SCHENECTADY — People strolled throughout downtown with soup cups and maps in hand Saturday afternoon.
The third annual Schenectady Soup Stroll, organized by the Downtown Schenectady Improvement Corp., featured 3-ounce soup samples from 26 participating restaurants for $1 each.
Phillip Ruggiero, owner of Nico's on State Street, said he's been participating in Soup Stroll since it began three years ago.
"It's a fun event, and it's good for the businesses and for Schenectady," he said. "It's a good opportunity for people to see what I have to offer."
Ruggiero said he added a bar on the second floor at Nico's two years ago, so the Soup Stroll is a chance for customers to experience it.
"It brings people in and gives us exposure," he said. "It's fun to see people and we get repeat customers because of it. I wish we could do an event like this every month."
Jeanette Massaro, like Ruggiero, said the Soup Stroll gives her a chance to introduce people to the food at her restaurant, Bel Cibo Bistro on Jay Street.
"I love it," she said. "People who wouldn't normally come downtown get to see how my food tastes and see what we have to offer."
Massaro said the event puts Schenectady on the map.
"It gives people something to look forward to," she said. "It's grown exponentially, and I hope it continues to."
Cristal Pagliaro, Massaro's co-owner, said people are not only buying soup, but drinks and other food items, and stopping in to shops throughout downtown Schenectady.
"It brings people back downtown," she said. "It's important for people to know that it's a fun place with a lot of new options."
The DillyBean on Jay Street is one of those new options.
Owner Abby Rockmacher opened the health food store and cafe on Thursday and decided to jump right in with the Soup Stroll.
"It draws a huge crowd, so it's good publicity," she said.
Rockmacher added that it wasn't a difficult decision to choose Schenectady as the city in which to open her business.
"It's safe and there are a lot of small businesses," she said. "I grew up in Schenectady and it's an up-and-coming city."
Matt Mazzone, owner of Aperitivo Bistro, said customers are comparing Soup Stroll to Chowderfest in Saratoga Springs, which will be held Feb. 3.
"There's starting to be a comparison of the cities and I'm glad to see that it's finally happening," he said of Schenectady and Saratoga Springs. "There are a lot of options in Schenectady."
Mazzone said the Soup Stroll is a fun event for his staff.
"It gives people a chance to try our food and look at our menu," he said. "Anything you do to give more exposure to your business is a good thing."
Firestone 151 took first place and was given the event’s Golden Tureen for its New England clam chowder. The Silver Spoon was awarded to Aperitivo Bistro for its portobello and white truffle zuppa, and the Bronze Ladle was given to Johnny's for its lasagna soup.