By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Jan 23, 2006 at 5:34 AM

As the mother of eight children and an artist at heart, Mary Krimmer spent years nurturing her kitchen skills. Little did she know that, in her early fifties and after her nest was finally empty, she would open her own restaurant.

"I ran a home daycare for thirty years and, during that time, I made a lot of soup," she says. "Soup can be very gourmet, yet you don't have to have lots of stock on hand, a large menu or very much kitchen help."

Three years ago, Soup's On! opened at 221 N. Water in the old Pier 221 space attached to Gallery H20. The classy canteen overlooks the Milwaukee river, and beyond that, the Amtrack station, so on a cold January afternoon, it was nice to see cranes and trains while sipping soup.

Krimmer creates four different soups every day, and always uses a vegetarian and/or vegan recipe. A 12-oz. bowl costs $4.85 and comes with a fat slice of bread; 16 ounces is $5.85. Hotdogs, deli sandwiches, salads, bagels and bakery desserts are also available.

Taking on a "When in Rome" attitude, we dove into big bowls of soup. The carrot ginger was exceptional. The perfect texture and consistency, the soup is a delicious blend of carrots, ginger, potatoes, celery, onions and garlic. Garnished with seeds, and parsley, it's as healthy as comfort food gets.

We also sampled the white chili, which was delicious and hearty (be sure you like cumin before ordering this bowl), and the Wisconsin chili, which won fourth place in WMSE's Chili Cook-off last year. We were less impressed with this bowl, featuring more meat than beans, and very mild. This hot-food lover needed more zip, but my three-year-old lunch date loved it.

Although Krimmer is the mother of eight and grandmother of -- soon to be -- 11, her place is surprisingly kid-friendly considering it's inside an art gallery. During our visit, she sliced my son's hotdog in small pieces and tucked his napkin into his turtleneck. However, the luxury of Krimmer's doting had to do with the fact we were lunching before 11:30 a.m., because by noon, the place was boiling over with business.

Krimmer says her most popular soups include her beef borscht, chowders, winter squash and pumpkin basil, among others. She owns the restaurant with her husband, photographer Doug Krimmer, and says the couple recently moved downtown to be closer to their business.

One of her goals "on the back burner" is to educate Milwaukeeans about the joys of cold soups, traditionally more popular in Europe. Krimmer makes seven different cold soups, but says some people just can't stomach them.

"I like to remind people that cold soups can be a dessert if they don't care for it as a meal," she says. "But all of my soups are comfort food for the soul."

Soup's On! is open Monday-Friday for lunch, and Friday nights and Saturdays during Gallery Night & Day. Call (414) 283-9244 for more information.

Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.