Hot Soup Cart is Back… with Higher Prices
Like so many seasonal pleasures, the Hot Soup Carts are back… or at least the one on 45th and 5th… is back in Midtown (are there more, or is this the same one moving around?). I’ve noticed the mixed reviews from both contributors and Lunchers about Hot Soup, I had the opportunity to taste a few of the soups this week.
Bad news, though. If you look closely at the picture from Rachel’s post earlier this year, you can see the prices were fifty cents lower for the smaller size soups ($4.50 to $5.00 and $5.50 to $6.00 for small and medium respectively), and one dollar lower than the large, 32 ounce soup ($9.50 to $10.50). That’s sad but inevitable I suppose, but… isn’t this approaching Hale & Hearty prices? According to the 42nd street H&H seamless page, the soup prices vary, but some appear to be cheaper than Hot Soup Cart!!! (As a reference, 32 ounces is the same as a quart.)
So what is this? Is Hot Soup Cart just disguised as a lowbrow vendor that draws us in because we don’t want to appear to be middlebrow? Really. What are the real differences between Hot Soup and Hale & Hearty?
I tried the chicken gumbo first. It had a nice, salty-umami flavor. It’s nice and chunky, with tomatoes, celery, and plenty of okra (although I know many folks don’t like this vegetable). I love okra, especially in a gumbo, since the slimy juices inside of the vegetable thicken the soup. You could tell that was at work here. It was lacking the spice I was hoping for, so I turned to my handy-dandy Lousiana Hot Sauce that I keep in my office at all times. That really gave it something it needed.
What else was it lacking? Unfortunately, chicken. The one big chicken chunk I got out of there was absolutely lovely, soft, and flavorful. But where the hell was the rest?
Another day I tried the lobster and crab bisque and paid an extra dollar for it. The soup was really good — so good that I didn’t even have to spike it with hot sauce. It was velvety, creamy, perhaps a little buttery, and had the sweetness of shellfish and a perfect salt balance. It was awesome to sop up with the bread. But again, where are the lumps of crab and lobster? I got a few at the bottom, which were the only evidence that this soup was even supposed to have a chunkiness to it at all.
Has anyone ever gotten a good meaty soup at the Hot Soup cart? Would you dare ask the soup guy to dip deeper into the vat to get a little more substance? And, is it really any better than Hale & Hearty? I mean, I’ve never been incredibly impressed by H&H soups… and Hot Soup’s soups were good, but they didn’t knock my socks off. Is the Hot Soup cart only good because it isn’t H&H?
Hot Soup Cart, NE corner of 45th street and 6th avenue, seasonal