially the beginning of our long trudge towards winter and this cold rain is the first sign of it.

Of course, my shoes are in their present state because I insisted on walking to my downtown grocery store to pick up the ingredients I needed to recreate this delicious soup, straight from the L.S. Ayres Tea Room Recipes and Recollections. If you’re a longtime resident of Indianapolis, you know all about the Tea Room, a hotspot for lingering over lunch and trading gossip, in between a little shopping. A place to see and be seen. The Tea Room closed in 1990, but was so missed the Indiana State Museum staged an almost pitch-perfect recreation within their building. You can’t shop anymore — well, besides the gift shop, of course — but time at the tea room is still a sweet way to spend a day.

We’ve talked at length about the impact of L.S. Ayres on Indianapolis – particularly for Indy women. Read up in the archives and then recreate this soup, ideally on one of these chilly fall days that will start happening with frequency.


1 1/2 stick butter
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup warm milk
1 cup warm cream
1 pt hot chicken stock + 1 qt hot chicken stock
1 1/2 cup chopped cooked chicken
salt + pepper to taste

Combine butter and flour in a heavy-bottomed pot over low heat, blending well. Add warm milk, pint of hot chicken stock and warm cream. After cooking well, add remaining ingredients.

Cooking time: 30 minutes

The beginnings of a roux

Historical Variation: 

This isn’t the first time I’ve made this sumptuous soup, and I think the same thing every time: where’s the spice? Besides the salt and pepper, there’s not much complexity — just rich, rich, rich textures. So I made sure to remedy that this time by adding paprika, cumin, and a bit of finely chopped onion that I sautéed beforehand. I was pleased with the outcome, and reminded once again of what a simple, almost foolproof recipe this is.

Field Trip: 

Visit the recreated L.S. Ayres Tea Room at the Indiana State Museum, which is also available for special events and programs. You can sip on tea of your choosing, choose from a variety of sweet treats, and yes, nosh on the chicken velvet soup. High tea is served on Sundays. Make a day of it — and don’t forget your vintage Ayres fashion.


4 responses to “Vintage Vittles: Chicken Velvet Soup”

  1. Bj Thompson Whitt says:

    My grandmother, Alice Border, made sure we grandchildren experienced lunch at the Ayres Tea Room at least once. This was both a special treat and an opportunity to practice our ettiquite skills. She was born in 1912 and always enjoyed sharing stories about many of her earlier days spent in downtown Indianapolis. Grandma Border told us all about the Trolley system and how this eventually gave way to the more modern bus transportation. She usually took us to town via a City bus we got on right in front of her home. She wanted us to always be able to get around Indy. As a matter of fact during highschool I rode a City bus. So, it was not unusual for me to go all the way downtown where I loved to shop especially during the Christmas season. Eventually, my husband and I took our young sons on a ride to downtown Indy via a City bus where we actually spent the day sight-seeing. We again hopped on another bus to head back home. I would encourage everyone to visit the now re-created Ayres Tea Room. We truly love it, and have taken our own grandchildren and nieces there!

  2. Ann says:

    How lovely, and how delicious! Ayres Tea Room was a special treat when I was growing up – there was a sandwich shop somewhere in Ayres as well, I just don’t remember where, but the last time I was able to visit Indianapolis with my mother we went to a special exhibit at the art museum (not sure whether it was Herron or not) and then had lunch at the Tea Room. It is still a special memory. My grandmother preferred Wassons because they were the only place in town where she could get a blackberry soda! My grandfather and his friends who also worked downtown loved the Russet Cafeteria, and we all loved Shapiros!

  3. G. Kirk Farley says:

    Fond memories for me too! Chicken Velvet Soup and I always had a Henny Penny, which was awesome.
    Blue ribbon gifts for boys and pink ribbon gifts for girls. Santa train ride at Christmas and the elevators were so cool as were the window displays at Christmas time. I really miss that. My grandmother, Mary Erwin, was the head hostess at the Tea Room for 30-some years, so it was a very big deal in our lives.

  4. Lisa Wyatt says:

    I am so excited that I found this recipe! I use to work at the Ayres Balcony Restaurant in Cincinnati back in the late 80’s . I loved this soup and the Pecan Balls and Hot Browns. Thanks for sharing! I am going to make this soup for my kids.

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