Meal-Atta-Glance: French Onion Soup & Salad at Varsity Grill

Varsity Sports Grill

318 Garrison Ave.
Fort Smith, AR 72901

Been a bit nippy lately, hasn’t it? Whenever the wind sends a chill right to the very marrow of our bones, Fort Smith Eats starts thinking soup. Mmm. Soup.

Have you ever known someone who didn’t like soup? We have. They were strange, unnerving, off-balance folks, the soup-haters. Coincidence? We think not.

Soup haters (started to make that one word, but then it’d be Souphaters, which does that phreaky PH thing and we pheared you might phumble over the fonetics, thus disrupting the natural phlow of the sentence, so we lepht it two words. You’re welcome.) might have a hard time hanging out with us. We eat a lot of soup. And one of our all-time favorite kinds of soup is French Onion. We don’t know why the onion has to be French. Maybe any nationality of onion would do. Canadian Onion Soup? Burmese Onion Soup? We’d try them. But since Ivory Coast Onion Soup isn’t on the menu anywhere in town — trust us, we’re the experts — when the weather got into the single digits we had a craving for some French Onion.

If there’s a better French Onion Soup in town than at Varsity Sports Grill, please let us know and we will literally drop everything and rush over to try it. Because Varsity may not be high-falutin cooking, but they do a reliable soup.

It’s reasonably priced, too. $4.99 for a bowl of soup or $7.99 for the Soup & Salad ($6.99 if you’re having something other than French Onion Soup, but why would you do that after reading this post?) for lunch or dinner since they have a the same menu all day. It may not be all-you-can-eat like at Olive Garden, but it’s a meal that at the same time seems light and hearty.

Varsity, if you don’t already know, is a popular bar, grill, and all-around restaurant downtown in a restored old building. It’s got a nice atmosphere that balances the requisite sports bar accoutrements with casual dining comforts. Big windows and period architectural details give personality to the spacious main dining area. There’s also a small ballroom upstairs, Adelaide Hall, for receptions, proms and other events that require us to think about our chosen ensemble before attending. We’re not big fans of having to think about what we wear, but we do what we must to blend into civilized society. Particularly at events involving free food.

Varsity Sports Grill restaurant Fort Smith Eats dining area

Best bet for fast eats at Varsity is to go when the dining room isn't very full. Otherwise, you might end up with a longish wait. Not necessarily, no, but our schedules have been badly burned by slow service there more than once. Just take that into consideration.


But it’s cold and we’re hungry and French Onion Soup is needing to be in our belly. A $7.99 French Onion Soup & Salad is ordered. Maybe 10 minutes later, it arrives, looking so nice we had to take more than one picture.

French Onion Soup & Salad Varsity Grill Ft Smith AR Fort Smith Eats

Oooh, we got bread, too! We love bread. (clapping)


That’s a fine enough salad, but let’s get a better look at that soup:

French Onion Soup detail, Varsity Grill Ft Smith AR Fort Smith Eats

As Aunt Vida would say, "They got a good scald on that!" This is Aunt Vida's highest form of praise.


Being Wanton Cholesterol Fiends (WCFs), we love the melted, bubbly brown cheese and the way it’s baked on over the edges of the crock. Glad we aren’t the dishwashers having to scrub it off — though there usually isn’t much to be scraped off by the time we’re through scraping it with our own spoon. When it comes to melted cheese, we’re like piranhas.

But as anyone knows, just because a joint gets the browned melty cheese right, doesn’t mean it’s going to be a good French Onion Soup. Because what lies beneath is what’s a) best and b) hardest to get right. There’s the beef broth, the bread, and the onions. A miss on any of these core elements is going to be a strike out.

We took the plunge to find out.

French Onion Soup Varsity Grill Ft. Smith AR Fort Smith Eats

Don't you love these action shots? Cue the dramatic music.


Good news. It’s good. The broth is hot, rich and laden with distinctive beef flavor without being too salty (too much saltyness has ruined many others’ otherwise-fine onion soups). The onions are firm, medium slices, not overwhelming the soup with their vegetableness. The soaked bread is still identifiable as bread. Some French onion soups try to get too fancy with the wine flavors or the mushrooms or the spices. The French know, though, that simplicity is best. Good beef broth, good onions, good sturdy bread that doesn’t completely disintegrate into a gross slimy blob and topped with melted cheese (Gruyere, Swiss and Mozzarella all work for us), and you’ve got yourself a French classic.

Exhibit A. Just right French Onion Soup:


Spoon 2 French Onion Soup Varsity Sports Grill Ft Smith AR Fort Smith Eats

Everything we love about French Onion Soup, all in one spoonful.


Sold yet? Let us know what you think in the comments.

7 responses to “Meal-Atta-Glance: French Onion Soup & Salad at Varsity Grill

  1. There’s something wrong with people who don’t like soup. They’re like those alien clones in “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” or replicants from “Blade Runner.” Sure, they LOOK like real people, but I’ll bet if they found a tortoise in the desert, they’d turn it on its back and watch it bake in the sun. You’re not helping! Why is that, Leon??
    Oooh, that reminds me of turtle soup. Mmmm. Soup.

    • Lol. Yes. There’s a litmus test for a pod person if ever we saw one: “But how do you like the soup?”

      Don’t you love how two comments into this we’ve already made it so that anyone who disagrees with our soup-aphilia is likely no longer even human? Power of the press, baby.

      You may know your Blade Runner, but you’re all alone on your Turtle Soup, Greg. The only turtles we like to eat are the chocolate and caramel pecan variety. Now make THOSE into a soup and we’re in business.

  2. I love Varsity’s French Onion Soup…

    And cheese dip!

  3. Haven’t tried this one, yet. But with phabulous photos like that how can I resist?

  4. Teehee, Southern. You’re phunny.

  5. I’ve only had french onion soup once in my life, and I believe it was at Garfield’s, before they closed. It was bleh. All that bread and cheese up there? Newp. I got a bowl of brown liquid salt with a few strands of over -cooked onion.


    I swore the stuff off…but…you’ve got me reconsidering?


  6. Grody to the max, Gina. That’s not French Onion soup, not by a longshot. Give Varsity’s a try sometime. Bet you consider it a vast improvement, whether you actually end up being a fan of it or not.

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