Among Soupergirl’s vegan soups are pinto-bean chili, red lentil, and butternut squash. Photograph by Scott Suchman
When the thermometer plunges, steaming bowls of soup taste especially good—not only to warm up but as a quick, healthy foil to heavy holiday foods. So September was a smart time for Sara Polon to open Soupergirl, a brick-and-mortar extension of the soup-delivery service she started in 2008, in DC’s Takoma neighborhood.
In her eco-friendly shop, done up with pops of green and red, Polon adheres to the cooking principles that have made her delivery service so popular: She uses local ingredients that pass her grandmother test—meaning if her grandmother wouldn’t recognize it, it doesn’t go into the soup—and most of the recipes come from Polon’s mom.
Someone is usually near the door to greet customers and show them around. There’s a case of refrigerated takeout soups and salads as well as three self-serve kettles of soup—varieties are listed on a dry-erase board—to be ladled into ceramic or to-go cups ($4.25) and bowls ($6.75 to $9.75). If you’re on the fence about flavors, sample cups will help you decide.
Soups and salads are kosher and vegan—and also satisfying and hearty. Each soup uses what Polon calls “homemade vegetable-stock goodness” as a jumping-off point, and then Polon gets creative. While many restaurants get stuck in a butternut-squash-bisque rut, Polon offers a curried peanut/butternut-squash soup thickened with homemade peanut butter and spiked with cumin, curry, and cayenne—a perfect soup for winter colds.
Other favorites include the rosemary-laced white-bean soup, which cleverly sneaks turnips and carrots into your diet; the complex gingered carrot-orange soup spiced with curry; a hearty stew of tomatoes, barley, and kale; and a lentil/sweet-potato/apple purée that’s both earthy and sweet.
Salads, such as lentil-and-rice and white-bean options, are sometimes less exciting: Many taste similar thanks to the presence of onion, bell pepper, and julienned carrots. But some of the more distinctive ones—such as the quinoa-cranberry and an Asian-style noodle salad with peanut sauce—are standouts.
Herbed croutons (free for eat-in soups, or $1.25 a bag) are tasty but almost too large. The cornbread ($1.85) is good, but its fake-butter taste reminds you it’s vegan—we preferred to tear up a crusty roll ($1). “Dessert” and “vegan” tend not to do well in the same sentence, and the brownies here ($1.85) are no exception.
But the disappointments are few at this smart shop. When our spirits are in need of a warming boost, we’re glad Soupergirl is there to save the day.
This article appears in the December 2011 issue of The Washingtonian.