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$20 Dinner

$20 Dinner: Soup Queen Inception in Bushwick

It's always soup and sandwich weather at Gunther's.

A vegan sandwich called The Gunther sits on a plate surrounded by various soups.

The Gunther ($10) surrounded by soups (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

Sarah Khoshaba didn't plan on becoming the Soup Queen of Brooklyn. Sure, she always liked making soup, but up until March of 2020, Khoshaba had spent her professional life in the music business, working first as an assistant to one of the biggest agents in hip hop ("she made me miserable," Khoshaba told Hell Gate, "and the hours were insane") and then as the night manager at the Knitting Factory.

COVID changed all that. The Knitting Factory shuttered for good with the initial lockdown, and, like a lot of us during that strange time, Khoshaba was set adrift. "I did enjoy that first summer of fun, being on unemployment," she said. "But I'm someone who needs to be doing something." 

Enter: soup. 

Soupqueen BK at Gunther's at Farewell (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

After lots of experimenting and some long nights of tipsy taste-testing with friends, Khoshaba crowned herself Soup Queen BK in September of 2020, set up shop on Instagram, and hasn't looked back since. In fact, she recently expanded her soup-making operations by opening Gunther's, named after her dog, with a menu that also includes sandwiches, some breakfast stuff, and salads, all served from a window at Bushwick's fiercely inclusive bar and event space Farewell. 

"So it's Soup Queen inside of Gunther's inside of Farewell," Khoshaba said. "It's a little bit of an 'Inception' situation." It's also really fucking good. 

Gunther's has two ordering windows, one facing onto Troutman Street, the other inside Farewell right near the entrance. This means that not only can you get soup, etc., when the bar is closed, you can also use the space, with all those comfy chairs, to eat your meal. Or stay outside in the little curbside dining shed. And when Farewell is open, so is Gunther's (at least until 10:00 p.m.), so you can eat something wholesome and nutritious to sop up the booze.

Black Bean Hatch Chile, $5 for small (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

Khoshaba serves about a half dozen different soups every day, with plenty of vegan options. A recent slate included such gems as Avgolemono, Middle Eastern Mushroom, Red Lentil, Broccoli Cheddar, Tomato Basil, and Sweet Peanut Butta Chicken, and things like Paella Soup, Beer and Cheese, and Lavender Vichyssoise have been known to make an appearance. 

It's an impressively large repertoire. "Some of them are classic soups, obviously," Khoshaba said, "that I would research and figure out how I liked them and then create my own recipe from that. And for others I wanted something different. I love Buffalo chicken wings so I made Buffalo chicken soup. I love crab rangoon so I made crab rangoon soup. Just taking a lot of the ingredients that you see in these dishes and then adding a base of soup. Did I create a lot of soups that turned out to be absolutely horrid? Yes!"

Hot 'n Spicy, $5 for small (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

For Hell Gate's $20 Dinner we made quick work of three of Khoshaba's creations: her robust, vegan Hatch Chile Black Bean; her noodle-y Hot 'n Spicy, which has become something of a signature soup; and her crazy creamy and cheesy Loaded Baked Potato, optionally (though optimally) sprinkled with bacon. These were all delicious. Clearly you can order with confidence here, whichever way your heart is leading you.

Three Cheese Grilled Cheese, $8 (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

Both of our sandwiches also ruled. The most obvious Gunther's go-to, the Three Cheese Grilled Cheese, is everything you want in such a sandwich. It's gooey and gloppy, salty and satisfying, the combo of havarti, smoked gouda, and cheddar oozing out of the panini-pressed milk bread. Perfect for dipping into your soup(s) of choice.

And the vegan Gunther sandwich is a terrific option as well, the simple stack of spinach and vinegary tomato boosted by seedy mustard, basil, and a drizzle of hot honey. The toasted sourdough, from nearby Native Bread, holds it all together nicely. You can put ricotta or prosciutto on top of this beauty for two bucks extra, but it doesn't need it.

Classic Grilled Cheese action shot (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

There are also several eggy sandwiches available, a good-looking rotisserie chicken and mozzarella number, a plate of blistered shishitos, and "breakfast potatoes." A full coffee program, using beans by Caffe Vita, takes care of your caffeine requirements. And Khoshaba loves sharing the place with Farewell. "It's a great location," said Khoshaba. "I do hope sometime soon to open up my own little space, but for now this is pretty perfect."  

Hell Gate total for two, including tax, not including tip: $34.84

You can sit in the bar and eat even when the bar's not open (and also when it is open) (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

Gunther's is located at 143 Troutman Street, between Central and Evergreen Avenues, and is currently open on Tuesday from 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., on Wednesday and Thursday from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., and on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Khoshaba also has a Soupqueen BK stall this year at the Union Square Holiday Market, which runs through December 24. 

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