Movable Feast: A fine array of soups to keep winter chills at bay

Whether we eat chicken soup when we’re sick, mulligatawny with our curry, or miso soup with a side of sushi, it’s clear that soup is truly a universal dish. Hot soup is a mainstay of small cafes, diners and fine restaurants everywhere, and in the winter, it seems to warm the belly like nothing else. Around Penn, you’ll find a wide array of fine soups—from the simple to the unique—at restaurants and food carts alike. Here’s a sampling.

Red lentil
Magic Carpet Foods, corner of 34th and Walnut and 36th and Spruce

If you haven’t been to Magic Carpet to sample some of its delicious offerings, here’s one way to find the famous food cart: Look for the long line. With an all-vegetarian and all-natural menu, you can rest assured you’re getting high-quality ingredients in food that’s made fresh every day. The array of soups changes daily and each one will warm you to the core, whether it’s tomato rice or golden split pea. If the red lentil soup is on the menu, you’re in luck: It’s a thick, slightly sweet soup that’s jazzed up with a touch of curry. Celery, peas and carrots (and of course, red lentils) complete a dish that’s hearty enough to keep you going until dinner. It comes with pita (great for dunking) and, if you’d like to sample other dishes, you can try either the soup and small salad or soup and half-sandwich combos. Both are under $5.

Veggie chili
Bucks County Coffee Co,
3430 Sansom St., 215-387-6722

Squeeze through the narrow door of this Sansom Street coffee shop, make your way past the tables of students working on laptops and treat yourself to one of two soups served daily. The café offers traditional fare with simple ingredients. Sample the veggie chili—a hearty combination of pinto and black beans, corn, onion and peppers. There’s a spicy kick to this dish, so the faint-of-heart might want to opt for another soup on the menu (such as hard-to-top, old-fashioned chicken noodle). Prices range from $2.75 to about $4 for either a cup or bowl. Ask for crackers, cozy up to one of the of Coffee Co.’s tables and hold those chills at bay.

Thai lemongrass
Lemon Grass, 3526-30 Lancaster Ave., 215-222-8042

The trek into Powelton Village is worth it just for the lemongrass soup at this popular neighborhood restaurant. Beaded tapestries hang on burgundy walls and an attentive staff won’t keep you waiting long. While they offer several soups on the menu both with and without meat (such as the Fisherman’s Soup, packed with shrimp, scallops, mussels and calamari, and Snow White soup with coconut milk, ginger, mushrooms and bean curd) the lemongrass soup is a sure bet. It’s packed with plenty of heat, but balanced by complex flavors, including lime, chili and, of course, lemongrass. Order up the vegetarian version for $3.95 with crispy snow peas, broccoli and carrots or, for the same price, get an alternative version with shrimp. It’ll clear your sinuses and soothe your throat—perfect for those cold, damp days of winter.

Originally published on January 27, 2005