Soup commercials used to feature chefs fussing over a vat. Then advertisers realized that consumers related better to a maternal figure and they switched tactics.
But no matter how advertisers portray it, commercial soups are made in big factories. They create their product in massive quantities, using short cuts, lower quality ingredients and the preservatives necessary to store food for long periods of time.
For a taste of how soup tastes when it’s made in artisanal batches by a real mother, head over to Soup’s On! in the Third Ward. Every day Mary Krimmer makes fresh soup from scratch in her miniscule kitchen. The workspace may be small, but the flavors are big.
As the mother of eight children and an artist at heart, Krimmer spent years nurturing her kitchen skills. Little did she know that, in her early 50s and after her nest was finally empty, she would open her own restaurant.
“I ran a home daycare for 30 years and, during that time, I made a lot of soup,” she says. “Soup can be very gourmet, yet you don’t have to have lots of stock on hand, a large menu or very much kitchen help. We have three soup choices and one chili choice each day. There is always a variation on a chicken soup and one vegetarian or vegan option. “
With a recipe box of more than 150 different options, one could dine at Soup’s On! week after week and never repeat a dish. Krimmer says her most popular soups include her beef borscht, chowders, winter squash and pumpkin basil. A 12 ounce bowl costs $5.50, a 16 ounce crock is $6.50.
All soups are served with a thick slice of bread from Wild Flour Bakery. The choices on the day of our visit included sourdough, semolina, whole wheat and flaxseed bread. A sandwich combination with a bowl of soup is $8.25 and, with a crock $9.25.
All sandwiches are made with Wild Flour artisanal vegan breads. Sandwich choices often include roast beef, pastrami, smoked turkey, ham and cheese, peanut butter club, Cuban pork, chicken salad, curry chicken, lox and cream cheese, tuna salad, egg salad, Swiss cheese or cheddar cheese, hard salami, hummus and veggies and herb cheese spread. Vegans can feast on a bagel smeared with tofu spread and veggies.
All sandwiches options are listed on a chalkboard, and the selection rotates daily. Sandwiches are $3.50, and wraps are $5.50.
Desserts are either made in-house or by C. Adams Bakery from the Milwaukee Public Market. Selections rotate daily and include cheesecakes, cookies, brownies, apple crisp, pies and assorted chocolate selections. The kitchen also serves Cedarcrest hand-scooped ice cream.
The dining room, part of an art gallery, overlooks the Milwaukee River and offers patio seating at picnic tables in nice weather.
Soup’s On! is a no-frills place with plastic lawn furniture, paper napkins and soda served in bottles. Sandwiches are served in plastic paper-lined baskets, and you are expected to clean up after yourself, just like you would at your mother’s house.
Soup’s On! is open Monday through Friday for lunch, and Friday nights and Saturdays during Gallery Night & Day.