'Soup Nazi' shop that inspired 'Seinfeld' reopens
NYC spot returns after six years, hawking $20 cups of soupNEW YORK -- The bisque is back.
The soup stand that inspired the Soup Nazi episode on "Seinfeld" reopened in midtown Manhattan on Tuesday, six years after its famously brusque owner, Al Yeganeh, shut it down and licensed his recipes to a franchising company.
More than 100 people were waiting in line for the noon reopening of the tiny storefront, including a few regulars who remembered the days when Yeganeh ladled broth and imposed discipline from behind the cramped counter.
Much about the shop was the same as in the days before "Seinfeld" made the place famous, including its strict ordering rules, now posted in nine languages.
"THE LINE MUST BE KEPT MOVING. Pick the soup you want! Have your money ready! Move to the extreme left after ordering!"
But some things are different.
Yeganeh neither owns nor operates the store now. Like other Original SoupMan stores around the country, it is a franchise, although company President Robert Bertrand said Yeganeh remains involved in the business.
"He's not going back there to dish out the soup, but he is still the heart of the company," Bertrand said. "He still has a key. He handpicked the operator. His soups are his babies."
There is even a webcam that allows Yeganeh to keep tabs on the place during business hours, Bertrand said.
Soup in Yeganeh's kitchen used to be made on the spot, with ingredients so fresh and abundant, the line often stretched around the corner. Now, they are produced in a commercial kitchen and available frozen in select grocery stores.
They are also more expensive: An extra-large cup of the crab bisque costs $20. A small cup costs $7. But to some, the soup is splurge-worthy.
"This line, this is normal," said longtime Hell's Kitchen resident Larry Cappelli, who arrived an hour early in hopes of getting his first taste of the bisque in six years. "It's awesome. I've waited in the rain. In the snow. It's worth it."
Yeganeh, who has become media shy in recent years, stayed away from the grand reopening.
In past interviews, he has dismissed the "Seinfeld" episode as an unfair character assassination, bristled at what he calls the N-word and ridiculed Jerry Seinfeld as "an idiot clown."
For this reason, customers at the Original SoupMan shouldn't expect anyone to shout "No soup for you!" if they don't move left after ordering.
Indeed, some longtime fans of Yeganeh said the whole "Nazi" thing was overblown.
"The guy worked like a dog. He didn't charge enough for the soup. It was, like, $2.50 a cup when he started," recalled Mark Hoffman, whose company manages a building in the neighborhood. "And he was always a nice guy. Humble."
As for Yeganeh's no-show at the launch, Bertrand said it wasn't a surprise.
"That's his mystique. But I wouldn't be surprised if he was watching from a window up there," he said, pointing at an apartment building across the street.