By Tim Carman
Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2011
America's fat. Our economy stinks. Large-scale meat production could be slowly killing us (antibiotic resistance, anyone?) and working to choke the very planet we call home. Soupergirl, a small, eco-friendly eatery in the Northwest neighborhood of Takoma, might be the right place for the right time: a vegan soup kitchen for the tortured soul.
Soupergirl is both business name and alter ego. Alexandria native Sara Polon, a.k.a. Soupergirl, founded an online version of the company in November 2008 after a failed attempt as a stand-up comedian in New York. "I basically got, I wouldn't say scared, but I was getting older," the 34-year-old Cleveland Park resident says about her stab at comedy.
"I also really got sick of New York. I was just tired. I missed trees. I was unhealthy and puffy. I needed to get out."
If there's a takeout to nurse you back to health, it's Soupergirl, the brick-and-mortar operation that opened in early September with a tidy menu of soups (from $4.25 for a cup to $9.75 for 30 ounces), salads ($4 for eight ounces to $12 for a quart) and GuS Grown-Up Soda, a line of lightly sweetened drinks for adults ($1.95 each).
Now, I'm not trying to imply that eating at Soupergirl is akin to taking your medicine, though I must admit that the grain-intensive quinoa-cranberry salad might have gone down better with a spoonful of sugar.
No, what I am saying is that between Polon's supply of fresh, local produce and Soupergirl's gentle way of coaxing the best out of those ingredients, the finished dishes are no doubt packed with life-affirming nutrients.
But Washington diners do not live by nutrients alone. Polon and her mother, 66-year-old Marilyn Polon (a.k.a. Soupermom) of Rockville, have collaborated over the years on dozens of soups, which their regular customers (Souperfriends?) rate and criticize online, which, in turn, helps the owners improve the products over time.
Any three (or more) of those soups can appear on Soupergirl's self-serve station, located right against the back wall in this airy, industrial-chic shop where the menu changes daily. I was particularly fond of the Moroccan-style chickpea-lentil soup, a hearty bowl brimming with pulses and meaty hunks of tomatoes (and perked up with boulder-size croutons). I'd skip the bread nuggets, though, with the garlicky white bean soup, a surprisingly complex, root-vegetable-heavy mixture that was only weighed down by the extra starch.
With each passing day, of course, there will be more liquid sustenance (the non-alcoholic kind) in store as the kitchen works through Soupergirl's seemingly bottomless recipe file. The soups (or at least the five I have sampled) share a number of characteristics: They're all kosher, they all travel and reheat well, they're all vegan and they're all low, low, low on salt. Which is why Polon puts shakers on the few tables in her shop. She knows she can push this health thing only so far.