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The Soup Palette returns to Durango

Soup and sandwich shop resurrected in the form of a food truck
Jenni Gross prepares soups at The Soup Palette, which is now a food truck parked at the Powerhouse Science Center. The previous incarnation of the eatery was a brick-and-mortar soup and sandwich shop on Rivergate Lane.

Like a Renaissance fresco receiving a fresh restoration, a favorite Durango restaurant has been restored – albeit in a different form – after fading away for a time.

Before it closed in January 2019, The Soup Palette was a hidden gem. The soup and sandwich restaurant eatery ran out of a brick-and-mortar shop at 555 Rivergate Lane, next to Animas Surgical Hospital, until the building it was in was sold. Afterward, Jenni Gross, owner of the restaurant, continued selling her food at the Sunnyside Farms Market and worked as a private chef.

Gross serves two of her soups, a posole and a Moroccan lentil soup, from inside The Soup Palette food truck.

But the restaurant is back, now as a food truck parked next to the Powerhouse Science Center for the foreseeable future.

Gross was a decorative painter for 25 years, until three surgeries on her hand put an end to that career and she moved into catering. She then won first in the red chili grand prize in the 2013 Snowdown Chili Cookoff and eventually caught the attention of the man who owned the building on Rivergate Lane. He suggested that Gross start a soup restaurant there, which she did and ran for five years.

Gross said found the truck in which she has resurrected that restaurant for sale in California – where it previously held 12 soup kettles and was parked behind The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Though the truck is from 1987, the kitchen had just been rebuilt and was less than a year old. The truck has needed quite a bit of work, but Gross hopes to have it up and very mobile by the summer for catering purposes.

Gross said she decided to reopen her restaurant as a food truck because it would have lower overhead than a conventional restaurant and would allow her to mobility for the catering side of her business.

“I just love doing weddings and all that, and my whole gear was to drive to a location and do a party for, you know, two days,” she said.

She said that once the truck is fully up and running, it will have the exact same menu as The Soup Palette did before it left. To begin with, though, she will have four sandwiches (named after painters, naturally), two salads, and a meat and a vegetarian soup at any given time.

“It wasn’t broken,” Gross said of her restaurant’s menu. “I don’t want to break it. I’ve got people calling about the Dali Salami every day.”

The food truck that currently houses The Soup Palette was previously parked behind The Ellen Show in Los Angeles.

Gross sources a lot of her food from local farms, including the Tierra Vida Farm in Durango, the Adobe House farm in Hermosa and Long Table Farm in Hesperus, she said.

Opening the food tuck in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t been the easiest endeavor, she said. Gross quit her job as a private chef and took out loans for the truck at the beginning of March of last year – just weeks before the pandemic hit Colorado. Since then, the process of opening the food truck has been plagued by delays.

Jenni Gross said the new food truck will eventually have a menu identical to the old Soup Palette, but the menu will be a bit condensed at the start.

“It’s been a very hard year. But then again, I feel like I’ve been a little lucky because I didn’t lose my restaurant, I didn’t have to put people out because it was just me,” she said.

And it appears that her luck may be improving. While opening the truck, Gross bought a lotto ticket and hit four numbers to win $500, which helped her purchase the initial round of ingredients she needed to start preparing food, she said.

The Soup Palette will be open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday at 1333 Camino del Rio in Durango.


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