BY CHRISTINE BARBOUR
No bigger than a minute, Soup’s On is a funky, crayon-colored soup emporium at 108 S. Rogers St. Blink and you’ll miss it, so be sure not to blink. Brad Handler and Jake Fehrenbach’s little house of soup is a gem—one well worth waiting in the line you will no doubt find when you open the door to the tiny vestibule. Hang in there. A bowl of comfort awaits.
Maybe that bowl is filled with steaming green bean parmesan soup, chock-full of vegetable goodness, with stretchy, melted cheese puddled at the bottom. Or maybe it is filled with chicken corn chowder, spicy hot and creamy rich. Or maybe it is the sweet pumpkin soup with Chantilly cream and toasted pumpkin seeds, as luscious as a bowl of molten pumpkin pie. Or the Indian kitchari soup, exotic with spice and leafy with local greens. Or the loaded potato—exactly what it sounds like: potato soup with cheese, bacon, sour cream, and scallions heaped on top.
Some of the soups at Soup’s On are specials, dependent upon what the local farmers harvest, and some favored ones rotate so that they are never more than a few days away from being back on the menu. But despite the fact that soup is clearly king at this miniature lunch café, it is not your only choice. There are salads—a classic Greek or Chef’s or Caesar, for instance—all done with a Soup’s On twist. For a plateful of toothsome texture and crunch, try the woefully understated Cabbage Salad, an appetizing mix of, yes, green and red cabbage, but also raw cauliflower, walnuts, and chewy cranberries, all dressed up in honey mustard.
And what goes better with soup than a sandwich? Soup’s On has those, too. A decadent grilled mascarpone cheese and scallions is a lovely onion dip of a sandwich. The curry apricot cashew chicken salad, stuffed into a croissant (one of three chicken salads that never leaves the menu), and the egg salad are standards. But there are seasonal specialties, too—the winter menu may bring a pot roast sandwich and an Italian number with Smoking Goose salami, local pepperoni, baby spinach, and aioli.
Handler and Fehrenbach, both classically trained, were working at The Rail in early 2012 (Fehrenbach was the chef and Handler the sous chef there) when the son of Soup’s On’s previous owner, a woman who had built the business with her sister, called to say the place was for sale. Handler bit immediately, calling Fehrenbach to say, “Hey, we’re going to buy a restaurant.”
They promised to keep the homey feel of the house, and they have, though the bright color scheme is theirs. They haven’t quite given up the idea of “doing the fine dining thing,” and Phresh Start, their catering business, does more elaborate cooking and cooking classes, including a planned Oliver Winery brunch this spring—watch oliverwinery.com for details. But at Soup’s On, the plan is to keep it “simple, basic, delicious, and cost effective.” It takes only a bowl of steaming, comforting goodness to know that these young chefs have hit their mark.