SCHENECTADY -- The 4th annual Schenectady Soup Stroll drew thousands of participants to downtown on Saturday, organizers say.
From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., long lines of people stood waiting outside restaurants and bars downtown in 20-degree temperatures to get a sample of the soups being offered.
In all, 26 businesses participated, each offering 3-ounce soup servings for $1. Owners and managers at the businesses could often be seen collecting fat stacks of cash near their entrances as the hundreds of strollers paraded through.
The event, organized by the Downtown Schenectady Improvement Corporation, asked participants who sampled at least 10 soups to vote for their favorite soup.
Interviewed at midday, Jeremy Ganisin, Johnny's vice president of operations, said his restaurant's soup was based on its top-selling appetizers -- Johnny's Nachos.
"Johnny's Nachos, traditionally, are large sheets of pasta that we make in-house; we fry, and then we put in sausage crumbles; there's a cheese sauce that goes over the top with diced red onions, tomatoes, olives and hot peppers with a little bruschetta kind of topping — and we basically turned that into a cream-based Alfredo soup with the sausage crumbles with mini-pasta chips," he said.
Ganisin said there were several categories of winners for the soup stroll, and he liked his chances.
"I'm feeling pretty confidence from the feedback we've been getting. We had some people wait in line twice," he said.
Ganisin's confidence proved justified, with Johnny's Nacho soup ranking third overall among the 26 soups in the contest.
Second place went to 20 North Broadway Tavern for its Roasted Poblano Corn Chowder, and the first place "2019 Soup Stroll Souperstar” title went to 151 Bar & Restaurant for its Maryland Crab Chowder.
Soup strollers Rachel Brown, Sara Nellis, Lindsay Nellis and Hailey Williams, all of Rotterdam, said they decided to attend the soup stroll as a "mom's day out" without their children, or husbands.
"We come to soup event every year, this is our fourth year. It's so fun to get out," Sara Nellis said.
"We're all mom's, so this is our one day out," Lindsay Nellis said.
"That's why we stopped having kids," Hailey Williams quipped.
Lindsay Nellis said her favorite soup so far had to be the Mad Jack Bacon Cheese Soup at Pinhead Susan's. The women said they were also looking forward to the Buffalo Chicken Wing Soup at Bombers Burrito Bar.
"I've found out about a lot of restaurants I didn't even know about down here," Sara Nellis said.
"And it gets bigger and better every year. When we first came four years ago, half the size," Lindsay Nellis said.
In addition to the popular vote, a group of special guest judges from the Yelp Albany Elite Member community rated participating restaurants’ soup creations. Judges’ picks were:
- Golden Tureen (1st Place): Mad Jack Brewing Co. @ The Van Dyck, Pale Potato Pancake Soup Infused w/Mad Jack Pale Ale
- Silver Spoon (2nd Place): Aperitivo Bistro, Chicken Parmigiano Soup
- Bronze Ladle (3rd Place): Ruggiero’s Pizza, Deli & Catering @ Jay St. Pub, Chicken & Sausage Gumbo
City of Amsterdam
The city of Amsterdam on Saturday held its first citywide SoupFest from noon to 6 p.m. with about 20 businesses participating.
The event included a "soup shuttle" provided by the Sentinel of Amsterdam, Assisted Living Community.
"It's been incredible," said Danielle Whelly, assistant director of recreation for the city of Amsterdam. "Anytime you do an event for the first time, you don't know what to expect, but we were very pleasantly surprised with the amount of businesses and organizations that wanted to sign up and participate. A lot of places have already run out of soup before I had a chance to try them all."
Amsterdam's Soupfest includes two trophies, one for top soup at a restaurant and one for best soup for non-restaurants participating in the event. Whelly said many of the soup recipes were more unique than she could have anticipated when she helped organize the event.
"Sharpshooters Billiards & Sports Pub had a Mexican street corn soup, which, I've had Mexican street corn before, but turned into a soup — that was really good. At the Polish American Veterans Club they had a kielbasa, bean and beer with the soup. There's just been a ton of good ones," she said.