Food is a family business for Cherri Hassett.
And if you come through the door at Soup R Salads, where Cherri is the chef and owner, you’re pretty much family.
“You walk in and you go, ‘Hey, how’s the kids?’” she said. “We know everybody that comes in.”
Then there’s her actual family. Nearly all of the employees are related to her somehow—her sister helps cook, her daughter takes orders, her cousin works the counter.
“It’s basically been all family that works here,” Cherri said. “It’s more stressful in a lot of ways, but you don’t have to be fake. I like working with family better than with strangers.”
Cherri opened the popular lunch spot seven years ago after working for 15 years in the restaurant business.
“I was unemployed and I figured, I’m not working for anyone else,” she said. “I kind of knew what people liked from working downtown. I had never really made soup, but my boyfriend taught me.”
Now, Soup R Salads is known for hearty, healthy, homestyle food made with fresh ingredients. With the exception of a few dressings — “If I find one that’s outstanding that I can’t do as well, I’ll buy it,” Cherri said — everything is homemade, mostly the old-fashioned way.
“I don’t really use recipes,” Cherri said. “It’s more, so much of this, so much of that.”
However she puts them together, Cherri must be doing something right, because come lunchtime, the little sandwich shop is packed with hungry customers. And they’ve got plenty of options to choose from. Every day, there’s a full roster of cold deli sandwiches and cold salads, and then there are the specials: a hot entrée, daily soups (Mondays it’s mulligatawny, chili Tuesdays, Wednesdays feature Italian Wedding, Thursdays’ special is Cajun sausage chicken and Fridays specialty is chowder — plus two others of Cherri’s choice each day) and three daily salad specials, as well as a wrap or sandwich special. Fresh fruit salad graces the menu every day in the summer. If you’re still hungry after lunch, help yourself to a cookie —chocolate chip, molasses, peanut butter or everything.
Cherri said it’s the food that keeps people coming back.
“I know what people like,” she said.
It wasn’t always such a popular spot. When Cherri first opened the restaurant, she was sure she’d made a mistake.
“I started out making $200 a day,” she recalled. “My dad would come in and I’d be like, ‘I’m never going to make it, Dad.’”
But word soon spread about the tasty fare at Soup R Salads and the crowds picked up. Now there’s a steady line at lunchtime every day.
“It’s pretty awesome,” Cherri said.
While the food brings in the crowds, that’s not the only draw.
“They like the employees, the customers do,” Cherri said.
While she’d like to be able to enlarge the restaurant, Cherri said she wants to keep that same atmosphere.
“I would like a bigger space,” she said. “But I don’t want it to get so big where we don’t know anybody.”
Soup R Salads is located at 308 S. Warren St. in downtown Syracuse. The lunch spot is open from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. For daily specials, check their Facebook page: Facebook.com/souprsalads/ or call (315) 214-4569. The restaurant also caters events; call for more information.