In case the name didn’t give it away, the Soup Sergeant jumps right into a military theme as soon as you walk in the door. Posted in the entrance are the “Mess Hall Rules,” explaining how to order and what’s on offer. Soups have names like “Green Beret” and “Commando Corn Chowder.”
And the staff is certainly well disciplined, in the customer-service sense. I’ve never seen a group of people who just looked so darn happy to be there serving me soup. And when they asked if I was enjoying the soup, it was with an earnestness and sincerity that could make the most jaded diner weep for joy.
I also note the attention to food-safety practices: The soups are lined up in hot wells in the cafeteria-style counter. The first time I set foot in the place, there is an attendant taking the soup temperature and writing it on a chart—awesome. Bacteria love soup—all that heat and moisture make a pot of soup a romantic hot tub for microbes, so maintaining proper temperature is crucial for prevention of food poisoning.
But for all the military speak, the atmosphere is anything but regimented. As well as fab customer service, the decor is comfortable, with tall, wide-seated stools lined up along a counter overlooking Spring Garden, and comfy tables and chairs.
On to the main attraction, which is of course, the soup. The Sergeant has four weekly soups and four daily soups, for a total of eight at any given time. There are several different sizes (private, corporal, sergeant and troop) and prices vary from $4.25 to $5.50 or so, depending on the size and type of soup (chillis, stews and chowders cost more). Wraps, panini and salads are also available: full size or in combo with the soup.
The club panini is a little too cheesy for my taste, but all that cheese does keep the bacon, chicken, red onions and tomatoes from falling out. An apple chicken curry wrap is full of curry flavour: It’s not too spicy and the crisp apples add a nice textural contrast. The lobster wrap I don’t like so much—much too much dressing. I thoroughly enjoy the corn chowder: It’s lighter than a traditional corn chowder and chock-full of corn, other vegetables and smoky ham. A small bowl quickly fills me up, even without the crusty roll that comes with it. The vegetarian chilli is warming, tasty and doesn’t miss the meat, and the broccoli and cheddar soup is also very good.
Interestingly, the Sergeant has reduced prices since first opening. My most recent lunch of club panini, corn chowder and a bottle of water comes to $11.20. I also note that all of the soup, take-out or eat-in, is served in styrofoam bowls. I wonder if there is a more eco-friendly solution than this?
Still in growth mode, the Soup Sergeant is slated to open a second location on Quinpool soon. I call the restaurant and speak with Debbie (whose title is up in the air, pending the restaurant’s expansion), who gives me a tentative opening date of next week. Debbie also mentions the Sergeant is open for breakfast, with offerings such as the Western Sunrise sandwich, and fruit salad. “And we’ll have granola and yogurt,” she says, laughing. “Hopefully, that’ll be here today.”
The Soup Sergeant focuses on “Freshness, Quality and Flavour” (all recipes are made from scratch with all-natural ingredients and no preservatives) and easily meets that goal, ranking the Sergeant quite highly with this food critic. This is an excellent start that should be encouraged to continue.
Soup Sergeant5986 Spring Garden Road444-SOUP (7687) Mon-Fri 8am-8pmSat-Sun 9:30am-8pm
Find More of Liz Feltham’s militant reviews online: www.foodcritic.ca