Flatiron Lunch: Café Medina has Soups to Warm You up this Winter

Every Friday we go south of the ML boundaries in search of a delicious lunch. Sometimes it’s Murray Hill south or the Flatiron District, sometimes Gramercy and everything in between- but we just like to call it Flatiron Lunch.

Perhaps I would feel differently if I had been to Al Yeganeh’s Soup Kitchen International before it closed, but I am not convinced that soup can be a filling lunch. After a former boss who often ate soup for lunch highly recommended Café Medina, I had to see for myself if I could be satisfied with soup for lunch.

With my skeptical hat on, I visited Café Medina and went straight to the back of the space where there is a counter of about 10 large soup warming pots. The pots all looked interesting, and the guy behind the counter was happy to stir each one vigorously (so I could see all the ingredients that might have sunk) while telling me what kind of soup it was. He also had a couple stacks of small plastic condiment to-go containers and was happy to give out samples.

You might notice like I did that Café Medina is unfortunately located right next door to a Hale and Hearty. Seems unfair, right? Café Medina displays very clearly, in front of the sneeze guard, the three soup sizes offered, the oz of each size and the cost. Unlike their neighbor, they don’t charge different amounts depending on the type of soup. If you want a vegan broth with no extra ingredients it will cost the same as the most substantial and thick meat-based soup. Small (8oz) for $4.50, medium (12oz) for $5.50, and large (16oz) for $6.50.

On my first visit, they were offering the following soups: ginger chicken noodle, carrot ginger, curried eggplant and green lentil, Mexican tortilla with chicken meatballs, corn and roasted peppers, tomato Florentine, Tuscan tomato bread, pumpkin corn bisque, organic vegan split pea, and chicken with farfalle noodle. From what I can tell, they try to keep a few of these options consistent, like the chicken with farfalle noodle.

I went with a soup I was told was Italian wedding with chicken meatballs, size large for $6.50. It turns out that it was actually the Mexican tortilla with chicken meatballs. It wasn’t that far off, and it was awesome with an overall spiciness, flavorful broth, and many chopped vegetables.

I was very impressed by the beautiful sear on every single meatball. I am pretty sure they did this to add flavor to soup. When I finished the soup, I was actually pretty full and the small roll that comes with each order cleared out any remaining hunger.

On my second visit, I was on the mend from a winter cold, so I was planning to get chicken noodle soup. When I arrived, they had Yemenite chicken as well. The guy behind the counter recommended it over the regular chicken with farfalle noodle. (I think this might have been due to the fact he maxed out on the daily soup.) Either way, I and my slightly sore throat were very happy with the soup. In addition to perfectly hand-shredded white meat chicken in strips, I noticed celery, carrots, tomatoes, some type of squash, onions and turmeric. The onion roll on the side was a step up from the plain roll I got previously.

Having seen a couple lunch spots fill their soup containers from big plastic bags, I had to ask Café Medina where their soup comes from. The guy immediately said they make them all from scratch each day. It seems like quite an undertaking. After overhearing me ask about the soups, a manager mentioned that they make everything in house, all the way down to the salad dressings. Of course, I did see something called “frozen egg product” coming in the door along with real whole eggs as part of a larger delivery, so I will take those comments with a grain of salt.

You might have noticed on the menu a list of cold specials and hot specials. Since I was on a soup mission, I didn’t try any of those, although several sounded very good. It looks like we will have a follow-up Café Medina post in the coming months.

The + (What somebody who likes this place would say)

  • With several more months of cold weather, I am glad to have a go-to soup place.
  • I am so impressed the make everything from scratch.
  • Café Medina as so much more than soups. Looking forward to exploring the rest of the menu.

The – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)

  • Soup is not a filling meal, and Cafe Medina is no different. And a bowl of ramen is similarly priced and much bigger.
  • Café Medina isn’t any better than Hale and Hearty.

Café Medina, 9 East 17th (between Broadway and 5th Avenue), 212-242-2777 ext. 40 for specials

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