Every Friday through the end of 2018, the Rant will feature a dish that stands out among Lee County’s restaurant scene. We’ll usually focus on lunch, but there are no rules – we just want to let you know (if you don’t already) about the many dining options we have that are owned and operated by people right here in Lee County. Today it’s Kathy’s Java Express and their signature Big Bird Soup.

Through a number of owners over nearly 20 years, the Java Express is another Sanford institution that was in place long before downtown was an attraction. During that time, the coffee shop has become known for its hot and cold caffeinated drinks and have gone through a variety of menus. The Big Bird Soup predates even the Java Express, apparently having been a favorite at long gone Sanford restaurant W.B. Joyce’s (this was all before the Rant’s time in Lee County, so feel free to correct us if we’re wrong) and coming to the Java menu when Joyce’s former owner was involved for a time. In any case, if the Java Express has a signature dish today, this is it.

THE DISH: With its rich, creamy base and loads of chicken, Big Bird Soup probably seems like a dish for fall or winter, but one, that’s probably not as far off as you think, and two, a good dish is a good dish any time of the year. It comes a number of ways, either in a small cup by itself ($3.10) or a bowl ($4.10), or a cup and half a sandwich ($6.50) or a bowl with a half sandwich ($7). The Rant recommends either a bowl by itself, or a cup with half of either the Java’s turkey and havarti or vidalia chicken salad sandwich (served on a croissant, of course, for maximum sop-ability). Either way, it comes with a couple packets of crackers that you’ll want to crumble into the soup, thickening it into something more like a savory porridge that’ll keep you warm all day.

WHAT ELSE TO TRY: The spinach quesadilla ($8.50) is billed as an appetizer, but being loaded down with mozzarella cheese, artichokes, tomatoes, onions, and olives, it’s more than enough for a meal. Pesto flats with hummus ($5.99) are more appetizer sized, but no less delicious (and probably pretty healthy, if that’s a consideration). There’s also a range of salads (we like the Greek, with romaine, olives, roasted red peppers, spinach, artichoke hearts, and feta for $7.99) and “specialty” sandwiches (get the $7.25 steak burger), as well as a breakfast menu, led by the hash brown roller ($4.25), a meat sandwich (bacon or sausage) between two carbohydrate-filled hash brown patties. MMMMMM. There are daily specials as well, including taco salad, a garden wrap, and more.

Java Express is located at 120 S. Moore St. in downtown Sanford and can be reached at (919) 777-5282. The restaurant is open from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on weekdays, and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. For daily specials, visit their Facebook page.

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