The Soupery

This is just the kind of place that reminds you why it’s worth paying the rent on a downtown office space (are you listening, boss?).

Sure, the slightly airless room that greets you on entering from the narrow staircase isn’t the most inviting—like that time you tried to take a shortcut through IKEA and found yourself back in the bargain dining room section—but the space opens out to a delightfully lit front room.

At lunchtimes, the whole place is packed. Good thing too, since they’re not open for dinner—this is a lunch joint, fair and square; the kind of soup kitchen that’s a dime (or a penny) a dozen in London or New York, but that our city is sorely, and inexplicably, short of.

We’ll forgive them their soupy clichés (you can “Soup Up” your meal for an extras $4), since everything else is so solid. The half dozen or so soups come in either small or large, and that extra four bucks buys you half a salad and a drink. Take our advice and add a further $2 for a real juice; perhaps Get Over It, a zingy apple, celery and mint combo that tastes like the best bits of spring.

We enjoyed our Farmer’s Minestrone, which was packed with a generous amount of carrot, celery, black beans and pasta. The stock it came in was perhaps a little watery (meaning the multigrain roll it came with never fulfilled its true dipping potential) and we’d have preferred to have made our own decision about whether to add quite so many dried herbs, but these are minor grumbles.

The next table enthused mightily over their Guinness Beef Stew, a hearty mix of beef chunks, onion, mushrooms and beer broth, but we weren’t too down about missing out since we’d already decided to come back. For that thank the couscous and cranberry salad, which despite its diminutive size was a cashew and raisin-filled revelation, the cheesy quesadillas—when was the last time you had a bad cheesy quesadilla?—and the smell of gourmet coffee, which permeates the room.

Best of all, for a place that’s clearly aiming for the busy lunch crowd, service was super (souper?) efficient, with the food, thankfully, arriving before we’d had time to come up with any more puns.