The true soup lover longs for fall. After a summer of haphazard cooking, meals thrown together from fresh farmers market fare, we start to crave more complex flavors. The cooler temperatures inspire us to return to the kitchen. We're ready to linger over a simmering pot. Is it the changing leaves? The cable-knit sweaters? The preponderance of pumpkin? We don't know, but as far as we're concerned it is officially soup season by mid-September.
Luckily for us soup-lovers (and non-cooks), Minneapolis/St. Paul restaurants are just as enamored with the autumn harvest. Here are some of our favorite fall flavors.
Tilia, 2726 W. 43rd St., Minneapolis The soup: Butternut Squash with Pepitas, Za'atar, Whipped Yogurt, and Lemon Thyme How it tastes: If you were to indulge in just one fall soup, your hunt should stop here. This is hands-down the best pumpkin-flavored anything we've tasted this fall. Silky in texture with the fragrant sweetness of roasted squash and brown sugar, this soup is profoundly comforting. A cloud of whipped yogurt foam and a pinch of Za'atar-spiced pepitas bring something unexpected, while saving it from being overly sweet. Best for: Purists searching for the platonic ideal of fall soup Served with: This soup did not come with bread. It's possible our server considered our side of French fries carby enough. The portion: On the lighter end of the spectrum. The soup would be an excellent start to dinner, or paired with a salad and a pint of cider, a lovely lunch. Cost: $9
Levain, 4762 Chicago Ave. S., Minneapolis The soup: Onion with Beef Broth, Fontina Cheese, and Onion Rings (!!!) How it tastes: Levain's onion soup is a portal -- one taste and you'll swear you stepped from south Minneapolis into a Parisian brasserie. The super rich, funky beef broth tastes likes its been simmering slowly all day (which it likely has). The caramelized onions are sweet-tart, just close enough to vinegary to cut through the gooey, decadent Fontina cheese blanketing the top. The crowning glories, fried onion rings, are the piece de résistance. The soup comes out from under the broiler bubbling and blazing hot, just perfect for a brisk autumn night. Best for: Burly lumberjacks and mademoiselles with an appetite Served with: Levain's signature French bread and butter The portion: Have fun trying to eat dinner after this seriously filling soup. Cost: $8
Borough, 730 Washington Ave. N., Minneapolis The soup: Parsnip with Smoked Duck, Grapes, Mascarpone, Sorghum, and Sage How it tastes: First, we can't help but tell you how this soup looks. This is the enchanted forest of fall soups. The bowl arrives with an artful arrangement of ingredients -- tender smoked duck, plump house-made raisins, a dollop of Mascarpone, and tiny popped kernels of sorghum. This beautiful tableau is yours only for a moment before your server covers the scene with a parsnip broth, a creamy canvas for the soup's busier elements. With a flavor both nutty and subtly sweet, we were reminded of how unjustly unsung this humble root vegetable is. Best for: Whimsical people who like to play with their food Served with: Three kinds of bread ranging from a crispy cracker to a soft, golden white bread, served with a crock of salted butter. The portion: A sizable portion that would make a good meal. The smoked duck makes this soup heartier than most, and it comes with a generous bread accompaniment. Cost: $10
Heartland, 289 E. Fifth St., St. Paul The soup: Winter Squash with Root Vegetables, Apple Cider, Curry Powder, Nutmeg, Crème Fraîche, and Fried Sage How it tastes: For aficionados looking for a slightly different take on classic squash soup, Heartland delivers an inventive version. Touting an earthy mélange of root vegetables, the velvety base of this soup is complex. Curry powder packs a little heat at the end of your spoonful, but this is balanced by the crème fraîche. You'll enjoy the soup even more after you swipe a piece of Heartland's excellent house-made bread through your bowl. Best for: The sophisticated squash soup connoisseur Served with: A fennel-flecked sourdough semolina roll and a ramekin of softened butter. The portion: Not overly filling, best as a starter even with the bread. Cost: $12
Mango Thai, 610 Selby Ave., St. Paul The soup: Pumpkin Curry How it tastes: Is this cheating? Sorry, not sorry. We know curry is not a soup, but this one is served INSIDE A PUMPKIN. Every fall, Mango Thai takes its red curry up a notch by adding roasted squash alongside the standard mix of onions and bell peppers. The spicy, heady fragrance of lemongrass and kaffir leaves is a natural complement to the sweetness of the pumpkin. Are you paying for the presentation? You are. But the curry is solidly good and the package is just so damn cute. Best for: The pumpkin-obsessed willing to shell out a little extra, because 'tis the season! Served with: White rice The portion: More than enough. You will likely have leftovers. Cost: $20.95
Got another fall soup you're swooning over? Let us know in the comments section below.
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