Get Soupid: X Marks the Soup Spot

If your food-based retail establishment has windows clouded with steam and ten or fifteen people in line, it’s probably a safe bet that you’re doing soup en masse and tres proper. I’ve waxed romantic about Soup Spot and its souperiority (I swear, this is the only time in the column I’ll use that word) and how great it is during a heat wave. To me, though, the real measure of soup is how well it works in the cold. How well does the Spot stack up against its big-name chain competition and the generic deli onslaught? Dip the ladle below the jump to find out more.

Located literally right across the street from Penn Station on 31st, there’s a grateful lack of tourist-based annoyances in the area. The line can bend into the parking garage, but these guys have service down to a science. There’s rarely more than a 5-minute wait for your steamy goodness. Upwards of 17 daily soups with three or four that normally stick around. The rest rotate. I stand by my strategy of sample one, get another, return as needed.

The Souperator’s random number was 9: mushroom barley. What looks to be a small Macoun or Braeburn apple is the fruit today – good, no anemic tiny plums or overly green banana. Plus, it keeps that freaking medical practitioner at bay for another 24 hours. What a country!

Taste: This is not some broth with mushrooms added. This is not hot liquid with canned shrooms and veggies. This is mushroom motherf***ing barley soup. There are mushrooms, there is fresh dill, there are fresh veggies that are perfectly done. Moreover, IT ISN’T SALTY AS HELL! I know, all caps = yelling, and it’s just a damn shame that there’s no internet font equivalent of adding jumping up and down ecstatically to the all-caps shout. You are at leisure to add salt as needed. Too bad they don’t give you any and my office has plenty of pepper packets lying around in a situation that Kafka probably wrote about. My dear readers, ask for a packet. It is my profound hope that you can add salt to your taste as you like it. Even Bistro Marketplace gave you a freakin’ soup packet. But alas, the taste is spot on. The mushrooms earthiness is all up in this soup’s business and the herbs lend a good flavor.

I sampled the broccoli and cheddar soup too, and that was chock full of brocolli goodness but not too overly cheesy to mask it. I really had to hold back from ordering it, but alas, my sample/order ratio has kept a clean 1:1 and there it shall stay. If you want your cheesy soup, you cannot go wrong with it. 4 out of 5.

Viscosity: The brothy mushroom barley has a good strength to it, a body lent by the barley giving off whatever gluteny goodness as it cooks into the soup. It sticks well to the spoon but not TOO well, and it has a nice weight and mouthfeel when you sip a spoonful. We don’t see overthickness like we saw with Bistro Marketplace‘s or total ingredient obliteration like Hale & Hearty‘s.

The broccoli and cheese was not too thick but could have used a little more body to it. I’m pretty sure we don’t expect stadium-nacho-cheese-style texture from a cheesy soup but it was definitely on the thin side. While I won’t take them into consideration, in the past I’ve found this just-right-but-a-bit-thin to be the case, but the sole criteria for Get Soupid are what we consume in the course of getting thusly Soupid. 4 out of 5

Extras: Up there with Hale & Hearty, Soup Spot doesn’t leave you wanting. You have a decent BALANCE of what comes along with your soup, and while you can’t get your super omega custom tossed salad if you feel like coughing up for one, the freebies help round out the meal. The fruit was ripe and not full of holes or mealiness, the bread was decent, and countless free samples doesn’t hurt either. Up against the worst of the bunch and the best of the extras, you get a decent lean towards filling for cheap, even if you don’t get the half sandwich. A viable meal for about $6? That’s a strong 4 out of 5.

Value: $8 gets you a large soup, a piece of bread that looks either homemade or from a decent non-Sysco purveyor, a piece of fruit, and half a sandwich. Before tip and tax, this is probably one of the better deals out there. It wins no awards for single best add-on sandwich and how full you are will depend on the soup you get, but it’s a decent meal that will keep you satisfied. They don’t skimp on the ingredients or quantity when the ladle goes down into the tureen, so you could do a lot worse for your eight bucks. 4 out of 5

Overall: Listen, this is a soup place. It is a literal hole-in-the-wall with long lines, but quick turnaround and options galore. This is not a pick-any-of-three situation, they have freakin’ hundreds – HUNDREDS – of soups in the rotation. The guys serving it up do amazing stuff and they keep it going. The turnover is continuous enough to keep fresh hot soup coming into the tureens from the kitchen beyond the veil. It’s a cramped, tiny interior with room for maybe five customers, six if they all really like each other. They don’t give you any credit card minimums, the New York gruffness is present without them being jerkish, and the soup is just plain fab. 5 out of 5

Final score: 4.2 out of 5. We’re out to give credit to the soups, and we’re starting to see a trend: focus on the soup and you do well at it. This is not exactly culinary rocket surgery, but if the big guys in the soup chain market can’t get it perfect, it’s up to the little guys to do it well. Our first soup-focused non-chain joint is one of the best out there, not just the best in midtown.

Soup Spot, 220 W 31st St (btw 7+8th). 212-643-8623


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