Saturday, March 19, 2011

The New England Soup Factory: More Than Just Soups

This review originally published at the Brookline Patch on March 17, 2011

The New England Soup Factory is small and warm, and smells like a Tuscan grandmother’s kitchen. Above the wooden tables and chairs, the still-life shapes of colorful vegetables are hand-painted on the orange walls. Customers pause a moment to savor the earthy smells, wishing they were already home, before proceeding out again, backs hunched against the bracing cold.

Chicken Vegetable

If you think the New England Soup Factory is just about soup, think again—but it is the main attraction. About a dozen tried-and-true favorites like Chicken Vegetable, Beef Stew, and Clam and Corn chowder, are on offer daily. The chowder was creamy, a little light on clams but filled with sweet corn and nice big chunks of potato, with a kick of spice at the finish. The Chili con Carne, packed with spice, ground beef and hearty beans (and which should have been labeled three-alarm!), arrived with a sprinkling of cheddar cheese that melted into the heat of the chili. Choose from other favorites like Lobster Newburg and an excellent chicken pot pie―chunks of chicken and vegetables in a buttery sauce and topped with homemade puff pastry ($6.25 for 8oz).

Also available are a number of rotating soup choices, which owners Marjorie and Paul Druker select from their repertoire of hundreds of soups, chowders, and stews. Popular offerings include Tomato and Crab Bisque, Hearty Beef Vegetable, and Greek Orzo Lemon and Chicken, while recent choices have included Pasta e Fagioli and the intriguing Carrot Honey Ginger with crème fraiche. Each bowl of soup is $4.25 (a bit more for chili and chowder) and comes with a soft-on-the-inside, crispy-on-the-outside multigrain or French roll.

Clam and Corn Chowder
Sure, you think, a hot soup sounds nice during these cold Boston winters. But what about the other four months of the year, when it’s nice out? The Factory’s got you covered with a large selection of salads sandwiches, and side dishes, all $3.50 or less: from the Garden Patch salad (which I had to mention, given the name of this publication) to Sesame Noodles to Sundried Tomato and Basil Chicken Salad. Sandwiches are mostly the classics―tuna salad, roast turkey with havarti, ham with cheddar, among a few others― but their distinguishing factor is the quality. My Grilled Chicken and Avocado sandwich arrived stuffed with thick-sliced grilled chicken, fresh avocado, and real baby greens; as in, I think I saw some baby chard in there. This is a far cry from cold cuts with iceberg.

Salads, such as a classic Caesar or Tuna Salad Niçoise, boast the same level of quality: fresh greens with real toppings. The restaurant’s motto is “Feed your body well,” and clearly, this place believes in it.

Soups are, of course, still on the menu in warm weather, including a number of iced soups, which range from savory Gazpacho to dessert-like Dark Sweet Cherry, or Mango and Lime with Crème Fraiche.

Brownies and cookies, all baked in-house, cost under $2 for a sweet ending to your meal. Our molasses cookie was big, chewy, and soft, studded with bits of crunchy sugar.

For those of you who can’t get enough, pick up a copy of The New England Soup Factory cookbook, or browse their website to find some online recipes. Or, just pick up a frozen quart of soup or pasta sauce from the freezer next to the door, and feed your body well at home, too.

The New England Soup Factory is open Monday through Thursday 10am to 8pm, Friday 10am to 7pm, and weekends 10:30am to 5pm. Located at 2-4 Brookline Place, Brookline. MBTA: green line to Brookline Village (D) or Riverway (E).
New England Soup Factory on Urbanspoon

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