Friday, August 24, 2007

SOUPER! SALAD!

One of our readers asked me if I had ever heard of this restaurant chain. I had not, but the question came at a very opportune time as when I searched the chain on the Internet I discovered a location in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Now while South Carolina is about 1500 miles from my home, I happened to be on the road heading for that very city to visit two nearby Revolutionary War historic battlefield sites. On Saturday night in Spartanburg we decided that we would give Souper! Salad! a try, and we are VERY GLAD that we did.

This is a chain of restaurants located in the Southeast Untied States and the Western United States from Texas to Las Vegas, Nevada. Souper! Salad! features just what the name states - soup and salad served on an all you care to eat buffet. In addition to the soup and salad, there is pizza, pasta, baked potatoes, breads, and dessert. This is very similar to Soup Plantations.

The Spartanburg, SC location is in a shopping center. It is a relatively small restaurant filling the space of three store fronts. The restaurant has large windows that look out onto the parking lot. You enter at the cash register and pay as you go in. This is an EXTREMELY REASONABLE restaurant. The adult price at all times is $6.29. The children's price from ages 5 to 12 is $2.99 and children to age 4 are free. The soft drink price is high at $1.69 with children's drinks for $0.99. Regular soft drinks are refillable. There are "special" flavored lemonades that cost $1.99 and are not refillable.

After you pay you come right to the beginning of the salad bar which is a long double sided cold buffet server that runs most of the length of the restaurant. You take a tray, your silverware, and napkins and start to assemble your salad - if you wish to start with that. There were two different salad greens plus a "featured" mixed salad. This night the featured mixed salad was a mango cranberry salad which was very good. There is every imaginable topping and dressing for your tossed salad and when I got to the croutons and dry toppings there were even small cookies to put on the salad. That was a first for me to see. You then come to several prepared salads that change by the day. There was California chicken salad, a pasta seafood salad, a fetticine pasta salad, tuna salad, a special pasta and tuna salad, edame (soy beans) salad, mustard potato salad and a few others. At the end of this bar was the dessert bar, which we will get to later.

As you pass through the salad bar you are into the dining room for the first time and you seat yourself at tables and booths. We were there on a Saturday night and the restaurant was not crowded but there were a number of people and families dining. I suspect that this is most crowded at lunch time when the shopping center is busy. The atmosphere in the restaurant is informal and the decor is very pleasant. The room was bright and clean. We chose a booth and sat down with our salads. A few moments later a waitress came over and asked what we ordered to drink. She brought large, full drink glasses to our table. Looking around most people had their receipts out on their tables to signal that the table was still occupied - but no one said to do this. We did (as we have had our table cleaned and reset in mid-meal when we went up to the server several times in other buffets recently - this was NOT a problem here!).

After our salad we went up to try the soups. There are five soups served and these also change every day. This night there was chicken noodle, vegetable beef, Santa Fe chicken soup, tomato basil, and double baked potato soup. I am a SOUP LOVER! I had to try each one. All of the soups were good, but I liked the double baked potato soup the best. It was thick and seasoned just right with pieces of potato and bits of potato skins in this hearty soup. The Santa Fe chicken was thick and spicy - it had a mild chili flavor. The tomato basil was a semi-thick soup with chunks of tomato. This had a bit of an acid taste - but it was good. The vegetable beef was a thin broth with vegetables and tiny meatballs. The chicken soup was good but it had too many herbs that overpowered the broth. The noodles were not the thick dumpling like noodles but more like pasta noodles. All of the soups are made from scratch at the restaurant.

So there you have the soup of the Souper! and the salad of the "Salad" but that is not all! At the rear of the restaurant is a wall of hot spots including the soup bar. There is pasta that changes by the day to either ziti or spagetti and two sauces of meat marinara and alfredo. As an Italian-American on both sides of my family I grew up with very high expectations of tomato sauces. I can be very critical of tomato sauce - called "gravy"in my family. Well, I usually have low expectations of tomato sauce in most buffets, but I must say that the meaty marinara sauce here is very good. It is not acidy and it is not sweet. It is not overloaded with meat or greasy. For a buffet restaurant it passed my test with a B+. Following the pasta on the server are two types of pizza - cheese and pepperoni. The pizza was odd compared to most buffet pizzas (and most pizzas). The pizza is more like cheese and sauce on a cracker. The crust is as thinner than a cracker, flat, and cooked hard and crispy. The taste was pleasant - the cheese and tomato sauce were standard but it was like eating a pizza cracker. I would not hold this against the restaurant but if you are looking for "real" pizza you are going to be disappointed. If you think of this as a unique pizza-like treat you will be more satisfied. Further along on the hot server are whole baked potatoes wrapped in foil. There are several toppings for the potatoes including hot cheese, hot chili, cold cheese, bacon, sour cream, butter, and chives. There is also everything on the salad bar to put on your potato if you wish. It did not seem like it from the descriptions that I read of this restaurant but there is a lot of filling food here. I went in thinking that just eating salad and soup for dinner I would be hungry - but I was stuffed when I walked out!

As if all of this is not enough there is fresh baked breads which also change by the day. There were garlic bread sticks, cheese biscuits, corn bread, and wonderful blueberry bread. The blueberry bread looked like a pan of corn bread but it had pure blueberry taste in every bite!

Had enough? You did not save room for dessert? There is lots of good things for dessert. There were the fixing to make a strawberry cream dessert - a try of cake to top with strawberries in sauce and whipped cream. There were peaches in syrup. There was fruit salad. There was pudding. There were fresh grapes and oranges plus cantelope, watermelon, and honeydue melon. And, of course, there is the ice cream sundae bar - soft serve vanilla ice cream with toppings and cones.

Those who wish to eat vegetarian can easily do so here as all vegetarian dishes are clearly labeled as such. Labeling was excellent all around - there was no guessing. The prepared salads and the soups were not only labeled but the ingredients were clearly listed below the name on each label. No guessing and no surprises.

The service was excellent. Your server comes and takes dirty plates away - and there are a lot of plate changes here and just about every item gets its own plate - salad plates, soup bowls, pasta plates, bread plates, dessert plates. The server also refills your drinks and there was no waiting for a refill.

Tables when empty are cleaned quickly and this restaurant was very clean - tables, seats, walls, and floors. The room was bright and restrooms were clean and well supplied.

This is a great restaurant for families. The food is inexpensive (actually, cheaper than eating at home) and there is something for everyone unless you have someone who wants lots of meat. There were several families enjoying the restaurant. There are signs saying that children under 12 must be accompanied at the food servers - which is great. On Sunday there is a family special and all kids over 5 are $1.99.

All of the food was good. The experience was nice and very pleasant. The staff were friendly and welcoming. I would highly recommend this particular restaurant and if it is a good example of the others I would highly recommend this chain. There is a website that is linked at the side of this page. The website will give you the locations and each location has a way to see the menu for any particular day on the calendar. As I have said many dishes change by the day and there are many, many dishes listed on the website for each restaurant to put on the menu. If you are lucky enough to be in a state with a Souper!Salad! give it a try for dinner or lunch. You should be as satisfied as I am. If you have been to one of these restaurants leave a comment and tell us about your experience.

1 comment:

Robert A said...

Please take note that I have learned that the Spartanburg location of SouperSalad has closed. Many,many other locations remain open.