Thanks to the Calvary Chapel, anyone in Sequim can eat a bowl of ramen for lunch Monday through Friday from 11 a.m.-2 p.m., regardless of their financial situation.
Anna Potter and David Rivers, co-managers of Soup in the Alley at 138 W. Washington St., explained that people are welcome to pay what they can: nothing; $6, the cost of providing the meal; $12, which would pay for another person; or a larger donation.
“Everything is by donation, the pay it forward system,” said Rivers, who is assistant pastor and a musician. “All the profit goes toward helping people enjoy a free meal.
“The response has been incredible.”
Potter said, “The community has been very generous,” noting many people have paid more than $12.
They emphasized that the ramen is also a quick meal, perfect for those with a small amount of time for lunch.
The ramen is a type called shio, made from chicken stock and ingredients that include shiitake mushrooms, sea kelp and dehydrated fish, based upon a recipe in “Let’s Make Ramen, a Comic Book Cookbook” by Hugh Amano and Sarah Becan, which is for sale in the dining room.
A vegetarian version is planned for the future, as well as other proteins, including a pork belly special.
Rivers explained that they chose to go light with the broth so that it would be palatable for a larger range of people, and they “have sauces to turbo charge it: coconut aminos, soy sauce and sriracha.”
The noodles are made from rice and millet and they are topped with half a hard boiled egg, marinated chicken thigh, carrots precooked in coconut aminos and ginger, and corn, peas, purple cabbage and green onions.
Some of the vegetables are organic and they are hoping to have more local produce donated from the community as the season turns to summer. Sometimes the eggs are donated.
“It’s really incredibly delicious,” said Rivers, noting that there is no monosodium glutamate [msg] involved, “but the sea kelp provides a little tingle.”
He said, “If you see someone asking for food you can come here and get food for them.”
“No one should go hungry,” Rivers said. “Biblical social justice is that everyone is able to participate in the community regardless of their financial position.”
On the one month anniversary of the April 11 opening of Soup in the Alley, three high school students sat at one of four occupied tables, enjoying the ramen and the atmosphere during their 30 minute lunch break. Keaton King, Juan Torres and Cypress Byrne all emphasized the positive environment as one of the reasons they’ve eaten there 10 times since it opened.
“There are really good vibes in here,” Torres said. “The people are nice.”
In addition to Rivers and Potter working full time, 10 volunteers contribute to keeping the operation running. Those interested in volunteering can contact Potter next month.
“The ramen itself is really good and filling,” said Byrne, explaining that they had about 15 minutes to eat if they ran back to school. “It’s easy, quick, cheap and right by the school.”
The students said more people come from the high school every day, indicating another table filled by their classmates.
King said, “I came to the cafe that was here before a lot. I like that this place has been put to a good use.”
Before it was Soup in the Alley, the space hosted the Back Alley Café, which closed in January, to the dismay of many customers.
“I was here every day,” said Rivers. “I was heartbroken when it closed.”
The Calvary Chapel owns the building the restaurant occupied. They moved downtown in 2020 after beginning in Sequim in 1998, according to the managers.
When the Back Alley Cafe closed, “we had the opportunity to buy the cafe,” said Potter, who is also the Chapel secretary. “In this space we wanted to provide something that would bless the community.”
Kelly Iriye, who helps lead children’s ministry at Calvary Chapel, said, “We had a night where everybody from the church came in, and outside people also [to discuss what to do with the space.] We had a brainstorming session and this is the brainchild that came out of it.”
“We wanted to be able to serve the city,” said Rivers.
He, Potter and Iriye all said that there was agreement that serving people food was a practical and direct way to serve the community.
Said Iriye, “It’s a really good and nutritious meal. Everything’s fresh — they make it every day.
“If you can pay, great, but if you can’t that’s fine, too.”
Added Potter, “We want to encourage people if they see someone in need, direct them this way.”
Soup in the Alley
Where: 138 W. Washington St.
Hours: 11 a.m.-2 p.m., Monday-Friday