There’s a bright and airy 20-seat gem, tucked away in a small strip mall just off 128 in Newton, which offers pure comfort this time of year – homemade hot soups. And fresh complementary dishes – salads, sandwiches, desserts – you can build around it, if soup isn’t your idea of a complete meal. New England Soup Factory in Newton is the second location of this popular outlet, following the original spot in Brookline Village, opened in 1995 by Marjorie Druker, a graduate of Johnson & Wales, and her husband, Paul Brophy.
Why soup? “Well, it’s big in New England, especially with the four seasons,” said Druker. Why New England? “Because to grow, I could go anywhere in New England and open a soup shop.” The “factory” took a bit longer to come up with.
“I wrote my business plan when I was 29, after a stint working as a chef at Boston Chicken” (later Boston Market). “And I was wracking my brain for a name for my shop. The ‘New England’ and ‘soup’ came naturally, because of the region and my love of soup.” It took longer for the last piece to fall in place. Druker explained that she wanted a name that would be warm and “invite everybody in, from rich to poor, student to retirees. And we are a factory – I made 1200 gallons of soup last week!”
Dedicated to quality, she makes all the soups from scratch, sourcing locally whenever she can. (Neighborhood alert: She often shops at Christina’s Spice and Specialty Foods in Cambridge, where she picks up green chile pepper salt, tangerine rock sugar, and fresh nuts.) “As a kid, I was always thinking of my next meal. I have a wild, creative mind, and I never met a flavor I didn’t like!” Druker explained.
There are six hot soups on the daily menu: chicken vegetable, beef stew, chili con carne, lobster bisque, New England clam and corn chowder, and chicken pot pie. The stew and pot pie come off the menu after Memorial Day (reappearing the second week in September), to be replaced by a gazpacho (she makes several varieties) and one of 20 cold fruit soups “that I adore!”
These are supplemented by at least four other soups, and the list Druker draws from each season is extensive: 25 in fall/winter, 18 in the spring, and 10 in the summer, with a total of 27 vegetarian options. She also prepares five ethnic soups. The soups are sold in four sizes (bowl, pint, quart, and gallon), starting at $4.75, and come with a homemade French or multigrain roll.
Some of the more unusual winter varieties include spicy chickpea and butternut squash, curried crab and coconut, tomato habanero and cheddar jack cheese, and clam and saffron paella.
In her first cookbook, New England Soup Factory Cookbook, published in 2007, Druker shares 100 of her recipes, mostly for soups, but also for some of the other foods she develops and serves in her welcoming “factories.”