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Try a soup - or 12 - at Zoup!

The fast-casual restaurant Zoup! notes 1997 as its inception date. It now has more than 88 franchise locations in the U.S. and Canada.

Our area’s Zoup! is in Orchard Park in the Crossroads Centre (the Tops/Lowe’s plaza). With a Moe’s Southwest Grill, Wendy’s, Tim Hortons plus local fave Taffy’s nearby, Zoup! finds itself competing for dining dollars.

The concept, of course, is soup, along with salads and sandwiches.

Guests can sample soups before committing. Twelve daily soups rotate with the exception of lobster bisque and chicken potpie, which are always available. Soups might be curry Thai chicken, hearty beef, tomato basil, potato cheddar and the like.

Soups are labeled: LF for low fat, DF for dairy-free, V for vegetarian, S for spicy and GF for gluten-free ingredients. “Enlightened” soups are under 175 calories; salads and sandwiches are under 350. Soups range from an 8-ounce side and 12-ounce cup to a 16-ounce bowl and the “XL” 32-ounce container. (Soup can be ordered in a “Bread Boule,” too.)

Prices vary depending on the soup and size. Lobster bisque and the Maryland crab (available on our visit) are more expensive, ranging from a $5.25 side to $13.50 XL. Simple tomato basil costs from $4.65 to $11.95 XL.

Sandwiches are available on bread or wrap. Southwest turkey, maple ham and bacon, and turkey club come whole ($6.95-$7.95) or half ($4.95-$6.75). Salads include Cobb, chicken Caesar, Greek, Asian, Sonoma (romaine, spring mix, gorgonzola, almonds) and Power Quinoa (romaine, feta, kale quinoa, brown rice and vegetables). Half-sizes start at $4.95; full at $7.95. The Loco Burrito wrap (listed under salads) has romaine, grilled chicken, cheddar and avocado ($5.95/$7.75).

Ordering can be hectic and confusing.

“TRYTWO!” combo meals combine a half sandwich or salad with soup side. Prices vary depending on what you combine. Upgrade to a cup of soup for 99 cents or a bowl for $1.99. A “Double Up” combo nets you two soups with bread. Lots to think about.

The register gal rattled off bread choices and asked if we wanted to upgrade soups a little too fast (and we were the only ones in line).

In the end we ordered a TRYTWO! with chicken tortilla soup and half pesto three-cheese sandwich ($8.20), a side of sesame noodle soup ($4.50) and a full chicken Caesar ($6.95).

First the soups. While tasty, they could have been hotter. The sesame noodle was OK, with some chicken, water chestnuts, scallions and thin soba noodles. A little ginger or sesame oil would have given the mild broth more Asian flair. It wasn’t bad, just bland.

The chicken tortilla was much better with chicken and vegetables in a spicy tomato broth. Because of the smaller size, the tortillas were small squares rather than longer strips, as in a traditional recipe. Still they retained crisp texture.

The pesto three-cheese sandwich was OK, with a nice slathering of garlicky basil pesto and melted cheese on a nicely toasted baguette. The tomatoes were slices of the anemic versions available now and didn’t add much by way of taste or texture.

The chicken Caesar was a large box of fresh romaine, chunks of chicken and a healthy dose of Parmesan and croutons. Dressing came on the side. A plus.

And we got bread. Lots of it, as each soup and the salad came with rolls. But they were good and fresh. Real butter is available at the counter. All in all, one could make a meal out of just soup and a roll here. Taste before you buy and you’ll be all set.

Zoup!

Where: 3217 Southwestern Blvd., Orchard Park (Crossroads Centre); zoup.com

Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday; noon to 6 p.m. Sunday

What: Fast casual restaurant that serves 12 soups daily.

More: Online ordering and pick up.

Accessible: Yes

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