Soup Thyme in Monroe is good for the soul
I really do think chicken soup is good for the soul. When I grew up in New York City, chicken soup was jokingly called “Jewish penicillin.” If you had a cold or the flu, homemade chicken soup was mandatory before a call to the doctor was placed. Real or imagined, chicken soup did seem to have magical healing powers.
Now that the weather has turned cool, my urge for soup grows each day. Before I learned to cook, my pantries were filled with canned soups and “just add water” ones. They were warm and filling, but once I learned the joy of homemade soup, it was hard to ever be so simply satisfied again.
So it was with extreme pleasure that I found a cute little deli/restaurant in Monroe called Soup Thyme. It is a clean and pleasant place, there is nothing about it that speaks of high flown grande cuisine, but it really is a gem.
At Soup Thyme, about a dozen soups are made here from scratch. When you walk to the back of the store, you see big pots simmering away, sending out plumes of delicious scented fog.
The menu always has some new soups to tempt the jaded palate, but the management knows that customers who come in for their favorites would be bereft without their standards.
Chef Ronald Lee opened Soup Thyme in 2006 and it has not only stood the test of time, but is now a bustling and happy place. I would guess about 90 percent of the business is take out and at lunch time, be prepared to get in the fast moving line and place your order.
This is more of a challenge then you might think, that is unless you eat here every day and have the menu memorized.
I am not even going to get into the dozens of wraps, sandwiches and paninis available, or the good-looking cold pasta salads. I am going to focus on the soup, which I can hardly do justice to with this limited space.
I am a fast decision-maker. I always know what I want when I see it. Don’t go shopping with me if you like to dawdle and poke around. But even with my decisive personality, Soup Thyme threw me completely off my game.
Usually one has to decide between two and three soups on a menu, or maybe five if you are in the clutches of a soup-crazy chef, but I had to give up my place in line twice because I literally froze at the vast selection. There were close to twenty soups here! “What can I get for you,” the counter lady asked, to which I replied “uhhhhhhhh,” and then backed away. Actually I wanted all of them, but I had to break down my orders into a manageable formula or look like a soup-crazed lunatic.
First, I ordered four classics: chicken noodle, vegetable beef barley, French onion and chicken-rice. All four were hearty, heavily stocked with pasta, rice, vegetables and grains. There are three sizes and I opted for the medium, which is plenty, even if you have a hearty appetite. The chicken noodle was the most comforting. It was dense with poultry flavor and tangles of broad noodles. To my surprise, my favorite was the vegetable beef barley, which is a soup I rarely order and never make. It was one of those “note to self” moments, an imaginary sticky note taped to my brain that said “must eat this all the time.”
The next four I ordered were less familiar: chicken, spinach and gorgonzola; white bean and sausage; chicken artichoke with sun-dried tomatoes; and kale and bean. These are all great flavor combinations and there was not one soup I would not order again, but from this batch my favorite was the white bean and sausage, which was luscious, thick and spicy — almost stew-like in consistency. A close second was the chicken, spinach and gorgonzola, an unusual combination. But if you, like me, adore gorgonzola, you will give it a blue ribbon.
Because it is fall, I moved on to seasonal soups: chili, pumpkin, roasted butternut squash and chicken pot pie. If you could curl up in a soup bowl and take a nap, these would be the favorites. The chili was the most filling, the butternut squash the most sleek and simple and the pot pie a first cousin to chicken noodle soup, but with shreds of pie crust in place of noodles.
Strange as it seems, even with this formidable load of soups, I still did not taste them all. I still want lentil, stuffed cabbage, roasted cauliflower and tomato basil and macaroni and cheese soup. The scary thing is that even if I spent a few days scrutinizing the menu and deciding on my perfect soup I guarantee you Soup Thyme would have added some new ones to the rotation, and I would be back to saying “uhhhh.”
450 Monroe Turnpike, Monroe
Soup Thyme is deservedly proud of its sandwiches. I loved all the original choices and the funny play on the word thyme for their names. Examples being Thyme of Death (chipotle chicken breast, three-pepper Colby cheese, hot sauce and sliced tomato) or Thyme Warp (roast beef, cheddar slices, caramelized onions and horseradish sauce).
I got the feeling that most customers here were regulars. There was a shared sense of community and hospitality. Maybe this is why happy souls do indeed thrive on chicken soup.
Jane Stern, a Ridgefield resident, co-authored the popular “Roadfood” guidebook series with Michael Stern.