RED BANK: NEVER-ENDING SOUP SEASON

102914 soupmeisterGary Sable wraps up a lunch-to-go order for one of the many customers who wait patiently in line. Below, the 32-ounce Portuguese sausage and kale soup. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

102914 soupmeister2Twenty years ago, Red Bank was a veritable desert for takeout food. For this PieHole correspondent, then plying a different trade, there were maybe two or three delis in town to choose from for lunch.

Enter Gary Sable with his unique idea for a quick lunch: of hot dogs to go. Many of us were delighted to have a new option.

That Hot Dog Place, located off Monmouth Street in a little alley next to the Dublin House, was a convenient two-minute walk away, and appreciated, especially when the weather got colder. The only problem with that we soon tired of hot dogs.

One chilly autumn day, we sniffled our way over to Sable’s nook and told him how much we would prefer a hot cup of soup. It took him all of one day to add chicken noodle and tomato basil bisque to his menu. We have been grateful customers ever since.

102914 soupmeister3That Hot Dog Place still sells hot dogs, but soup is the bigger draw at this tiny restaurant. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

Known as the Soupmeister in Red Bank, Sable sells at least three different varieties of soup each day from his closet-sized kitchen. There’s often a line snaking out the door at lunch time, and as the line moved along one day recently, Sable talked about the downturn in the stock market with a customer, then switched to a quick conversation about the World Series. He knew everyone waiting in line, and what they would be interested in.

“Chicken tortilla is the biggest seller,” Sable tells PieHole. “Last week, I made 48 quarts, and it was gone by 1:30. That might be a record. Chicken pot pie is definitely second,”

“It’s hard to choose which soup we like the best,” said Red Bank resident Ian Bennett. “Probably the Italian wedding soup, though.”

Another customer orders a container of Portuguese sausage soup with kale, and half a sandwich, and the conversation switches from baseball to football.

“Summer wasn’t bad,” Sable says. “It was cooler [than usual], so everyone kept ordering the soup.”

The demand for hot dogs, he says, picks up after 2 p.m., and it’s less a lunch item than a snack. “It’s the blue-collar workers working their butts off who come in for the hot dogs,” he added.

“In the 20 years I’ve been in business, it’s had it’s peaks and down times,” Sable says. “The town was just starting to get built up. It’s been fun. I still have the original health department certificate hanging on the wall. Twenty years is a long time.”

Soups are sold in four sizes: a 12-ounce cup will set you back $4, and the family-sized 32-ounce container goes for $9. That Hot Dog Place is open for lunch only.

Want to know more about That Hot Dog Place? Check out these stories in the redbankgreen archive.