Hot tips for a cold day

Jerusalem has some tasty winter soups on offer. A guide.

Soup 521 (photo credit: Illustrative photo: MCT)
Soup 521
(photo credit: Illustrative photo: MCT)
During these rainy winter months, I somehow always manage to end up waiting at an uncovered bus stop in the pouring rain, shivering as every bus passes but my own. After surviving 20 minutes of that, the only thing that I want more than dry socks is a bowl of hot soup. Luckily, this time of year Jerusalem is a haven for soup lovers, and almost every restaurant, cafe and diner has some warm offering on the menu. So I set out to give them a try.
Vegetable soup and the classic “orange soup” – which could include anything from sweet potato to pumpkin to butternut squash – were the most common varieties, while some places really got adventurous with mushroom and leek or Indian lentil. While there was a wide range of varieties, portion sizes and price among all the locations sampled, I was pleased I didn’t experience one bad bowl of soup in my travels. Eateries were graded on flavor, selection and presentation.
This bookstore/cafe/hangout is one of the city’s best-kept secrets, and its soup menu is just a small part of that. The choices change regularly throughout the season, and even throughout the day, but I was glad to enjoy the mushroom and leek, sweet potato and minestrone soups. The sweet potato was rich and thick, the minestrone was chock full of vegetables, and the mushroom and leek was creamy and flavorful. An added bonus is its “sampler” option, which means you can try three different soups for (almost) the price of one. Options on a different day included pumpkin lentil; onion; and mushroom, potato and leek. Comes with bread and butter. NIS 33 bowl/NIS 36 sampler 5 Yoel Salomon Street
Most people I know either love or hate health haven Village Green, and it probably all comes down to the “T” word: tofu. But even if you’re not a fan of soy, rest assured that this restaurant really hits it out of the park when it comes to soup. With an extensive, ever-changing menu, even the fussiest eater will find a soup to enjoy. The cream of butternut squash was thick and sweet, with a lot of complex flavors. The Indian lentil soup was hearty and very well spiced, which made the lentil soup look almost bland in comparison. Other choices could include cream of broccoli, tomato rice or split pea barley. Comes with your choice of bread and butter. NIS 25 cup/31 bowl 33 Jaffa Road and 5 Rahel Imeinu Street
This ubiquitous cafe is one I visited during a particularly rainy day, so I may have been disproportionately happy to see a steaming bowl of soup. Either way, the portion was huge, and the sweet potato soup was thick and full-bodied. The croutons were a touch on the spicy side but added nice flavor to the soup. Options are limited but change daily. Tomato rice and tomato eggplant are also possible options – there are usually only one or two varieties per day. NIS 35
Eight locations in Jerusalem
Nestled inside the Central Bus Station (not to be confused with the restaurant in Center 1) this small cafe – linked to the Ne’eman bakery – has just one offering on its permanent soup menu: onion. But it’s really all you need, since it was excellent, with the perfect balance of sweet and savory that makes onion soup so delicious.It is served with a generous portion of bread and butter for a great price. There is also a varying soup of the day option. When I visited, it was tomato. NIS 19 Central Bus Station, 2nd floor
Soup is not this coffee house’s specialty, but it does its limited offerings well. Lentil and sweet potato are both good options, though they are a touch salty. The croutons offered alongside were nice but not really enough for the whole bowl. I appreciated tasting just a hint of cream in the sweet potato soup, a contrast to many cafes that tend to overdo the cream, which masks the vegetable’s flavor. NIS 31 34 Jaffa Road
With an Aroma cafe on practically every corner, it’s a convenient place to stop in for a bowl of soup. Its menu isn’t particularly exciting, but it does offer three classic soups: sweet potato, lentil and vegetable. The sweet potato was thick without being overly creamy and had a complex blend of spices. The accompanying bread was nice, but I would have appreciated some croutons. NIS 25 Various locations throughout Jerusalem
Known for hearty Yemenite food, Marvad Haksamim keeps that trend going with its soup menu. On offer is vegetable, lentil, bean, kubbe, Yemenite and, for the more adventurous, calf’s foot. While the options are good, if not terribly exciting, one of the best things about the soup may be the warm, soft laffa that comes with it. NIS 15 to NIS 27 42 King George Avenue and 42 Emek Refaim Street
Cafe Cafe has more than 100 locations throughout the country. It has an extensive menu of breakfast and lunch options but only one or two soups a day. I tasted the pumpkin with coconut milk, which was tasty but would have been better with a little more pumpkin and a little less milk. I appreciated the generous portion of warm bread. Other options include tomato rice and potato leek. NIS 32.Various locations in Jerusalem