Remembering Soupe du Jour

Soupe du Jour 1980

The Soupe du Jour restaurant was a beloved Hopewell fixture for 35 years.

It was founded at the Tomato Factory Antiques Center in 1972 by Valerie Hartshorne and Frad Young, and moved the following year to 10 East Broad Street at Blackwell Avenue. Patty Phillips then took over the business from 1980 to 2007.

The restaurant was part of making Hopewell a destination – you could shop at the antique stores, visit the Hopewell Museum, and always stop by Soupe du Jour for a hearty lunch.


== View the full property brief on Soupe du Jour (PDF) ==


1972 – 1980 – Hartshorne & Young

Soupe du Jour was founded in 1972 by two friends, Valerie Hartshorne and Frad (Francis) Young. The idea of a restaurant for Hopewell shoppers was first proposed facetiously over cocktails, as a good way to earn some extra money for sending the kids through college.

1972 – Tomato Factory

Room at the Tomato Factory – Soups

Soupe du Jour opened in March 1972, in a tiny enclosed porch in the Tomato Factory Antiques Center building at 2 Somerset Street. At the time, the Tomato Factory hosted a dozen antique stores and an interior decorating firm. The Soupe du Jour room had only eight tables, and could seat 15 people.

There was no stove in the room, so they cooked the soup and bread and desserts at home. And there was no running water (there was a bathroom sink through the dress shop), so they took the dishes and pots home at the end of the day to wash them. And they used a refrigerator in the back of the building.

Soupe du Jour was open from Tuesday to Friday, noon to 2 pm. Lunch cost $2.50, with no additional tax or tipping. Due to limited seating, reservations were required (or strongly encouraged in later years).

Other end of the room – breads

The basic Soupe du Jour menu and approach was established from the very beginning, with a focus on simplifying the entire process, from cooking, to setting the tables, to cleaning up after. Lunch included a tureen of soup, bread, and cheese. The soup was served in plain but colorful enamel bowls.

Dessert included fresh fruit served on a wooden skewer, small pastry squares, and coffee or tea. The pastries included brownies, lemon square, fudge, chocolate mint, and toffee nut bars. There were no plates; instead each setting had a small wooden paddle for the bread and cheese and then the dessert.

However, after a year of work, it was clear that the space at the Tomato Factory was simply too small to justify the work involved, so Soupe du Jour needed to move.

1973 – 1980 – Blackwell Ave.

View of neighboring antique shop at Blackwell Ave. (1973)

In January 1973, Hartshorne and Young moved Soupe du Jour to a former garage building behind 10 East Broad Street and off Blackwell Avenue, which would allow more room – and a real stove and refrigerator. They expanded to being open on Saturday, and raised the lunch price to $3.00. The new location on the main street helped business pick up from 13 to 25 customers a day, even without advertising.

In addition to the happy customers, press coverage of Soupe du Jour was almost glowing (see below). The best one-liner came from the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1976: “one of the world’s most charming restaurants.” But the big boost to the business came from a front-page feature in the Princeton Shopper in October, 1965: “I’ve eaten in some of the world’s greatest restaurants… But none … can claim to have been quite so delightful.” This resulted in an increase from 50 to 70 customers a day.

Entrance with signs at Blackwell Ave. (1974)

The price of lunch increased to $3.50 by 1976, and $3.75 by 1979, continuing to rise around 25 cents a year. The work for the founders included running the restaurant on-site, and the off-site work for cooking and baking. In 1977, Young spent around 15 hours a week cooking and baking and marketing, to produce three days’ supply of soup, and Hawthorne produced the soup for the other two days. Both each also produced 24 loaves of bread, and the desserts.

In a 1977 article, Hartshorne describes the result and satisfaction of their work:

From a hit-or-miss beginning on a tiny porch with no running water, few customers and on a borrowed $1,000, we have built a part-time restaurant business that should net each of us $10,000 this year while permitting us six weeks of vacation and the enjoyment of doing what we love and being our own bosses. Our restaurant, which is open for lunch only, is called the Soupe du Jour, and that’s exactly what we serve–a homemade soup of the day, plus homemade bread, imported cheese, dessert and coffee or tea. And the remarkable success of this simple idea has stunned us.

… It’s very hard work, but we couldn’t imagine not doing it. Besides, our profits keep going up, and Soupe du Jour has become an established part of the community. There’s something else that’s part of our success. When people see Frad and me in our restaurant – those two perfectly ordinary housewives – they get the feeling that they could do this just as well. And they could! 

[Family Circle, 1977]

The Next Day

Valerie Hartshorne and Frad Young sold the business in 1980, when Young was ready to retire. Hartshorne than started a catering company that operated for the next decade or so, serving events from a dinner for four to a wedding for 200.


1980 – 2007 – Patty Phillips

In March 1980, Patty (Patricia) Phillips purchased Soupe du Jour from Valerie Hartshorne and Frad Young. In the 1970s, Phillips had been a ceramic painter for sculptor Edward Marshall Boehm, and had more recently done professional cooking. And she understood Soupe du Jour from having worked there the previous year.

Patty Phillips (c 1990)

Phillips worked to expand the menu, and the business, while still retaining the style and charm of the  Soupe du Jour concept. In the first year, Phillips expanded lunch to six days a week (including Monday) at $5.00, and started providing two soup options each day. She also introduced a weekly dinner at a fixed price of $9 to $12, depending on that day’s menu (Thursday and then Friday, 6:30 to 9 pm).

In 1981, Phillips began a several-year experiment with a weekly Coffeehouse evening with live music on Wednesday nights, for a $3 cover charge. It was fun, but unfortunately not financially viable.

Front windows (1983)

By 1982, Phillips expanded the lunch hours to 11:30 am to 2:30 pm (from 12 to 2 pm), Monday to Friday. And by 1983, she was running the restaurant year-round, instead of taking August off due to the heat. She also experimented with tweaking the lunch menu to offer salad for $5 instead of soup for $6.

By 1984, Phillips added a Sunday brunch from 11 am to 2:30 pm, which featured Eggs Benedict, pancakes, French toast, and sandwiches. lunch was $8.95 by 1987, and $10.95 in by 1992.

In 2002, Phillips made a final upgrade to the menu, offering three sandwiches “for the husbands,” grilled cheese, smoked turkey, and BLT. Lunch then varied from $9 to $15, and Sunday brunch was $9 to $15.

Evening dinner panorama (1990s)

The End of the Day

In July 2007, Patty Phillips was forced to close the Soupe du Jour restaurant. The business had operated for 35 years since it was founded, and Phillips had run it for 27 years.

“Soupe du Jour opened at the site in 1980 and closed July 29, 2007 after lease negotiations broke down between restaurant owner Patty Phillips and property owner Alec Gallup. Mr. Gallup evicted the restaurant owner from the property. About 1,000 patrons signed a petition supporting Ms. Phillips in her efforts to avoid closing the popular eatery.”

[Community News, 3/13/2008]

Phillips moved to the Pennington Quality Market in September 2007, where she still prepares Soupe du Jour soups, “notable for their imaginative names, their even more imaginative ingredients and, most importantly, their exceptional, savory flavors.” [Bucks Local News, 6/24/2009]

The former Soupe du Jour building then was taken over by the Nomad Pizza Company in 2010, when the company opened its first store.

Nomad began in 2006 as a venture by partners Thomas Grim and Stalin Bedon that provided mobile pizzeria catering to local private parties, using a 1949 REO Speed Wagon truck equipped with a wood-burning brick oven imported from Italy.


Menu and Recipes

The core Soupe du Jour style and menu remained very consistent through the years, although the specific soup offerings varied widely depending on interest and available ingredients. A perennial favorite cited by both Hartshorne and Phillips was spinach and leek.

Newspaper reviews over the years list just some of the many soups offered at Soupe du Jour over the years:

  • 1972 – Zucchini, Canadian split pea, hunters’ chowder, corn and fish, puree mongol muligatawney, fish chowder
  • 1975 – Spinach leek, Caribbean fish chowder, garbure, Roman egg plant, chicken and brussel sprouts, kaldo berd, Canadian split pea, lima bean and ham
  • 1976c – Pumpkin, creamed carrot, Caribbean fish chowder, Spanish vegetable, mushroom
  • 1976 – Thursday is spinach and leek, and Friday is Caribbean fish chowder
  • 1980 – Gazpacho, spinach and leek, ham, leek, and cheese
  • 1982 – Mulligatawny
  • 1985 – Cream of asparagus, fish chowder
  • 1987 – Creamy tomato
  • 2001 – Parsnip-apple

Toffee Nut Bar Recipe

The Toffee Nut Bar was a classic Soupe du Jour dessert offering. This recipe from Hartshorne and Young was passed on to Patty Phillips, and published in the Princeton Packet, 8/1980.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 cups flour
  • 3 sticks melted butter

Mix together and pat into the bottom of 10″x15″x2″ high pan. Bake 20 min. at 350° or until edges begin to brown.

Meanwhile mix together:

  • 3 cups dark brown sugar
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 generous cup of broken-up walnuts
  • 1/2 bag of coconut
  • 6 eggs
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 tablespoons flour

Pour over the crust and bake another 25 min. or until set.

Seasonings

Under Patty Phillips, Soupe du Jour came to be known for its “funky decor,” described as “a kind of ‘Alice’s Restaurant’ ambience.” [Courier News, 4/14/2002]

This included a wide array of plants and artwork and oddities, including the “Eats Open” sign above a mounted deer head (one of two), and the infamous tiny (really tiny!) bathroom.

And there were these whimsical salt & pepper sets, from a large collection assembled by Phillips to liven the tables.

The Address: “Bank Place”

Oddly, Soupe du Jour apparently never had a unique street address. The building is part of the 10 East Broad Street property, but the entrance is in back, off Blackwell Ave. As a result, advertisements and newspaper reviews sometimes used “10 East Broad,” but mostly settled on just “Blackwell.”

“Bank Place” [2020 aerial]
– Former Bank at 2 East Broad (now Dana) at bottom right on Greenwood
– 10 East Broad house top right on Blackwell
– Soupe du Jour (Nomad) in center
– “Carriage house” / former antique shop at bottom left (behind house on Greenwood)

More confusingly, the address “Bank Place” was used intermittently for Soupe du Jour and the adjacent properties from at least 1960 to 1988. Betty Gantz also referred to the property as “Bank Plaza” in her book, Hopewell’s Past [1987].

During this period, the address “1 Bank Place” was used for the main 10 East Broad house in the 1960s.

And the address “2 Bank Place” was used for antique shops in the large L-shaped “carriage house” on the back of the property, both for the Prince of Orange (1960 – 1975) and the High Button Shoe (from 1975). The same address also was used for Soupe du Jour early after its move in 1973 to the smaller “garage” closer to the house (which originally also was used as a second building by the Prince of Orange antiques store).


Thanks to Valerie and Caroline Hartshorne and to Patty Phillips for their kindness and generosity in sharing information and materials on the story of Soupe du Jour.

Soupe du Jour restaurant and artifacts photos

See the full property brief for more details, images, and quotes on Soupe du Jour.

== View the full property brief on Soupe du Jour (PDF) ==

See the Image Gallery for over 40 images of Soupe du Jour, including photos of the restaurant interiors and exteriors back to 1972, and images of some of the familiar designs and decorations.

== View the Soupe du Jour image gallery ==

Leave a Reply



 
%d bloggers like this: