We Chat With: Chugger Lupo of Soups In the Loop, Chicago's Soup Truck
Chugger Lupo, the owner of Chicago's one and only soup food truck, Soups In The Loop says it was a case of the sniffles that inspired his food truck.
"All I know is that last winter I got sick and was in need of some good soup. I went looking and couldn't find it. So I sat down with my partner and decided to bring my mother's soups to the windy streets of Chicago."
Chugger, whose real name is Charles Gregory ("Some of my best friends couldn't tell you that.") launched the truck in late spring when most food trucks make their killing. He found himself selling soup through the summer on some of the hottest days of the year. Thankfully for Chugger, the truck survived by selling not only the soup (which mind you, did sell quite well), but also salads with heirloom dressings, and sliders on homemade bread.
Now autumn, it's finally time for chili, chowder, bisque, and stew. The Soups In the Loop menu changes daily, but usually includes classics like cream of mushroom, split pea, and French onion, along with specialties a "Wild Card" chili. All that being said, I think it's time we meet Chugger Lupo and his soup truck, Soups In the Loop.
Is there a crazy story behind the nickname Chugger? No. One day my parents called me Chugger and it stuck with me. It wasn't a nickname I earned in college nor are there any consumption stories tied to it...although there are quite a few as a result of it.
Are you from Chicago? I was born and raised in Indianapolis, but raised a Bears, Bulls, and Hawks fan, so Chicago has always felt like home. I attended Indiana University. (Go Hoosiers!!) and came to Chicago in pursuit of a breathtaking beauty I had the good fortune of meeting while at school.
What is your favorite thing about this city? The best thing about Chicago is the food. Nowhere else can you find such a rich, diverse selection. With some of the worlds' top chefs minutes away, foodies can really get there fill.
What made you decide to start a soup truck? I am a soup enthusiast. I think is due mainly to my near and dear mother. We have always had big family Thanksgivings and every year my mom would prepare three to five savory soups with homemade bread for the family to eat the day before while the feast was prepared. It was something she could make ahead of time and would be good all day. For the truck, we used my family recipes as a foundation, and modified and expanded as the business grew and the demand changed.
How do you feel about the proposed parking stations? The new proposed parking stations would be nice. It would give us more opportunities to branch out in highly populated areas and grow our business with new customers. We however are not affected by the new ordinances to cook on the truck. Our soups take hours to prepare so cooking on the truck wouldn't make sense.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking of starting a truck in Chicago? Would you do it all over again? It's been a bumpy road with highs and a share of lows. There is not a blueprint to follow or a manual to reference. You don't have a superior to turn to or a subordinate to blame. But not everyone can say they started their own business, and we are proud of what we have started and optimistic about our growth potential.
A lot of people claim that there are healing properties in soup. Do you have any soups that are especially made to warm up with on a cold day? My favorite soup and our staple is Chicken Wild Rice. It is a great soup that I grew up on. It's no surprise that it's constantly our best seller. Also, look for our Wildcard Chili to keep you warm on the cold winter nights to come.
Is there anything else besides soup on the menu? We carry a classic Caesar Salad, a House Salad, and Buffalo Chicken Salad Sliders to go along with our soups. Our salad dressings are all made from scratch and you can taste the time and effort that goes into them. Some of our dressings include Caesar (based on a 30 year old recipe), basil vinaigrette, raspberry vinaigrette, ranch, and chunky blue cheese.
Most food trucks usually experience a slow-down in the winter months. Do you think the fact that you serve warm soup will help? Or do you think you will still be working against cold weather? Time will tell. Our goal was to provide the perfect lunch for corporate America—a soup and salad that will leave you satisfied and energized ready to tackle the afternoon! This will be our first winter of operation, and I don't know about you, but nothing sounds better to me on a cold winter's day than a hot bowl of soup. And, the chili we will be rolling out are worth braving the elements I assure you. For those who will not want to go outside, call us for a catering order. Whether its a corporate luncheon, a Holiday Party, or a Birthday Extravaganza we can be there to fill you up!
Soups In the Loop
Soups In the Loop hits scheduled stops weekly. Lupo can also be found at a variety of street fests and booked privately for catering, wedding events, and corporate parties or luncheons. Find out more about Soups In the Loop via its website or on Facebook or Twitter.