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Hit the brakes so you don't miss Soup Du Jour

| Thursday, March 15, 2012

Slow down -- you just passed Soup Du Jour.

This rustic stand-alone shop at the crossroads of Wildwood and West Hardies Roads in Gibsonia has long intrigued yours truly. You know how it is -- you notice the place at the last second, and remember that you've been meaning to stop and check it out, but you're running late and the light up ahead is green, but not for long. Maybe next time, you think.

This unpretentious gourmet market is worth a brake. Since 2008, Soup Du Jour has gained a devoted clientele almost solely by word of mouth. Foodies, commuters and soccer moms swear by their homemade soups, baked goods and dinners to go. Available on a take-out basis only, they beat anything the chain restaurants and supermarkets can dish out.

Owner Marisa Guenther ran El Dolce Cafe in Bloomfield. After taking a respite to tend to her children, she renovated a former bait shop, installed a kitchen, tossed a few basic grocery items on the shelves and got to work.

As their name suggests, Soup Du Jour makes soup fresh daily, with three selections available at the self-service station. Cost is $2.99 for 12 ounces, $3.99 for 16 ounces and $6.99 for 32 ounces. Don't forget to try a piece of toasted bread with your selection.

The cheddar and potato soup was delicious, hearty and with just enough salt. So was the stuffed pepper soup, which featured rice, chunks of ground beef and green peppers in a flavorful beef broth. Frozen soups also are available for take-out in the freezer case, along with homemade take-out dinners such as baked cod with rice pilaf and green bean almandine ($8.95) and meatloaf with mashed potatoes ($8.99), all made by Guenther.

"We have a lot of older people, two-income families that are so busy that they come in and pick up a dinner and bring it home and throw it in the oven," she says.

The third freezer case is a dieter's nightmare. Here lurk sinful homemade cakes, pies and other desserts, all made from scratch. Cake varieties include raspberry black magic, apricot almond and chocolate croissant bread pudding. Guenther also makes pies, tiramasu and 20 varieties of cheesecake.

Whole cakes are $27.50 and must be ordered 48 hours in advance, but that won't save you from temptation -- it's also available by the slice ($3). Try a scone ($1.25), cookie (75 cents) or muffin ($1.25). Guenther says she makes everything except for the bread, which comes from the estimable Breadworks on the North Side. Enjoy your pastry with a cappuccino ($2.50) or latte ($2.75).

Don't overlook the selection of locally produced items. Shoppers can buy bottles of Pittsburgh's Original Sports Sauce, a hot sauce that features two Steelers fans on its label, along with the tagline, "One For the Tongue." There's also apple butter from Soergel Orchard in Wexford and Miller's Mustard, made in Gibsonia. Jellies and jams from another Gibsonia business, the Purple Spoon, also are for sale.

The parking lot can be hard to spot from the road. It looks narrow but there's parking in the rear of the building, where customers can turn around instead of backing out onto busy West Hardies Road.

Additional Information:

Soup Du Jour

Location: 2228 W. Hardies Road, Gibsonia

Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fridays; 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays.

Details: 412-486-2313 or website

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