It is impossible to think of any good meal, no matter how plain or elegant, without soup or bread in it," the legendary food writer M.F.K. Fischer once wrote. That philosophy is fully embraced at Susy's Soup & Deli, a casual downtown eatery that has been serving homemade soups for nine years, including two and a half years at its home in Tower City.
Along with their specialty sandwiches, fresh salads, chili, and breakfast wraps, Susy's soups have customers lining up out the door. And why not? Chicken dumpling, creamy tomato tortellini, Italian wedding soup, clam chowder: The very names are ambrosial.
Diners are drawn to Susy's by the soup and sandwiches, but the attentive service keeps them coming back.
"We do everything with love," says general manager Dave Long. "We want to be the best at what we do. We use good-quality ingredients, and the bread is baked fresh every day."
The soup is made one kettle at a time, the flavor locked in with a "quick chill" process. Healthy food is a priority; everything on the menu is made without MSG or preservatives, and vegetarian, fat-free, and gluten-free options are available.
Susy's was founded 12 years ago by Michael Sharpe, an owner in the 1980s of Cleveland's popular Sharpy's Subs. He wanted to shift his culinary focus to soups, and after searching for a name for the new venture, decided to christen it in honor of his young daughter.
The first Susy's Soups was in North Olmsted. The restaurant then took up residence in the Park Building on Public Square before accepting an offer to open on the fountain level of Tower City. (Susy's also has an Express location in the Halle Building.) The long lines attest to Susy's success. "In a bad economy, we've had consistent growth," Long says.
While soup is paramount, the salads, chili, and sandwiches — corned beef, smoked turkey, reubens, chicken salad — enjoy devoted followings too. "The most popular is our grilled cheese," Long says. "People get addicted to it."
Susy's also has a busy catering business, providing crockpot soups, deli trays, wrap trays, and boxed lunches for events large and small. With all the changes happening around Public Square, dinner hours may also be added.
Susy's is guided by a love of Cleveland and a strong belief in giving back to the community. "We don't really publicize our charitable work," says Long, noting that the restaurant's outreach efforts include a monthly feeding for Laura's Home, the City Mission shelter for women and children in crisis. Susy's also supports the efforts of St. Malachi, donates 40 gallons of soup to feed a youth group, and participates in the annual Market Under Glass benefit for Harvest for Hunger. "We see ourselves as part of the community, part of Cleveland's rebirth," Long says. "We're trying to do something good."