Nathan’s Soup & Salad has been a popular Rochester, NY eatery since 1980. Known for their extensive offerings of over 40 varieties of homemade soups, salads and fresh-baked breads and rolls, Nathan’s is the place to go for a satisfying lunch year round. You’ll often find groups of coworkers stopping in to pick up an order for the entire office to enjoy. Now with four locations, there is one close to my office in Henrietta, New York – that’s the location that we’ll focus on in this review. It’s always a treat when we plan to go to Nathan’s Soup & Salad.
Centrally located in the Genesee Valley Regional Market on Jefferson Road in Henrietta, New York, this Nathan’s Soup & Salad location is easy to get to and provides plenty of free parking. However, the curb appeal non-existent. If you aren’t careful, you might pass right by it.
It resides in an industrial looking setting, in a building with a starkly unappetizing and unassuming exterior. The signage is clearly visible, but it looks almost temporary, like they are waiting for the “real” signs to be delivered and installed. But, don’t let the no frills appearance fool you. You can expect to be treated to the same delicious home-made soups for which Nathan’s Soup & Salad is famous around town. It will all be okay, I promise….so park you car and head on in through the sadly utilitarian looking front door.
Don’t expect to find a cozy dining room, mood lighting or linen-covered tables. While Nathan’s Soup & Saladis mainly a take-out sort of place, they do offer some seating for those who wish to dine in. You will find a small but functional eat-in area with a dozen or so tables and chairs, surrounded by tall chairs which can be pulled up to the counter along the perimeter wall. One corner features a seating area with a black leather sofa and a round wooden coffee table.
The ordering and pick-up process is a bit awkward. Upon entering, you are shuttled into a roped off line, directed toward the order taking area in one corner of the establishment. After placing and paying for your order, you are directed to move to the left to wait for your name to be called, indicating that your order is ready for pick up. It feels a bit like herding cattle, with each person anxiously watching the counter, hoping theirs is the next name to be called. If you are eating in, then you’ll want to claim a table as soon as possible while still keeping an eye on the counter area where your order is being readied. This isn’t child’s play; you have to pay attention.
This is also not the place for a quiet lunch. The high ceilings and close proximity of tables in the crowded dining area are not condusive to private conversations or cozy interactions. Instead, expect that your conversation will be overheard by those at the tables around you, if they can hear over the pop music being piped into the room. Everyone just acts like they aren’t listening to their neighbors – it’s polite society at it’s best. If you visit during the colder months, be sure to pick a table far away from the front door, to avoid the cold draft that blows through upon each customer’s entrance or exit.
It is worth noting that the establishment was kept clean, an especially difficult task in light of the sheer numbers of customers dragging in winter snow and muck from the parking lot. One of my lunch companions mentioned that the bathrooms were tidy as well.
The menu at Nathan’s Soup & Salad changes quite frequently, and they make all of their soups and salads in-house. Over 40 varieties of home-made soup are available in total, with 10-12 soup options offered daily, in four sizes: small (8 oz. for $3.25), medium (12 oz. for $4.25), large (16 oz. for $5.25), and extra large (32 oz.). The soup offerings change daily, but always include a standard collection of the following six soups:
Cream of Broccoli and Cheese Soup
Chicken Noodle Soup
Grandma’s Italian Wedding Soup
Chili Con Carne Soup
Buffalo Chicken Soup
Cheesy Tomato Bisque
Don’t forget about the salads and sandwiches. Salad offering include Signature Salads and Made to Order Salads, for which you can choose from spinach, romaine or spring greens and then choose five of your favorite toppings and a dressing. Salads are available in both small and large sizes. Gourmet Stuffed Sandwich options are available as well, including selections of Gourmet Stuffed Bread Sandwiches, Stuffed Croissant Sandwiches and Stuffed Wraps.
Side orders of fresh baked, home-made bread ($1.65) are available in eight varieties, including:
You can also purchase full loaves of bread to take home. Choose from an assortment of bottled sodas, juice, and water for your beverage. Finally, you can choose your favorite chips and/or cookies to accompany your order.
Both the printed menu (available at the register) and the posted board menu clearly show which soup options are dairy free, gluten free and vegetarian. I also found it helpful that they delineate soups which are chilled or spicy as well. However, neither the printed menu or the baord menu showed prices of all of the offerings. I was able to determine the portion sizes of the soups based on containers on display at the register, marked with the size and number of ounces. Other than the bread side orders though ($1.65), prices were not posted.
If you so desire, pick up a black and red Nathan’s Soup & Salad logo soup mug, t-shirt or insulated lunch bag as a remembrance of your visit. Gift cards are also available for those on your gift list.
I visited Nathan’s Soup and Salad for a Friday lunch twice in two weeks, and dined in each time with a different lunch companion. For the first lunch visit on a busy Friday, I ordered a large Clam Chowder soup and a side order of Cheddar Cheese Bread, with a bottle of water for my beverage. My coworker ordered her favorite, which is Italian Wedding Soup with a Cheddar Cheese Bread side order and a cup of water. She was smart to get a cup of water (free) as opposed to my bottled water (not free).
Admittedly, I felt a little bit like I was in a Seinfeld television episode with “the soup Nazi” as I quickly moved to my left and waited for my order to be fulfilled. The service was great – nothing like that television episode – but the ordering process was exactly like it.
While my lunch companion visited the restroom, I decided to snag a table for us. Our names were called rather quickly, indicating that our orders were ready. Regardless of if you dine in or take your order to go, it is packaged in a bag as a to go order. I was happy to see that my lunch bag included plenty of napkins, three packages of saltine crackers and a plastic spoon; everything I would need if I was taking it to go. But, since we were dining in, we went back to our table to enjoy our hot lunch.
Both Patti and I enjoyed our soup. My piping hot Clam Chowder was tasty and not too thick. It was loaded with potatoes, vegetables and of course, clams. Upon first tasting it, I thought it had almost too much of a clam taste, but I soon came to my senses and realized it was just right. It was perfectly seasoned, with just enough black pepper. I often find that soup has either too much salt or too much pepper, but this was just right. Patti tasted it as well, and agreed.
Patti’s Italian Wedding Soup didn’t disappoint either. It is her favorite option at Nathan’s Soup & Salad, as she often gets it to go on busy workdays. She explained that it reminds her of the soup that her sister’s Godmother used to make each New Year’s Day. It was almost as good, she said, but hers had pasta in it, which was lacking in Nathan’s soup. Nonetheless, she said that she didn’t miss the pasta. She liked the soup because it was hearty and satisfying, with tasty small meatballs and lots of flavorful vegetables
I tried it and I agreed completely. The small meatball was moist and tasty and the broth was well seasoned. I was skeptical at first, thinking that the soup would be greasy, as is often the case with Italian Wedding Soup, due to the beef. However, I was pleasantly surprised that there wasn’t a hint of grease in the broth.
We both ordered Cheddar Cheese Bread. It was fresh and tasted good, but really wasn’t anything terribly special. In fact, we both agreed that we liked it, but it could use more cheddar cheese baked into it. The portion size, however, was quite large. It was soft, moist and great for dipping into the soup, along side the crumbled saltine crackers. I would like to try some of their other breads to compare.
On my second visit to Nathan’s Soup & Salad, I decided to try a sandwich, soup and a salad, while my lunch companion, Mary, ordered the same soup and bread combination that I ordered during my first visit. I chose a small Gourmet Stuffed Croissant Sandwich of Chicken Salad with Grapes and Walnuts. The chicken salad filling was tasty. The grapes and walnuts added a nice crunch. There was a good ratio of chicken and just enough mayonnaise. The tomatoes and lettuce were fresh. I declined the onions. You can see by the picture below that the portion of chicken salad filling did not quite “stuff” the croissant, as is implied by the name of this menu item. However, I did after all, order a small sandwich. As such, I can’t complain too much about the portion size. The croissant however, was somewhat dense and stale tasting, as if it had recently been defrosted. It wasn’t as flaky or light as I would have liked. I wouldn’t refer to this sandwich as “gourmet.”
For my salad, I chose a small Made to Order Salad, with romaine lettuce and Italian dressing on the side. My five topping choices were: tomato, cucumber, cheddar cheese, chick peas and Nathan’s Signature Croutons. My salad was just ok and the dressing was fine. There wasn’t anything wrong with it – it just didn’t satisfy me on a cold day. The best part of the salad was the Nathan’s Signature Croutons. They were well seasoned and fresh.
Finally, my soup order was a medium-sized Chile Con Carne. This was quite a treat! it was thick and chock full of wonderful, soothing goodness. The beans and meat were chunky and very filling. It was so hot that there was steam coming from it when I removed the lid. It was also a little bit spicy, which I liked. I really enjoyed it – this Chili Con Carne was by far was my favorite selection during both of my lunch visits to Nathan’s Soup & Salad.
As I mentioned, Mary’s lunch order was the same as mine on my previous visit. Interestingly though, her New England Clam Chowder was much thicker than mine from the week prior. It was almost too thick, more like a stew. i found it interesting that there would be such an inconsistency from week to week in the same soup. She enjoyed it, however, and commented on how good it was to have nice hot soup on a cold winter day. She also liked the Cheddar Cheese Bread and remarked on the large portion size of the individual loaf. I agreed. She could only eat half of it and saved the other half to take home. Won’t that be a nice evening snack?
The concept at Nathan’s Soup & Salad is walk-up counter ordering. The menu is posted high up on the wall behind the counter and display case. When you are ready to order, you step up to one of the two registers and place you order with the cashier, who takes your name and hands off your order to the servers behind the counter. When you order is ready, the server calls your name to alert you to come to the counter to pick up your order. There is no table service.
The cashiers were cheerful, pleasant and efficient. On my second trip, the cashier was especially friendly, using my name a few times and wishing me a wonderful weekend. On each visit, our orders were prepared correctly and each one contained exactly what we ordered. However, on my first visit, I did have to ask for my bottle of water, which wasn’t too much of an issue, as it was quickly provided from the beverage case behind the register. The servers were also polite and friendly when calling out the names of awaiting patrons and handing us our orders.
In a hurry? Nathan’s Soup & Salad is technologically savvy, with an available app for iPhone and Android ordering, as well as online ordering availability.
I would most definitely recommend Nathan’s Soup & Salad if you are looking for great homemade soup Although they offer salads and sandwiches, their soups are their best offering by far. The service is fast and friendly, the soup is tasty and filling, and the prices are in line with the good quality ingredients. You’ll be surprised by wide selection of fresh-made daily soups. Whether you order to go or eat in, you’ll be glad that you stopped by. It won’t be your last visit.
If you go:
Nathan’s Soup & Salad (Henrietta, NY location)
900 Jefferson Rd, Bldg 3 (Genesee Valley Regional Market)
Rochester, NY 14623
(Between Clay Rd and E Henrietta Rd)
Other locations: 691 Park Avenue, 8 Lomb Memorial Drive (RIT), and 7979 Pittsford-Victor Road (Mall)
Business Hours: Mon – Fri: 10am – 6pm, Sat: 11am – 3pm
Meals Served: Lunch, Dinner (until 6pm)
Children’s Menu: No
Accepts Credit Cards: Yes
Handicap Accessible: Yes
Requires Reservations: No
Table Service: No
Take Out: Yes
Outdoor Seating: No
Valet Service: No
Bar Seating: No
Coat Check: No
Date opened: 2011 (Henrietta location), 1980 (original Park Avenue location)
Date visited: Friday, January 9th, 2015 and Thursday, January 15, 2015