matzo ball soup

Souped Up

The matzo balls at Philadelphia’s Rooster Soup Co. are more than just delicious. They’re also helping eliminate food waste.

Funded through Kickstarter, fueled by leftover chicken, and staffed by volunteers, Rooster Soup Co. is a hybrid creature that just also happens to be one of the top tables in Philadelphia.

It started with James Beard Award–winning chef Michael Solomonov’s Federal Donuts, which turns out doughnuts like strawberry-lavender and banana cream pie, but also addictive gourmet fried chicken. All that chicken, though, had a downside: Every week, they found themselves with more than 500 pounds of unused chicken parts. So, in January, Federal Donuts partnered with the nonprofit Broad Street Ministry and opened Rooster Soup Co., a retro- chic luncheonette, to turn that chicken into soup.

This isn’t your ordinary diner- style chicken noodle. We’re talking smoked matzo ball soup, made with schmaltz and fresh turmeric, that locals slurp down at the long counter and banquette seating. (Plastic-covered menus are a knowing nod toward old-school authenticity.) The luncheonette serves lunch and dinner (plus breakfast on the weekends), with Solomonov’s signature touches seen in a Yemenite chicken pot pie and a BLT that subs in a potato latke for lettuce. But the soup, which Solomonov calls “the ultimate comfort food,” is the star of the show.

One-hundred percent of the profits go to Broad Street Ministry, which provides social services and meals for Philadelphia’s most vulnerable citizens, in a neat—and waste-free—circle of food.

Photography by Michael Persico

Originally Published July 2017