By Scott Morgan
If there’s any meal that definitively says “Yeah, that’s lunch,” it’s soup and a sandwich. And if you’ve had lunch near Princeton University at any point over the past nine years, it’s a good bet you’ve been lured to a little place at 30 Palmer Square with the lunchiest name ever: The Princeton Soup & Sandwich Company.
Lisa and Scott Ruddy first opened their 585-square-foot restaurant under the Original Soupman franchise. And yes, that’s the Seinfeld-inspired place you’re thinking of. If you went there five years ago and haven’t been back since, you might get the impression that the restaurant changed hands or got bought out. But the Ruddys are the same owners who’ve always run the show at 30 Palmer Square.
“We have been Princeton Soup & Sandwich Company for the past five years,” Lisa says. “We love being independent with our own menu items, recipes and branding.”
After disaffiliating from the SoupMan franchise—the chain started by Al Yeganeh, the man who inspired Seinfeld’s “Soup Nazi” episode—Ruddy and her staff turned their focus to getting more involved in the community.
Beyond the name change, the Ruddys have expanded the basic soup-and-sandwich concept. A major new thing for the business is the expansion of its delivery and catering services.
The Ruddys serve up corporate lunches throughout the greater Princeton area and say they were amazed how many companies were actually looking to have a good lunch brought to them that catered to individual customers’ needs.
In other words, you don’t have to rely on a generalized delivery/catering menu if you order something to eat from Princeton Soup & Sandwich Company, they’ll do whatever you like.
“Another exciting thing is the expansion of our gluten-free line,” Lisa says. “Every day we offer two or three soups that are gluten-free, as well as gluten-free bagels and baguettes that we have a local baker make for us.” This, she says, helps more than people with gluten allergies. “Many people have chosen to go gluten-free in this health-conscience market,” she says.
The restaurant also carries a lot of vegetarian options. “We have noticed a real niche in Princeton,” Ruddy says. “People want to feel good about what there eating.” The restaurant also offers such delights as a fresh-made hummus/avacado wrap, a falafel wrap, and a “gazapcho sandwich.” There’s also a line of smoothies made with — wait for it — actual fruit.
And by the way, the restaurant doesn’t do only lunch. It’s open earlier and later than just lunchtime. “Lately people have been telling us that our breakfast is one of the best kept secrets around,” she says.
If Princeton Soup & Sandwich Company has a claim-to-fame soup, it’s the restaurant’s lobster bisque. The Ruddys aren’t even trying to be modest about it, either. They call it “The Worlds Greatest Lobster Bisque.”
“We have yet to have a customer dispute with us,” she laughs.
After nine years in Palmer Square, Ruddy says “I feel like we are starting to become a little landmark.” She loves the town and says she’s privileged to be able to operate a business in the heart of Princeton. “The best part of my day is hearing my customers tell us that they really appreciated a great meal,” she says. “The staff has a solemn vow to our customers to offer nothing less than this each and every day, each and every order.”
Ruddy’s résumé includes retail—she used to work in management at Nordstrom—and she took the experience from that field and related it to the culinary world.
“I was able to apply the same concept of quality service backed by quality product, and I think you need the two of them to go hand in hand to really be successful,” she said. “So this is food and that was clothes, but the philosophy is the same.”
Princeton Soup & Sandwich Company is located at 30 Palmer Square East in Princeton. Call (609) 497-0008 for more details. On the web: princetonsoupandsandwich.com.