There’s a new restaurant in town that’s creating quite a buzz by serving food made with fresh ingredients, meats roasted in-house, and everything from soup to condiments that can be made by the owners made fresh from scratch. SoupOr Heroes, which shares a space with PersoNELLized Cakes & Café at 9 Park Pl. in Carbondale, has only been open since the end of April, yet word has spread about the delicious food available there and business is brisk.
SoupOr Heroes is owned by James Conarton and his wife, Lisa Criscera-Conarton. Lisa and James reside in Carbondale Twp. and are also owners of L. C. Solutions Wedding & Event Planning, which gave them a background they believe was the foundation for opening a restaurant.
“We’ve been in hospitality, specifically catering, since high school. We’ve worked both the front of the house and the back of the house. James specifically has been in the kitchen and has a good deal of culinary experience. This led us to believe we’d like our own place,” explained Lisa, who is expecting the couple’s first child in September.
“We wanted to start small, not jump right into a full-blown restaurant,” Lisa offered as an explanation for why they decided to build their menu around heroes and soups. Those foods also lend themselves well to a focus on fresh and homemade ingredients, both of which are things James feels passionately about.
“Our main focus is on fresh stuff, and we’ll be doing specials to see what people like and are going to eat. I also want our food to look good, so I’m working on presentation because you eat first with your eyes,” said James, who handles most of the cooking. James explained that Lisa handles other details at the restaurant, and also lends a hand in the kitchen when needed.
One example of a menu item that that started out seeming a bit exotic for the local customer base but which has quickly become a customer favorite is the banh mi hero. The banh mi is a Vietnamese-inspired hero consisting of marinated, slow-roasted pork that is shaved thin after cooking. After the pork is shaved, it is returned to its own juices to ensure that the meat retains is flavor and doesn’t become dry.
For the hero, the pork is topped with thinly-sliced cucumber, pickled daikon and carrot made by James, jalapenos, and hand-torn cilantro. James’s homemade sriracha aioli, which he describes as both spicy and sweet, is the finishing touch. “The banh mi has just as mn vegetables as there is meat,” said James.
The shaved pork for the banh mi is made fresh in the restaurant’s kitchen, as are all of the other meats with the exception of imported Italian meats for the Italian heroes. The bread used is baked on a stone hearth at a local bakery and is available with or without sesame seeds. Other subs offered include the popular Piggie Smalls ham hero, the Mangia Mia Italian hero, and the Super Cluck, which tops chicken and Cooper cheese with sautéed mushrooms, onions, and peppers.
Delicious homemade soups are always available at SoupOr Heroes. James and Lisa rotate through a repertoire of several savory soups, usually offering two varieties every day. James starts his soups by making the stock himself from scratch, then uses fresh ingredients to create favorites like Yankee soup, which has beef, potatoes, carrots, and mushrooms like a Yankee pot roast.
“The Yankee soup is like pot roast. It’s very popular and it’s like a meal in itself,” said Lisa, adding that they typically try to serve one meat and one vegetarian soup per day. Among the recent soup offerings were ham and cabbage soup, super green soup (containing kale, arugula, spinach, basil, celery, carrots, and onion), chicken taco soup topped with cheddar cheese, and a chilled carrot and sweet potato soup.
James and Lisa emphasize that all of their sides as well as the freshly prepared salads, the paninis, the sauces and condiments, and even the beverages at SoupOr Heroes are fresh, homemade, and contain no preservatives. Nothing at the restaurant is deep fried, and there isn’t even a fryer in the kitchen.
“We have healthy beverage options. We have cold brewed teas, with rotating flavors and no sweetener. They’re a good alternative to soda. Even my 90-year-old-grandmotehr who puts spoons of sugar in tea doesn’t because they’re fruit-sweetened,” remarked Lisa. James added, “Sometimes healthy stuff can taste good. It doesn’t have to taste bad!”
Lisa and James are happy that people are already spreading the word about SoupOr Heroes and are gratified by the number of repeat customers they have and by the reviews folks have been leaving on the restaurant’s Facebook page. They’re also proud to be one of the establishments that are helping to make the City of Carbondale into place where people can find a variety of businesses to meet their needs.
“A lot of people ask us why we opened this business in Carbondale. We say it’s because we like Carbondale and want to see it grow and do well,” stated Lisa. “We moved away for a while and came back. We want to invest our time and money in Carbondale and raise our family here.”
SoupOr Heroes is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. Diners can eat in or get their food to go. The SoupOr Heroes menu, the soups of the day, and specials are available on the SoupOr Heroes Facebook page or by calling (570) 280-2500.