By Stephanie Singer
In a sub-division of Landstown Commons known as Landstown Centre, there’s a small restaurant called Zoup! Despite the intentional misspelling of the word “soup,” this marketing ploy is easily forgivable – especially when it’s lunchtime. From the moment when customers open the door, savory smells float outwards.
The décor sends one message: “Time to eat.”
Walls painted in warm hues – chili pepper red, toasted gold, and sweet relish green – increase customers’ appetites.Where the walls meet the ceiling, slogans that appear cut from black scrapbook paper wrap around the edges.
Muted-green cushions on chairs and booth seats feel firm yet comfortable under tired hips and legs. Tables crafted from semi-gloss wood subtly reflect the lighting.
An expansive menu board spreads above the food prep area. The text is small so that all the options fit. However, this makes the menu hard to read.
Terri Singer, a resident of Norfolk and first-time customer, harbored a few inhibitions about the food. I had come with her, and was starting to have second thoughts as well. “These ingredients are kind of weird,” Singer said.
To some extent, she was right. Thai coconut milk soup? Quinoa salad? This is no place to bring a picky eater. Nonetheless, we found something to eat. Singer ordered a Loco Burrito Salad paired with a Beef and Barley soup. This came as a TryTwo combo. I followed her lead in getting a TryTwo combo, only with a Maple Ham and Bacon sandwich and a French Onion Soup.
The cashier asked us for a name.
“Terri.” Singer said. With that, we went to a booth.
A few minutes later, an employee called out: “Terri!” Singer went up to the counter and got the trays. She came over to the booth and carefully set them down. I was a little surprised that there was only one napkin on each tray, and no napkin dispensers on the table. “Looks like I have to be extra-careful not to spill,” I said. This was not a good day to wear my white shirt.
All worries about potential messes aside, I bit into my sandwich. It was on a thin, short baguette. Two thick slices of maple glazed ham, crispy bacon, perfectly melted Swiss cheese and a good amount of maple aioli filled the sandwich. Yum! This deserved another bite – and another, and another and another.
By the end, the contents started falling out. At that point, I decided to try the soup before the sandwich came apart.
The soup was loaded with diced onions. Three croutons, softened from absorbing the rich broth, floated on top. Fine shreds of mozzarella cheese rested on top of the croutons.
TryTwo combos also come with a small piece of bread. These aren’t warm – they’re room temperature at best – but dipping them in the soup helps. Eating soup using bread was a different experience than trying to eat soup using a spoon.
Singer tried to finish the Loco Burrito half salad. What this place considered a half salad was fairly large. She couldn’t finish it and still have room for soup, so she ate the soup. “I’m not sure I like this soup.” Singer said. “It’s very salty. Too salty for me. And the beef chunks are huge.”
Meanwhile, I decided to finish my sandwich. The maple aioli slid to the back. Not that it was worth complaining about. In flavor, it reminded me of maple syrup; in texture, it reminded me of heavy cream. I considered that a dessert. Zoup! sometimes draws comparisons to Panera. There’s one main difference: Panera focuses more on their baked goods. Also, Zoup! is more expensive than Panera. Panera also seems to commit more to reusing and recycling, while Zoup! only reuses trays. However, the latter features over 100 soups, with 12 different kinds in constant rotation. Only two soups don’t change from day to day: the lobster bisque and the chicken pot pie. If you like soup, this is the place to go.
On the road, Singer gives her final verdict. “It’s good. But is it really worth the drive? I mean, do any VWC students even live out here?”
“I really liked it.” I said. “Besides, you never know.”