I Tried It: The Vegan and Gluten-Free Soups at Metropolitan Cafe

Metropolitan Cafe's Thai Vegetable Soup // Photo courtesy of Metropolitan Cafe

Metropolitan Cafe’s Thai Vegetable Soup // Photo courtesy of Metropolitan Cafe

You wouldn’t expect a business best known for baking some of the best bread in the city to be home to a host of gluten-free soups, but Metropolitan Cafe—the much-loved Metropolitan Bakery’s only sit-down location, which opened in February 2013—offers just that: A steadily rotating seasonal soup selection, with a great deal of those soups boasting “gluten-free” and “vegan” titles.

And in case you’re wondering if they’re any good, the answer is Oh. My. Gosh. Heck. Yes. Last week, I went into the Cafe—located just a few steps away from Metropolitan’s Bakery’s Rittenhouse location—to get a taste of a few of their soups, and let me tell you, the cafe’s’ super seasonal and creative offerings are not the run of the mill tomato-basil concoctions you find at many cafes this time of year.

As Chef James Barrett, head baker and co-owner of Metropolitan Bakery, explained to me, the cafe belongs to four local CSAs, and their soups are often a reflection of what they got in their boxes that week. For example, while they whip up their gluten-free and vegan Thai Vegetable Soup all year-round, the veggies they throw into the soup change by the season. My bowl of the perfectly spicy, and slightly sweet soup was loaded your usual fall suspects: kale, sweet potatoes, mushrooms and more fall veggies. But in the warmer months, you’ll find the same coconutty broth chock-full of summer favorites, like corn and zucchini.

The next bowl I tried was their vegan and gluten-free Apple Butternut Squash Soup garnished with a pumpkin seed and cilantro pesto—it doesn’t get much more seasonal than that, does it? The dollop of pesto balanced the sweetness of the butternut squash and apples, making for a not-too-sweet butternut squash soup that I actually liked—a true rarity.

The last soup that I tried at the cafe, described by Barrett as “hummus in soup form” was the vegetarian and gluten-free Spicy Chickpea and Lemon Soup, topped with a drizzle of house-made yogurt. I’m drooling all over my keyboard just thinking about it. It was on the thicker side, as bean soups tend to be, but the lemon—which Barrett cooks in with the soup, instead of just squeezing on at the end—cut the richness, making it just perfect. I, being a lover of all things gluten, paired it with a slice of the bakery’s multigrain bread, but it would’ve been just as satisfying on its own.

And if you thought that was all the soup I could handle in one day, I thought the same—but Barrett sent me home with a quart of the cafe’s gluten-free vegan Curried Pumpkin Soup, and I’m kind of ashamed to say, I dug right into it the second I stepped into my kitchen. Let it be known, I don’t regret it for a second.

You know how pumpkin anything often turns out out overly sweet and pumpkin pie-ish, with the overwhelming flavors of fall—cloves, nutmeg, and so on—dominating the dish? This soup is nothing like that. Thickened with coconut milk instead of chicken or beef broth, like most of the cafe’s vegan and vegetarian soups, and loaded with veggies like carrots, red peppers and jalapeños, this pumpkin soup takes on a Thai flavor that you don’t usually find paired with everyone’s favorite fall food. And it’s awesome.

Now, before you run over to the cafe and demand a bowl of each of these soups, just know: They switch up their selection daily. To know which soups they have ahead of time, you can always call and ask. And if you love yourself a meaty soup, no worries: the offer plenty of those too, along with a ton of other vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options, like vegan chili,  The Super Green Soup (packed with over 10 greens and herbs!), Thai Sweet Potato and more throughout the year. And if you just want to grab some soup to go, they also sell quarts of their soups at the Metropolitan Bakery locations.

Now go, warm up with one of the cafe’s souperb creations. I’m sorry, I just had to.

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