‘Soupers’ South Side takeover

Jack Morgan | Staff Photographer | Sly Fox's Nick Miller serves the brewery's award-winning Chicken Tuscany Soup in Zeds thrift store.

Eliyahu Gasson | Opinions Editor

The 19th annual South Side Soup Contest on Saturday gave attendees, known as “Soupers,” the opportunity to crawl through Pittsburgh’s South Side Flats neighborhood.

The event featured a total of 20 businesses, each paired with a, restaurant serving soup.

For example, soupers could visit Thick Bikes shop, where Mario’s South Side Saloon was inside serving up Spicy Poblano Soup.

Soupers were required to purchase tickets at least one day before the event took place. They had the option of purchasing $50 base tickets or $100 VIP tickets, which came with the added perks of a 2024 Soup Contest t-shirt, a free cocktail and access to a VIP reception brunch an hour before the contest started at Carmella’s Plates & Pints.

Ticket sales went to benefit the South Side Chamber of Commerce and the Brashear Association, a social services nonprofit active in south Pittsburgh.

Andrea Matthews, the executive director of the Brashear Association, told The Duke that the soup contest came about in 2005 with the goal of promoting South Side businesses and bringing attention to food insecurity.

“They [original organizers] wanted a way to showcase South Side businesses, showcase the support the South Side businesses give to the Brashear Association and also the Chamber [of Commerce],” Matthews said. “It’s fun to vote on the five categories.”

Soupers were encouraged to not only explore the South Side and try different soups, but to also vote on their favorites. The five categories included: people’s choice overall best soup, people’s choice runner up, best vegetarian/vegan, most unique and best host.

Adam Lewin is the assistant general manager at Sly Fox Brewing Company, which won the people’s choice award last year. Lewin expressed the confidence of his restaurant’s entry into the contest this year.

“This year our entry is a kind of tuscany play on that ‘Marry Me’ chicken viralness that’s going around,” Lewin said, referencing a viral TikTok recipe from user Gimme Delicious. “It’s chicken, sun dried tomatoes, spinach and cream. It has really nice, big umami flavors.

Lewin also expressed his enthusiasm for the event as a community showcase.

“We’re just excited to be a part of this,” Lewin said. “We want to continue going and helping build up the South Side and get it back to what it used to be.”

Sly Fox was serving soup out of thrift store Zed’s on East Carson Street.

According to Zed’s owner Zack Edgar, this was his business’s first year serving as a stop in the soup contest. He’s happy to be a part of an event that shows the South Side in a positive light.

“The more good daytime activities, the better,” Edgar said. “That shines a good light on the South Side. We are here everyday and we see that it’s a good place to be and we love being here.”

Christina Pusz, owner of Pittsburgh Primary Eyecare, another stop in the soup contest, seconded Edgar’s enthusiasm around showcasing the South Side.

“It’s a way to bring the community together and it’s an opportunity for us to collaborate with a restaurant down the street, which we love,” Pusz said. “It’s also a way for people to just come in and see our practice, and see our business and to meet us.”

Pittsburgh Primary Eyecare served a corn chowder from Le Petit Cafe & Grille a few doors down from their office.

Owner of Le Petit Cafe, Amanda Bundy, has been serving soup for the contest for around six years. She says she started participating as a way to showcase her food during a transition period for her restaurant, which formerly only sold chocolate and now serves traditional cafe fare like fresh pastries, omelets and sandwiches.

“We decided that a soup contest would be a great way to expose to everybody that we do more than just sweets,” Bundy said.

South Side resident Ryan McElroy has been a souper since 2009 and says he has participated in almost every contest.

“It was the first time we moved into the South Side. We did the soup contest and it was a great introduction [to the neighborhood],” McElroy said.

Garfield resident Lisa Caprera is a second year “souper.” She heard about the event while working at a local bakery. Caprera had to wait before attending her first soup contest due to Covid-19 lockdowns.

“And then as soon as it came back, I was ready,” Caprera said. “I love the soup contest. It’s great and it’s wonderful.”

The winners for this year’s South Side Soup Contest were announced on the South Side Soup Contest’s Facebook page Sunday.

Margittai Architects, who were serving soup from The Library on Carson, won best host. The Speckled Egg hosted by COhatch was voted best veggie. The award for most unique soup went to Carmella’s Plates & Pints, who’s soup was served in Farmers National Bank. Copies At Carson, Inc. hosted Twelve Whiskey Barbeque, who’s soup was the people’s choice runner up.

Lewin’s Sly Fox Brewing Company, hosted by Zed’s, won the people’s choice award, making this the second year in a row they have won the contest in the second year they have submitted a soup into the contest.

“We loved everything about the day,” Lewin said in a follow up interview after his restaurant’s win. “Our biggest take away is just that Pittsburgh still loves its neighborhoods and not going to let it go.”