Lunch Issues

Talk Soup

You can never have enough soup sources, can you? Here is a roundup of downtown spots that ladle up the good stuff.

By Jessica Voelker February 17, 2010

I work downtown and I eat soup. You too? Let’s talk.

Let’s talk about onion soup first, and how the oh-so-civilized Le Pichet makes the real deal just the way they do in Lyon: that means a stewlike consistency with a beefy broth and a no-fear approach to buttery onion content, two massive croutons, and a blanket of thick, gooey gruyere that forms strings from the bowl all the way up to the spoon at your mouth. Suck those up nonchalantly and hope your dining companion pretends not to notice. Place Pigalle also makes a mean onion soup gratinee.

Let’s move on to lentil soup. You’ll encounter one of two types at the Crumpet Shop: French lentil and tomato ginger lentil, they never serve both on the same day. Order a bowl of either with sour cream and cilantro along with a crumpet doused in butter and topped with honey.

Cafe Paloma in Pioneer Square makes a fine lentil soup in the lemony Lebanese style, and they serve it with an ample pile of fresh pita triangles for dipping. By all means, dip. But prepare to exercise patience, the service here is not speedy.

In Belltown, tiny Cafe Lieto (1909 First Ave)—now also a late night biscuits-and-gravy spot on weekends—serves up expectations-defying homemade chicken and dumplings for weekday lunch. Be warned: it sells out fast.

The various Cherry Street Cafes have two or three healthy soups daily, usually some combination of tomato, clam chowder, Egyptian lentil, black bean, or coconut curry with tofu. These come with a side of buttered toast—the olive bread is the best one. Elliot Bay Café tends to have beef stew and vegetarian chili, but we won’t talk about that since it is moving. [UPDATE: I was mistaken. The EBC will continue to operate in Pioneer Square.]

As far as I can tell (please let me know if I’m wrong) the best pho in the area is to be had at Julie’s Garden in Pioneer Square. This recommendation does not necessarily extend to everything on the menu, but the soup is delicious.

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