Those who remember Betsy Penrose from her Soup Store in Rahway may be surprised to learn she is now working out of a food truck on Route 27 near Metropark.
But not to worry. The rubber chickens remain.
Two rubber chickens from Penrose’s former storefront hang in her Soup or Dogs truck, parked outside Maglione’s Italian Ices.
The Soup Store closed in 2006. Penrose made soups and bartended at the Waiting Room in Rahway and worked at Rahway City Hall and in a hot dog truck before opening Soup or Dogs on Labor Day weekend.
Gourmet or specialty food trucks have become all the rage in the past few years, with lunch trucks thriving in Jersey City, Hoboken and elsewhere. Operating a truck may sound glamorous, but acquiring one turned out to be a major headache for Penrose, who bought a truck that turned out to be a lemon from a leasing company. She returned the truck and asked for her $10,000 deposit back; the company balked. She has since filed suit.
Still sound glamorous?
Penrose couldn’t be happier with her location (Route 27 at the corner of Green Street and Oak Tree Road) or her current truck, which once operated in Edison.
And, most importantly, the soup’s still good. Her Soup Store soups were hearty concoctions, and it’s more of the same at Soup or Dogs. There are four soups every day, plus vegetarian chili; the soup lineup changes weekly.
The chicken-and-dumplings soup is seriously thick, with tasty little dumplings and tender chunks of chicken. Yummy for the tummy, especially this time of year. The tomato is not your classic tomato but a rich, red-orangey, bisque-like brew (you want classic tomato, open a can of Campbell’s).
The turkey meatball stew plays more like soup than stew, but it’s terrific; I wanted to ask for a dozen mini-meatballs and make a sandwich out of them.
Also loved the Hungarian goulash, with noodles, beef, sour cream, paprika and onions.
The vegetarian chili seemed a bit runny, but it’s meaty and mildly spicy, and recommended.
Penrose has made some 80 soups in all; others include chicken noodle, Philly cheesesteak, beef barley, stuffed cabbage, pasta fagioli, French onion, corn chowder, and beer and cheese. With Bass, if you must know.
Regular soups are $3 (8 ounces), $4 (12 ounces), $5 (16 ounces) and $10 (32 ounces). Specialty soups and vegetarian chili are $4, $5, $6 and $12 for the respective sizes.
The truck’s not heated; the only warmth is provided by the steam tables. Which brings us to the hot dogs. Penrose uses Sabrett’s all-beef natural casing. Good chili dog, but you go to the soup lady for her soups.
“It’s a fun way to make a living,” Penrose said. “I love meeting people. It’s a lot of hard work but it’s a lot less stressful without bills every day.”
Soup or Dogs
426 Route 27, Iselin.
Winter hours: 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Spring and summer hours: 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Closed Sunday.