Anyone who has been reading my site for awhile, or who knows me, knows how much I have taken Northstar to task for not having soup available. So it was funny when they finally started making it a few months ago - I receive a flurry of emails and text messages, pictures from iPhones and everything "Lisa!! Did you know Northstar has soup now?!!!"
Thanks, faithful readers. It took me awhile to get to Northstar to try out their new soup, and in the meantime, there was a lot of hubbub over the fact that the new soup sold for around $8 a bowl. Could it possibly be worth it?
This past Saturday, for no particular reason I can think of, I was getting ready for work and then realized it was 3pm, I was ready for work, standing at the bus stop, when I realized I was over an hour ahead of time. I decided to stop off at Northstar for a little pre-work lunch and email answering.
By the way, a cup of soup is available for around $5. I ordered a veggie burger with a cup of soup instead of salad and a coffee. I think there might be a slight discount when ordered this way, because my total was $15. It is a little high for lunch, but if you consider I can only eat half of the veggie burger at once, and have the other for a mid-shift snack, then I suppose it isn't so bad.
The veggie burger was good as always; I really love the Northstar burger. How about the soup? The soup was good. Made from canned tomatoes and dosed with a good bit of olive oil, the soup tasted nice and tomato-ey. It was topped off with lots of crumbled toast bits, a little scoop of lightly spiced olive relish with basil and Parmesan. It was a tasty soup. Was it worth the price tag? I'm not sure. $5 does seem a little high, but it is a good soup. Even the best Sicilian tomatoes are only about $3 per 28 can, and that's retail, at a specialty shop. A 28 ounce can would made around four 4 ounce servings, with reduction factored in, so with toast and peripheral ingredients figuring $1 per serving (which is high), even at $3 a can, we're looking at around a 500% markup (400% profit), or a food cost of 20%. I will admit, that does seem a bit greedy. I haven't seen the bowl of soup size, so I can't say if it's worth $8 or not. But, keep in mind that I calculated these prices based upon retail, and Northstar is paying wholesale for their ingredients. Of course, I didn't factor in the labor, either, and considering there are always around 6 cooks in the kitchen, I'm guess that is mostly what you are paying for.
So, that being said, value is in the tongue of the eater. I can't say I necessarily felt ripped off by my $15 lunch, except that I forgot to eat the other half of my veggie burger at work, and my busser ate it instead, I did feel a little let down with the soup, because I felt as though I could make an equally delicious soup at home.
I like Northstar. I think their success has made them a little lazy in the idea department; I can't eat there as often as I'd like, because you can only eat the same things so many times before they grow old. If there were anything I would change, it would be expanding their menu by having around 5 specials per day, and not the same specials every day. But I suppose they might say why mess with a good thing.
info: Northstar has 2 locations: 951 N High (Short North) & 4241 N High (Beechwold)