There's no question about it—we're squarely (and comfortably) plopped into soup season. Morning frosts, clear, cool days and everything pumpkin-spiced reaffirm the notion that soups, stews, bisques and chowders are an entirely appropriate meal choice. Also, the fact that approximately 71 percent of our staff had soup for lunch today—that was another obvious indicator.
While some of us got our soup from a can (boo-hiss!) or a Capri Sun-like pouch (weird!), a few of us wandered down to the Mill Quarter and ordered from the Bend Soup Company, a mobile trailer. The family-owned and operated enterprise has been around since last December—somehow making it through summer's hot months (including July, in which they said sales were abysmal). But thanks to the temperature drop, they are now enjoying an uptick in business, happily spooning out bowls of Mommy's Chicken Noodle, Mushroom Paradise and Bend's Beer Cheese soups.
Here's the deal: Each day Bend Soup Company offers three soups, which rotate regularly. In fact, we've noticed nearly 20 different soup offerings over the last few weeks of monitoring (yes, we have staff soup monitors here; it's a seasonal position). The soup cart reliably posts the day's featured soup, as well as other specials, on its Facebook and Twitter pages—a handy and much appreciated service. BSC also sells simple sandwiches (cold and grilled), basic salads, and a few drinks and chips. They do it all for very reasonable prices and are open for lunch Monday through Friday from 11 am to 3 pm. Beside the cart are covered picnic tables for dining-in, so to speak, but drive-through service seemed to be more common on the overcast and windy afternoon we ventured to the soup company situated on the busy Industrial Way.
During our recent trip, it was the line of traffic out front that struck us first. Whoa! People love this place! We waited on foot behind three cars before ordering, a process that felt a little bit like a drunken visit to Taco Bell, but ended with much more gratifying grub. Ample sunshine made this chilly autumnal "feat" possible. For $15 and change—as much as one lunch elsewhere—we bought plenty for two: a cup of Dave's Bomb Chili, a cup of Savory Spud potato chowder, a Rosemary Gruyere Grilled Cheese and a Caprese Salad.
The chili was slightly spicy and ground beef heavy; not four-alarm danger-zone hot, but enough to warm our bellies as we lunched at the outdoor tables. With ample red beans and topped with a scoop of sour cream and shredded cheese, the chili was tasty—neither watery nor muddy. The potato chowder was packed with spuds folded into a creamy light base. The soup could have used a touch more salt and perhaps a little more depth of flavor, but what it lacked in broth it made up for in hearty chuncks of potato and carrot. The chive topping quickly reminded us that potatoes and chives are one of the best combinations ever—hands down. Skinny sour dough baguettes served with each bowl proved the ideal dipping side for both chili and soup, and although it wasn't among the daily specials when we visited, our office manager remarked that the Sanguine Tomato was the best she'd ever had.
From the shortlist of sandwiches, the Rosemary Gruyere Grilled Cheese sounded like a winner, and while the sprigs of fresh rosemary were a nice touch, we would have appreciated a bit more cheese on the buttery, store-bought grilled 21-grain toast. The bread was tasty, and while fresh local bread would be better, for $4.50, we could hardly complain. One thing to be said for Bend Soup Company is it's a fair deal. Our salad also utilized fresh herbs, sprinkled with a touch of basil mixed into the hearty chuncks of mozzarella cheese and tomatoes topped with tart balsamic.
Ultimately it was an inexpensive and satisfying lunch and we walked away from Bend Soup Company warmed and looking forward to what tomorrow's homemade soup menu would bring.
Bend Soup Company
550 SW Industrial Way
mon-fri: 11 am-3 pm
EXTRA: Lil Bit O Texas
Bend Soup Company wasn't the only cart slinging lunches from the Mill Quarter. A new BBQ pop up, Lil Bit O Texas, has set up its covered wagon (the cart has a canvas top that resembles something early Oregon settlers would have traveled in) in the adjoining vacant lot, serving up a menu of pulled pork, brisket, pork tenderloin, tender sirloin and piri piri chicken and other authentic Texas grilled meals. The owners were generous enough to let us sample their Texas sausage and a family recipe BBQ sauce made in-wagon daily. From what we tried and the delicious scent of grilled meat wafting from the wagon, Lil Bit O Texas appears to be another quality addition to Bend's growing list of tasty food carts. Open Mon-Sat 11am-2:30 pm. Cash only.