I LOVE the Soup Meister. Oh, that came out wrong. Let me rephrase that. I like The Soup Meister and I admire his soups. Until recently, my bashfulness prevented me from speaking a word to German-born chef and Soup Meister, Ralf Dauns. Then Simon Hughes and I went on an assignment to peek into the family-run business pots.
What: The Soup Meister, a soup diner in Lonsdale Quay
Who: Founder and Chef Proprietor, Ralf A. Dauns
When: Since 1995. 20 year anniversary in October 2015. Wow!
Where: Northwest corner of Lonsdale Quay Market (103-124 Carrie Cates Ct.)
Why do we love them?
Full disclosure up front: I remember being enchanted by the discovery of The Soup Meister when moving to Lower Lonsdale three years ago. The name of the establishment instinctively promised me three assets:
- The German word “Meister” – meaning “Master craftsman” – indicated to me: quality German engineering.
- It also involuntarily aroused my German loyalty with promising a nostalgic, comforting, tasty and warm hug from my grandma’s kitchen.
- The nutritionist within me also gave thumbs up for a healthy fast food option at a reasonable price.
When Simon and I meet The Soup Meister we had to get in line. Ralf was busy relocating buckets of soup into a giant cooler. He asked us to sit down on the high stools at the stand. But not without inviting us to taste some soup first. We kindly declined, even though delicious scents waft through the air. It was around 1pm and hungry worker bees from ICBC and other local business were pining for their lunch.
When Ralf plows his way to us he shakes hands, distributes hugs and gets pats on the back from people passing by. I get introduced to his sister-in-law and his “old” neighbor, who is actually not old in age at all. There are cheers and smiles and hungry customers get served without the need of actually saying what they want. The Soup Meister crew just knows.
It’s like coming to a big family dinner with the choice of chicken noodle, Boston clam chowder, Thai shrimp curry or tomato basil. While some recipes are based on European traditions, others are seasonal or based on dietary preferences like gluten free. There is one option for every taste. If not on the daily menu than you‘ll find what your taste buds desire in the fridge or freezer.
Why Lower Lonsdale?
Lower Lonsdale is Ralf’s hood. He works where he and his family live. Who else can say that they are able to walk to work? He disembarked in North Vancouver when he first moved to Canada in 1991 and has never lived anywhere else. He loves the small town feeling, the community, the beauty of the waterfront and the always-changing appearance of Lower Lonsdale.
What drives your small business?
95% of The Soup Meister’s customers are regulars. They are served and fed by 20+ young, local and enthusiastic staff members. Chris, the handsome man in the black chef jacket and Ralf’s right hand man, is his most loyal employee of 15 years.
And that is what friends of the Soup Meister appreciate: consistency & community
- The reliability in the quality of the soups.
- Where else can you watch the employees chopping up vegetables and preparing ingredients in front of the customers?
- Familiar, friendly faces behind the counter.
- Soup lovers are valued and recognized as a member of The Soup Meister family. Some of them even seem to have an influence on the menu.
Ralf also relishes giving back. Instead of investing into extensive advertising, he contributes coupons to raffles and involves locals. That’s illustrated in picking his suppliers or hiring a local artist to refurbish the blank wall above the counter.