This New York City-based soup-and-sandwich chain should make Panera nervous

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Hollis Johnson

As winter settles in and temperatures drop, nothing beats the chill quite like a hot, comforting meal.

And for those on the go, Panera Bread is a likely stop to warm up with a hearty soup or sandwich – even with its dystopic plans to automate service.

But in New York City, there’s another option: Hale and Hearty.

From its first location in the Upper East Side nearly 20 years ago, Hale and Hearty has grown to 33 locations in the city and nearby Long Island, and opened its first outpost in Boston in 2015.

Steaming savory soups are the chain’s main focus – some seasonal and some menu mainstays – and it also offers a variety of sandwiches made with locally baked bread.

With its first foray outside the NYC market, Hale and Hearty is testing the waters for expansion. I decided to visit one of the chain’s locations to see if it had what it takes to be successful nationwide, and make Panera nervous.


With over 30 locations in New York City, it’s easy to find a Hale and Hearty. I visited the one at 29th Street and Park Avenue.

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Hollis Johnson

The ordering process is divided: Those ordering soups and sandwiches go in one line, while those wanting custom salads go in another.

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Hollis Johnson

The soup menu is extensive, offering both seasonal varieties like Yucatan chicken lime and orzo, and more year-round options like tomato basil and rice.

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Hollis Johnson

The sandwich display is mouthwatering. All the sandwiches are halved, and you can easily buy a soup-and-sandwich combo.

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Hollis Johnson

The custom-salad option is great, too. First you choose the base greens — spinach, field greens, or romaine.

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Hollis Johnson

Then you go through the salad-bar options, picking what you want for toppings and dressings.

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Hollis Johnson

Because it’s a rainy, gloomy day, I decide to go for the soup-and-sandwich options instead. Simply tell the counter staff what you want, and they ladle the piping hot soup out for you.

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Hollis Johnson

This location is pretty busy around lunchtime, but the line moves smoothly.

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Hollis Johnson

Soon, I’m sitting down with my meal: a small cup of cream of tomato soup with chicken and orzo, a small cup of lobster mac and cheese, and half a mozzarella-tomato-and-basil sandwich.

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Hollis Johnson

The creamy tomato soup smells so aromatic and flavorful, I can’t wait to try it.

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Hollis Johnson

True to its name, the soup is incredibly creamy. It’s not as savory as one expects a tomato soup to be — it’s slightly sweet, even. The soup isn’t very chunky, as the chicken is shredded and the orzo is small, but it makes for an incredibly good and hearty soup. I immediately wish I ordered a large.

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Hollis Johnson

The soup comes with a choice of bread, if you want it; I went for a nice slice of sourdough. It’s spongy, light, and has the perfectly slight sour taste to it.

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Hollis Johnson

Next, I try the sandwich. I ordered a combo of a small soup and half a sandwich for $8.59, which is a pretty good deal. The tomato-and-mozzarella sandwich is remarkably fresh, and the basil is delightfully fragrant.

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Hollis Johnson

A simple sandwich, for sure, but a very well done one. Even the ciabatta bread is fantastic. The amount of tomato and mozzarella is pretty good — no skimping, but the sandwich isn’t overwhelmed and soggy either.

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Hollis Johnson

Finally, I get to the lobster mac and cheese. At $6.79 for a small, this is a seasonal special — and it seems to be a trendy item this year in general.

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Hollis Johnson

The cheese sauce makes it a rather soupy affair, but the viscosity of mac and cheese is a personal preference best left alone. The flavors come together nicely: It’s naturally cheesy without any hint of fake flavoring, and the lobster is mild and briny. I will say, however, that the whole thing runs on the salty side.

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Hollis Johnson

With a variety of choices, Hale and Hearty runs the gamut of comfort foods as well as more exotic fare. The portions are adequate, and the prices are quite good. Panera Bread may be seeing some competition on the horizon.

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Hollis Johnson