Kel and I got into a habit during the long hours in the car on a recent road trip. As mealtimes approached, I’d use my phone to begin the hunt for vegan-friendly restaurants in whatever large city was coming up along the highway. On the second day of our drive back through Florida on our way back to Oklahoma, Kel and I hit the lunchtime jackpot and were treated to the best meal of our trip. Once inside the doors of End of the Line Cafe in Pensacola, there was no need to explain veganism, no asking for the mayo/cheese/sour cream to be removed from a dish – it was straight-up, 100% plant-based manna.
End of the Line Cafe sits right along the railroad tracks (hence the name) and not far from the waterfront. It’s a humble setting and I’m not sure I’d be lingering in the area after dark. No matter, it was a bright and warm day and our stomachs were loudly protesting their emptiness. End of the Line was serving up a prix-fixe brunch that Sunday and the place was full – all of us clutching forks and knives in anticipation. The meal started out with little cups of rich and flavorful creamy tomato soup. After slurping our first sips, my eyes met Kel’s and in hushed tones we both murmured, “Wow.” I have no idea what they put in there, but whatever it was, I want to bottle it and sell it. The rest of the meal was also outstanding (photos below).
I have to admit, I didn’t even come close to End of the Line’s version, but this is still a tasty, easy soup. For this recipe, I used the last of 2012’s homegrown tomatoes that Kel had cut into slices and put into the freezer. They were real beauties and part of me hated to use them all up, but since we have new tomato plants starting in the greenhouse, we should be buried in the red beasts by July. Canned tomatoes will work just fine in this recipe.
- 2 large onions, sliced
- water and/or Bragg Liquid Aminos, for sautéing
- ~8 cups tomatoes (peeled), or two 28 oz. cans diced tomatoes
- 1 15-ounce can white beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 head garlic, roasted and the cloves squeezed out
- 1/4 cup tamari or soy sauce
- 1 Tbsp. white miso
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 1/4 tsp. smoked paprika
- 1/4 tsp. curry powder
- ~1/2 cup nut milk, optional
- orange gremolata, recipe below
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup or so of parsley, finely chopped
- zest of one orange
- 1/4 cup or so of raw walnuts, chopped
- In a large pot, slowly and patiently caramelize the onions in splashes of water and Bragg Liquid Aminos. For buttery, soft and brown onions, this should take about 30 minutes. Don't skip this step - it gives the soup its rich flavor.
- Once the onions are caramelized, add the tomatoes and cook down for about 10 minutes. Stir all of the remaining ingredients, except for the nut milk, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and cook the soup for 30 minutes or so, tasting to adjust the seasonings.
- Using a blender or a stick blender, puree the soup. Stir in the nut milk, if using, and heat gently while you prepare the gremolata.
- Combine all ingredients in a small bowl.
- Divide the soup between bowls and top with gremolata.
Brunch at End of the Line Cafe: