RED BANK — Bread may be the staff of life as the old proverb goes. But, boy, that cup of soup — especially on a cold day — can brighten a meal and a day.
It was damp and rainy last Thursday afternoon as Andy Anderson ran into Readie’s 39 Broad Street, for a quick lunch. On his agenda that day, as it turns out most days, was a container of soup. “I don’t have a lot of time for lunch and it’s fast,” he said, and he likes the health benefits of eating soup for lunch. “I try to watch what I eat,” Anderson said.
Red Bank has any number of locations that offer a variety of soups on any given day.
“We sell a lot of soup year ’round, but this time of year, look around,” said Readie’s owner Tom Fishkin, as he scanned the small dining area, where indeed most of the customers on hand for a late lunch seemed to have soup containers in front of them and plastic spoons in their fists.
Fishkin confided, “Our hope is they’ll eat it year ’round.”
Readie’s, which recently moved on to Broad Streert after many years on Monmouth Street, prepares about four different soups daily. Among the four, he said, are two “regular” types, meaning “all purpose” usually chicken based, a vegetarian-style and a seafood-based. Selection. He offers one cream soup every day, “Because it’s popular,” Fishkin said.
Though, not for Anderson. “I like anything that is not creamy,” he said. “I have to watch my diet.”
Readie’s makes its own soups daily, with some of the most popular being turkey with wild rice and the traditional chicken noodle.
The key to a good soup, Fishkin explained, is using “good, fresh ingredients,” and equally important, “Don’t rush it.”
“Our soups are not complicated,” he said. “Most of the soups we make, a conscientious homemaker can make it.”
The key to success is familiarity. “When people go out for dinner they might be adventurous,” Fishkin said; but for lunch, when they have limited time, people stick to what they know.
And the weather plays a role, too. “If I know it’s going to be a rainy day, I’ll have a chili,” he said. “It’s a natural.”
“The weather definitely factors into it,” says Gary Sable, owner and operator of That Hot Dog Place/Soupmeister, located at Victorian Courtyard, 30 Monmouth Street.
“If it’s a cold, rainy, nasty day you bring out your heavy hitters,” he said, which can be Italian wedding, chicken tortilla or spicy sausage. “People will always eat chicken noodle soup,” he stated matter-of-factly.
And he would know, Sable has been operating his small take-out shop for 17 years, arriving before 5 a.m. to prepare his three-five soups daily. “Anyone who has the slightest bit of a sniffle, they want chicken soup.”
His selections range from the traditional standard-bearers like chicken noodle to a vegetarian offering and “sometimes a weird one,” like a recent choice of chicken stroganoff or oxtail soup to round out his menu of hot dogs and deli sandwiches.
“You go light in the summer, and not just amount,” he adds. Though he does sell less soup in the warm weather, those he does sell tend to be the brothier types. “Cream soups, you can’t give them away in the summer.”
But in the winter, “go heavy,” he says, meaning heartier soups and more of them.
His favorite? “My favorite was the first soup I ever made: beef barley. It’s still my favorite. I make it all the time.”
“Ingredients are the key,” he stressed. “It’s only as good as the ingredients. And it’s important not to be stingy.
“It’s just as easy to make a pot of soup with three chickens in it as one.”
He also offered a little secret, given him by his mother, for beef stock soups — shinbones. “It makes the best soups, it adds a lot of flavor.”
Mike Tierney, who owns No Joe’s Café, 51 Broad Street, agreed that preparation is the key.
“That goes for anything,” he said.
“If you prepare properly, with all the right ingredients, that’s when you’re going to be a success,” he predicted.
No Joe’s use to make its own soups on site for years but has since started having it delivered from Hale and Hearty, a New York City-based company, which does it better than he could, Tierney said.
Some of the most successful selections at No Joe’s are chicken pot pie, and a new one, Senegalese chicken peanut, a tomato-based type. “It is phenomenal,” he insisted.
He sells soup all year, although he sells more in the colder months. But even when it’s warm, “It always goes. I never throw it out.”
And what’s great about soups, is you can experiment, add different ingredients to create a new variation. “It’s a great way to get through your inventory,” Tierney said. “You’re just throwing stuff in. But that’s how soups are made.”
The appeal of soup is “comfort, biggest thing,” Sable summed up. Besides, “It’s healthy and inexpensive, and that’s important now.”
“It’s certainly comfort food,” said Rob Atkinson, who has been coming to Sable’s for the 15 years he’s worked in Red Bank. “It gets you through the afternoon.”
Sable swears by its healthfulness and rejuvenating powers “Did you ever see anyone who eats a lot of soup that’s fat?” asked the railthin Sable. “I eat soup every day and I’m not fat.”