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Souplantation Trauma

One of my relatives chose to go HERE, out of all the places offered in Los Angeles County to go to for a birthday dinner!

You know you're not at the right place for food when...

-there are TWO hand sanitizer dispenser-stands when you walk in.
-children under 5 who have not had their d-tap vaccine are hacking all over the food.
-you stand for 20 minutes in a line resembling something out of a Russian gulag as your salad wilts even more.
-you have to listen to Justin Bieber being blasted out of a 10-year old's i-phone at the table next to you. For an hour.
-you can't even get a BEER, for Crissakes!

Why, my fellow Chowhounds? Why oh why?
If you have had a similar Souplantation experience, unburden yourselves below.

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    1. re: olyolyy

      The onion soup is OK.
      But a good soup is so easy to make at home.

      This relative's first choice was Tokyo Wako, but I managed to talk her out of it. So I should be grateful. :)

    2. Sounds like the hand sanitizer is the high point and clearly needed given the hacking children. I don't care for that place at all but as far as the hand sanitizer goes, look at it like a cruise ship. If you find yourself dining at a buffet with the masses, hand sanitizer will be the best thing on offer.

      1. Went twice, not by my choice, totally horriffic. Quality isn't allowed in the building!

        1 Reply
        1. re: treb

          Yes! Horrific is the right word!
          Thank you, my fellow Chowhound.

        2. Never been! Is it anything like Jason's deli?

          I suppose I would rather have the patrons use sanitizer before touching universal serving implements if it is a self-serve setup, but I agree that it's mere presence would make me rethink the cleanliness of such a setup.

          One of the self-serve froyo shops near me has in its instructions 1) sanitize your hands, 2) choose a cup, etc.

          1. Well, I would point out that Sweet Tomatoes is designed to be a child-friendly restaurant for parents to bring kids for a simple, inexpensive meal. They feature kid friendly foods and tend to make them more bland so that kids will eat them. I wouldn't have selected that place for an adult birthday dinner. There is the expectation of having lots of children around, dining, playing and chatting; not a quiet dinner atmosphere with adult cocktails being served.

            I enjoy getting take out from there occasionally, its cheap and the salad stuff at my location is generally very fresh. The soups are very good - nothing gourmet or extrodinary that I couldnt make at home, but its nice when I'm too busy.

            Edited to add: I think its nice they provide hand sanitizer for parents to have their kids clean up as they walk in before dinner. I'd rather that than nothing! And have you ever tried taking several children into a public restroom to wash their hands, touching all the germy stuff in there?

            2 Replies
            1. re: Mellicita

              fwiw,
              as a working single mom, i don't think i would have made it through the early days without souplantation.

              it's true, now that my kid has grownup, i don't go there anymore, but i am still grateful that they took care of almost all the cooking during the early elementary school years.

              the schedule of a working, single, mom is a perilous thing.
              no time to shop. no time to cook an adult meal AND a child's meal. the child's food is eaten in such small portions that most it will rot if you try to get it from the supermarket.. . . .

              the word from me is: GRATITUDE.

              1. re: westsidegal

                I understand: for me it's one kid who's a vegetarian (and dislikes beans and most vegetables) and another who should probably open his own bar-b-que joint when he grows up! Without my crockpot, Trader Joe's, and a weekly pizza night, I'd completely lose my mind. :)

            2. We eat at Sweet Tomatoes. I've never been traumatized. You can customize raw veggies into your choice of salad, choose your preferred carb, and find a soup that will sort of fit into your current diet plan.

              You can eat pretty healthily there, although I note that many customers do not look particularly healthy.

              Fine cuisine it is not, but I like it for lunch and for when I've eaten too much heavier fare but don't feel like cooking. A line in a Russian gulag, it is not. Its the kind of place where, if someone's Iphone is getting to you, you can change tables. Or politely ask the kid turn it down.

              And you didn't suffer trauma either. Sheesh.

              1. My grandparents love Souplantation for lunch. They live in San Diego, and I guess there's a good senior discount. They're 92 and 87 by the way. We go there pretty much whenever we go to visit. It's not the best, no, but it's serviceable, and it makes my grandparents happy so that's all that matters really.

                2 Replies
                  1. re: Munchmouth

                    Yup, they still live independently too, the only outside help they have is a cleaning person, and my aunt will help them sometimes with errands. My grandma doesn't drive anymore but my grandpa will to run short errands and to go to church. It's really great and our family is fortunate to have them still around.

                1. As long as your relative had a nice Birthday dinner, that is all that matters. The meal was not about you, but was what they wanted.

                  When friends and relatives from the cold, frozen midwest arrive in San Diego, they ask to go to the "salad bar place". The fresh vegetables and fruit in such overwhelming amounts available all year are something they don't have access to and appreciate.

                  A hand sanitzer for each side of the salad bad makes sense; every Souplantation salad area I have been to has two sides.

                  I do avoid going there (and anywhere) when I see the line is out the door. It means seating is filled and you have to wait for tables to empty so that all those people ahead of you can be seated before finally getting a table of your own.

                  1. I'm a fan of Souplantation (or the SPT, as I like to call it). But I wouldn't expect most of my friends to go with me, as they feel the same way the OP does. I get it. It's not for everyone. But I will say this-go back in March, because thats creamy tomato soup and grilled cheese foccacia dipper month, and its awesome!!!! I also like their chocolate chip cookies that you can buy by the bag.

                    1. I go because
                      it is clean
                      decent food
                      lots of salad choices that I dont have at home.
                      I get unbelievable deals emailed to me

                      my grandkids like it and since their mother doesnt feed them ANY nutritious foods I make it my business to get veggies
                      inside of these kids.

                      People watching is great
                      there are two SP near me
                      warm chocolate cookies at dinnertime

                      No they are not CH worthy but not every place I go to has to be.

                      Side note-I tip $1.00 per person because those folks work hard and get little respect and are not well paid.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: SIMIHOUND

                        Ok, I guess going to a place because it is CLEAN and you won't get botulism makes sense, that there are vegetables and for once your grandkids won't get hot pockets for dinner makes sense (hey, I have to deal with that too in my family, don't even get me started). It's just that a really good soup is SO EASY to make at home. And if you're going out for one's birthday, why not make it special? That's all I was saying. I offered to take this relative to Babita.

                        I think we've moved away as a culture from the concept of eating out as being special. It's now an everyday event. Going to the movies is the same way as well; now that you can see a movie any ol time, you have less of the experience of being in a beautiful theater, the curtain being drawn, etc. The magic is gone. Gift cards for Christmas, sweatshirts, chewing gum at weddings...this is what we've come to.
                        (Watch: now I'll hear from all the gum chewers!)

                        1. re: Munchmouth

                          "I think we've moved away as a culture from the concept of eating out as being special"

                          You are so right. I think that's why restaurants like Sweet Tomatoes have sprung up - at least they are a healthier alternative to McDonalds or worse. (In my parents time going out to McDonalds was a special treat!! Now its more like the go-to choice when one is pressed for time and hungry)
                          A good soup is easy to make at home, but sadly many people who are working til 6:30 pm and then racing to pick up the kids from day care before 7pm don't have time to shop, chop veggies, and put together a basic soup at night.

                          However, I do still consider going out to eat at a really nice restaurant a special treat, since I cant afford to do that very often.

                        2. re: SIMIHOUND

                          Haha, I tip as well! I always leave a couple of bucks under my plate when I leave.

                        3. You should be glad to see the hand sanitiser - it's encouraging people to wipe their paws before they start handling the salad tongs that you're going to touch yourself... actually I like Sweet Tomatoes/Souplantation. They're nothing fancy, sure, but they don't pretend to be a gourmet restaurant.

                          1. Relatives and In-Laws, it's in their DNA. I always appreciate those snotty little fingers mingling amongst the troughs of slop.