The soup-erior soups of the Souper Bowl

I ranked all the vegetarian soups of Campus Kitchen’s soup-themed fundraiser so you don’t have to


Community members serve soup at the Souper Bowl. Opinions editor Annalisa Waddick ranks the event’s many options. Photo by Allie Stankewich ’23

Annalisa Waddick, Opinions Editor

On Sunday, Feb. 5, something soup-erb occurred: Campus Kitchen’s Souper Bowl returned. The yearly event is a fundraiser for the kitchen’s backpack program, which provides local Rockbridge-area children with a backpack full of food to eat over the weekend; this helps limit the meal gap for students who may not have access to food while not at school.
Local restaurants, along with Washington and Lee University Dining Services, donate pots of soup, which are served to guests in small cups. Each dining venue sets up a table in Evans Hall, and for a small $10 donation you have the ability to sample up to 20 different soups.
This event has not been in person since my freshman year, and honestly, I had no idea what to expect. I was a loyal attendee of the takeout Souperbowl in both 2021 and 2022, where guests could choose a few soups to pick up and then savor at home, but there was no community in this experience, and everyone knows takeout food is never as good as eating in. So, I rolled into Sunday’s fundraiser with no expectations and a belly rumbling for soup.
The event could not have been more of a success. I arrived an hour in, and Evans Hall was so busy it took multiple minutes to find a seat. The guests were a mix of families, college students, community members and university faculty. A band rocked out in the front, and children greedily gulped down “Oreo soup” (melted ice cream) in the back. It was a beautiful moment of community – a moment for our little Lexington family to come together, support a great cause, and tingle our taste buds with one of America’s favorite dishes.
But do you know what’s even better than a community rallying together to raise money to help feed its children?
Washington and Lee Dining Services’ vegan curried butternut bisque with spicy pepitas.
Also, the fact that for the first time ever, seven of the 20 soup options were vegetarian and/or vegan.
Of course I jest, but the Souperbowl’s new plant-based options sparked a fire of joy in me that burns hotter than a boiling pot of soup. Fundraising, community and vegetarianism? What more could a girl wish for?
Now, I bet you’re wondering: Annalisa, you mentioned the curried butternut bisque with spicy pepitas, but what were the six other vegetarian and/or vegan soups featured at the Souper Bowl? Which ones were the best? That’s all I really want to know!

A large ballroom filled with round tables, where people are sitting and eating soup.
Soup enjoyers turned out in droves to support Campus Kitchen and sample recipes. Photo by Allie Stankewich ’23

Well, I’m glad you asked, fellow soup fanatic! After all, who really cares about a smash-hit fundraiser when there are soups to be ranked?
And so on that note, here’s a complete ranking of which soups were soup-erior, and which were a bit soup-erfluous…
1. This is already its third shoutout, but I’ll go ahead and say it again because it deserves it – the curried butternut bisque wins spot number one on the Souper Bowl soup ranking! The rich, creamy soup was fully vegan, but you would absolutely never know if someone didn’t tell you. In fact, I probably would’ve thought the soup was dairy-based if I hadn’t read the sign before sampling. It was topped with toasted pepitas, a.k.a pumpkin seeds, that added a slight nutty crunch and satisfying roasted flavor. It was the only soup I had two servings of, and I will be longing for it for weeks to come.
2. Earning the title of runner-up in the Soup-lympics is Heliotrope’s vegetarian tomato soup. Plain old tomato soup in second place?! you say, and my answer is a resounding yes. Heliotrope’s twist on a grilled cheese’s best friend was slightly smoky in a way that was delectably intoxicating. It was mysterious, well-spiced, and a great consistency – something really easy to mess up with tomato soup.
3. Rounding out our soups on the podium is Campus Kitchen’s very own butternut squash soup. Although more of the consistency of a stew than a soup, the flavor was its winning quality – sweet mixed with savory in a perfectly satisfying way.
4. Situated squarely in the middle of the list is Glowbowl Café’s hearty lentil veggie soup. Hailing from the only vegetarian restaurant in town, I honestly expected a little more from my lentil friend. My biggest complaint: the lack of spices. Lentils are rather bland (no offense lentils, I love you dearly my little protein source!), and without a heavy dose of salt and/or other spices to wake them up, they can shrink away into neutrality. I did enjoy the consistency of this soup though, as well as the mix of carrots, celery, and onion.
5. Coming in at number five is Pure Eats’ veggie vegetarian soup. I considered moving this one higher up on the list purely because of Pure Eats’ incredible decision to provide both a meat and non-meat option to their guests, but at the end of the day, the flavor wasn’t strong enough to carry it into the top four. Vegetable soup is an absolute classic, and it is always delicious – but there was simply nothing extraordinary, nothing soup-er notable, about Pure Eat’s version.
6. Following the veggie vegetarian soup in the lineup is Campus Kitchen’s other contribution: spiced mango soup. I really expected myself to like this one more than I did, as I love its uniqueness. This was the only soup I have never tried before in some fashion, and I really did like it. It had a great consistency and worked well served hot, although I expected it to be cold. However, it was so sweet, and sweet in a way that I simply couldn’t get over as someone who categorizes soup as a savory dish.
7. Finishing up the lineup is Dining Services’ potato leek. This one shocked me, because I am a loyal Hillel guest and eat this soup regularly. But there must have been something about the fact that this soup was sitting in a pot for multiple hours over a burner, because it congealed into a very thick consistency more akin to mashed potatoes than soup, and texture-wise I just wasn’t the biggest fan. Flavor-wise, though, it was very tasty, but as we all know, food texture can be everything.
First place or last, every soup was legitimately tasty and I would eat all of them again. More importantly, all of the restaurants and organizations who donated soups – and vegetarian soups specifically! – are contributing to an incredible cause, bettering our community, and helping the planet while they’re at it. Kudos to you all! And if you have not yet been a soup-porter of this soup-er event, block your calendars for next February. I promise, it’a worth it.