Soup-making is an underappreciated art. A good broth on its own can be deeply complex and flavorful, building a solid base for all of the ingredients that go into it. Handmade noodles; fresh, seasonal vegetables; and a fair amount of regional spices can be seen in soups across the world, though soup can be pretty much anything as long as you can slurp it.
Here are ten of our favorite places in metro Phoenix to grab a bowl.
POSH Improvisational Cuisine
A perfect example of soup as art, Scottsdale's POSH steps up the soup game to truly culinary levels. Although this improv restaurant is much like Forrest Gump's lifelike box of chocolates (you never know what you're going to get), if you're lucky enough to get served soup at POSH, prepare to be amazed. From a light, airy foie gras and turnip soup topped with crispy bread crumbs and celery leaves to a truly complex ginger and butternut squash soup with a sherry reduction and sumac, the soups at POSH explore balance, texture, and flavor in ways you never thought possible from a humble soup. Though the masterful soups at POSH have all of that going for them, they still manage to be homey and comforting, despite their upscale ingredients.
The name of the game at 7th Avenue and Missouri's French Grocery is French onion soup. Like any good take on this classic, it's topped with crusty bread and a huge handful of cheese. Once you start mixing it in, the cheese becomes ooey gooey and melted to perfection. However, the real reason to fall for this bowl is the broth. It's rich and flavorful and we bet even those people who are "allergic to onions" would enjoy it.
China Magic Noodle House
Noodles are obviously the reason to go to Chandler's China Magic Noodle House. Handmade before your eyes, these noodles are, indeed, magic. Soft and chewy in all the right ways, you'll soon fall in love with the words "soup noodles" as much as we have. In particular, we love the oxtail noodle soup, which pairs a simple broth with those noodles and truly tender chunk of oxtail all in one piping hot package. Topped with cilantro, this bowl might be simple, but it certainly sets the standard for noodle soups.
Phoenix Public Market Cafe
Whether you're going for the soup of the day or something off the menu, you have options at Phoenix Public Market Café. You don't have to take a gamble at this popular downtown Phoenix hangout to get a solid bowl of soup because they always have the lentil coconut curry soup on hand. Prepare to be amazed by this vegan and gluten-free soup's full flavor, despite being free of any animal products. However, you should also stop in right around now, since PPMC is also serving St. Francis' famous velvety pumpkin soup. If you opt for any pumpkin dish this fall, let it be this soup.
Owner Lindsey Magee lets her produce on hand guide her soup offerings, and that's fine with us. You might get a bowl of smooth red pepper and tomato soup paired with a grilled cheese sandwich with prosciutto and basil. You might get a cup of the best chicken noodle soup you've had in town. No matter what soup Magee is making, the $10 soup and sandwich lunch combo is the perfect mid-day break for any soup lover. Be warned, though, you'll likely also leave the restaurant off of 16th Street and McDowell Road with a rose shortbread lemon bar or a croissant bread pudding for dessert. It's hard to resist.
If you're like us, you've gone into Pane Bianco off Central Avenue and Campbell around 2 p.m. and were absolutely horrified when they told you that they ran out of soup. Get there early, folks, because the rustic vegetable soup does go fast and you don't want to be the sucker stuck without a bowl. Topped with parmesan, the simple soup comes with chunks of veggies in a delicate broth. Pair that with a slice of freshly baked focaccia del giorno and you have the perfect light lunch on a cloudy day.
Like Ollie Vaughn's, it's best to go for the combo deal at Windsor. Their daily "from scratch" soup offerings range from a creamy, hearty white bean and bacon to a spicy tortilla soup. For $10, you can get a bowl of whatever soup they're making that day paired with a half Fattoush, Caesar, or mixed grain salad. If you're more of the liquid lunch persuasion, just get a bowl of soup and pair that with a $5 cocktail, since the uptown Phoenix spot offers happy hour daily from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m.
Chodang Tofu & BBQ
There's a reason Chodang won best soup for the 2014 Best of Phoenix awards: the Chandler Korean joint serves up their bubbling bowls with a show. When you order the soft tofu soup, which can come with anything from seafood to beef and kimchi, it comes to your table in a black earthen bowl still simmering. The spicy red broth is thickened slightly with chunks of silken tofu, but the real draw is when your server cracks an egg into the bowl tableside. Within moments, you have a perfectly poached egg in your bowl, adding richness to the briney, spicy broth.
Miracle Mile Deli
Though this Phoenix mainstay is set to move soon, you still have time to get some soup at the original Phoenix location off of Camelback Road and 20th Street. If we can recommend anything at this spot, it's the matzoh ball soup. It really doesn't get much more comforting than a bowl of light broth with carrots, onions, and celery, including two fluffy matzoh balls. It might be basic and it might not be the most fancy soup in town, but when you need a bowl of matzoh ball soup, Miracle Mile is the place. The matzoh balls that come in each bowl are enough to fill you up. However, Miracle Mile also usually has a couple other soup options on hand if matzoh balls aren't your thing.
Gadzooks Enchiladas and Soup
For one of the only restaurants in town that put soup right on their sign, you have to assume that, despite the silly name, they're serious about soup. There's just one soup at Gadzooks and that's "Linda's Homemade Tortilla Soup." Much like everything on the menu, you can fully customize your bowl of tortilla soup, adding green chile pork shoulder or Modelo braised bison, salsas, cheeses, handmade crema, a fried egg, or any number of their other add-ins. We like to keep it simple in our soup with roasted tomatillo chicken and pickled onion, though we certainly wouldn't judge you if you gussied your bowl of tortilla soup up a lot. The choice is yours.