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Healthy heartiness

Soupe Café ladles up soup for the soul, chicken flavour optional

Located just a few minutes walk south from Lionel-Groulx station, two blocks before you’d hit Atwater market, Soupe Café is nestled on Notre Dame between small shops and restaurants. Its front window display is unassuming – St. Patrick’s Day clovers are still conspicuously painted onto the glass like dancing broccoli heads – and if you’re not looking, you could easily miss it.
Soupe Café’s website explains that the restaurant’s owner, Jeannine Scott, graduated from the University of Manitoba with a degree in Dietetics and Nutrition, and in the interim between then and now worked in hospitals, restaurants, and weight loss clinics. “Whether you’re interested in losing weight, or just maintaining a healthy lifestyle, our cuisine may be just what you need,” the website proclaims. “FAST food doesn’t have to be FAT food!”
Inside, the decor is very much reminiscent of one of the trendy fro-yo places that have been springing up everywhere – light green walls give the place a warm, springtime glow in the March sunlight, and small artificial magenta flowers set in little vases on each table provide a delightful contrast. The chairs and tables are all sleek white plastic. While it’s not the rustic pioneer aesthetic that comes to mind when you imagine a hearty soup restaurant, the decor complements the space’s young, modern, and health-conscious soul.
The menu of the day lists six soups, covering all the possible niches – including seafood, chicken, beef, vegetarian, and vegan flavours. There are two tiers of soups, with Level 1 soups ranging from $2 to $7 depending on size, and Level 2 soups going from $3 to $10. According to the website, the menu changes from day to day.
“We make everything in house, except for some stuff we buy in wholesale bakeries like the wraps and breads, but everything else we make. Like sandwiches, buns, all the soups and chilis. We have a cook that comes in Monday to Friday and she makes everything. And we do the baking on weekends,” said Nadine Schlager, who has been employed at Soupe Café since last fall, as she made a new batch of muffins before my eyes.
I personally ordered the mushroom barley soup, which at a size medium totalled just over $3. My friend bought a large butternut squash curry ginger soup with a corn jalapeno cheese muffin, totaling about $6. Alongside their soups, Soupe Café also serves savoury sides like shepherd’s pie and lasagna, and a gamut of pastries. With healthy, filling portions of authentic homemade soup accompanied by side dishes and pastries all for under $10, it’s hard to go wrong with Soupe Café’s menu.
Two towering fridges set against the wall also stock frozen soups in hefty tubs, which Nadia D., another employee, assured me provide Soupe Café with a large portion of their business, as people come in or order delivery to stock up for the week. The added benefit of the refrigerated soups is that they are considered grocery items and aren’t taxed. “It helps that we’re close to Atwater market, or the Marché next door, the organic place, [those customers] come in here when they’re doing their groceries,” Schlager added.
Schlager commented that Soupe Café’s winter business had been their best in recent memory, though she predicted that the summer will be more relaxed as they won’t need to supply food to local universities, who are prominent customers throughout the school year. But with their adaptive menu, ultra-affordable prices, and health-focused business model, the restaurant seems tailored to students living on a tight budget and with limited time to cook for themselves – a demographic that is certainly plentiful in downtown Montreal.