Josh Hebert makes a mean bowl of ramen.
Josh Hebert makes a mean bowl of ramen.
Lauren Saria

9 Soulful Metro Phoenix Soups

Steaming, soothing, and so good it can make your soul sing, soup is simply the best. It's high soup season here in the Valley. We grabbed our spoons (and chopsticks) and bowl-hopped across town to track down some of the best, brightest, and most badass broths. Given the bounty of options, it's almost a shame that soup season is so short here. So seize the bowl while you can. Here are a few soups you should look up on gray or chilly days this winter.

The tortilla soup at Gadzooks rings in at under $5.EXPAND
The tortilla soup at Gadzooks rings in at under $5.
Allison Young

Linda’s Homemade Tortilla Soup at Gadzooks Enchiladas & Soup

It starts out all PG-13 as the tomato-based broth with standard issue carrots, celery, and onion gets ladled into a clay pot, but the party kicks up a notch as you work your way down the assembly line. Toss in some melt-in-your-mouth guajillo-braised short ribs and the creamiest cornbread, go bison and sautéed spinach, or double down on meat with roasted chicken and green chili pork shoulder. After getting doused in a hefty handful of cheese, it slides into the fire and emerges all hot and bothered and ready for the cold fixins'. You can keep it cool with vinaigrette slaw and pico or go for the hot salsa. If you’re feeling really naughty, top it with an over-easy egg and chunky guac.

Ooh la la for the Onion Soup Gratinee at Zinc Bistro.EXPAND
Ooh la la for the Onion Soup Gratinee at Zinc Bistro.
Allison Young

Onion Soup Gratinee at Zinc Bistro

This classic French soup is an experience in excavation. Once your spoon dives below the flotilla of gooey Gruyere and sliced baguette, it goes deep into a brothy nirvana of nuanced flavors: you get a hit of Worcestershire, then notes of sherry and red wine, all tucked into a venerable stock of veal and chicken. And onions, of course — loads of onions. Each bite promises strings of cheesy goodness cascading from spoon to mouth, oodles of onions, and closed-eye sighs to savor it all. Pair it with a chardonnay on the patio for a full Parisian experience.

Borscht, flaczki soup, and Polish sausage with stewed vegetables at Soup & Sausage Bistro.EXPAND
Borscht, flaczki soup, and Polish sausage with stewed vegetables at Soup & Sausage Bistro.
Jackie Mercandetti

Flaczki Soup at Soup & Sausage Bistro

At this new north Phoenix restaurant serving a motley menu of Ukrainian and Polish cuisine, look for what the menu describes as “tripe soup.” It has the hearty, herbaceous, near-medicinal quality of a good bowl of chicken noodle. It’s well-seasoned, almost a little briny, and thickened with potatoes and onions. Long, soft strips of tripe float around the bowl like noodles, and every quivering, long-cooked piece represents a gorgeous melding of texture and flavor. It’s the kind of dish you want delivered to your bed after feeling the first nascent chills of a cold move through your body.

Go get your goma ramen at Hot Noodles Cold Sake.EXPAND
Go get your goma ramen at Hot Noodles Cold Sake.
Allison Young

Goma Ramen at Hot Noodles Cold Sake

Chef Joshua Hebert paid his ramen dues. He spent time in Japan honing his soup skills and then perfected the noodle bowl at Posh restaurant’s pop-up ramen nights before opening the small and simple traditional ramen shop in Scottsdale. All the bowls are the bomb, but goma is by far the crowd fave: a steaming siren of salty, porky panache artfully arranged with pork spears, nori, leeks, bean sprouts, scallions, bok choy, sesame seeds, and noodles cooked to perfection. When your chopsticks fish out all the solids, you and the broth can have alone time to truly savor the layers of flavor. Your lips will leave salty and singing.

There is catfish submerged in this sweet-and-sour Cambodian pineapple soup.
There is catfish submerged in this sweet-and-sour Cambodian pineapple soup.
Chris Malloy

Pineapple Soup at Reathrey Sekong

In the ballet of exotic flavors of pineapple, basil, and tamarind, sweetness takes center stage of this soup. Fish and fried garlic flavors edge in more faintly, not apparent until a few sips in, once you've started to unwrap what you’re slurping. Chunks of pineapple, yellow squash, tomato, and willowy lotus roots float in the soup, each with  a degree of sweetness. The broth is light and balanced; royal basil and garlic edited its flavor so deftly that the sweet accent didn’t seem odd at all. Chunks of catfish, perfectly cooked, lurk below the fruits and vegetables on the surface. The catfish is delicate, just-cooked, barely flaky, and very satisfying.

The won ton soup at China Chili won us over.EXPAND
The won ton soup at China Chili won us over.
Allison Young

Any Soup at China Chili Restaurant

The toughest part at China Chili is picking just one soup. The staff has the same problem. Ask five servers and you’ll get five different answers. If you’re craving the comfort of chicken noodle, the won ton’s chicken broth and hearty dumpling landmines of minced pork and shrimp won’t disappoint. If you’re thirsting for dinner theater, the sizzling rice soup arrives with a snap, crackle, and pop. And if you want something that goes beyond traditional Chinese, chicken corn chowder with feathery brushstrokes of egg blossoms is delicately delicious and slightly Southwestern. In short, there’s no wrong choice.

The coconut soup really is on fire.EXPAND
The coconut soup really is on fire.
Allison Young

Coconut Soup at Thai E-San

More event than basic bowl, when the fiery tureen of scorching-hot goodness arrives at the table, you’ll take notice. Yes, that is an actual flame in the middle. Thankfully, the spectacle doesn’t trump the taste. The ultimate date soup, the double serving comes with your pick of protein (chicken and beef are the obvious choices, but squid, mussels, and scallops are also up for grabs), plus mushrooms, scallions, and cilantro. But the star of the show here is the broth, the perfect harmony of lemon, chili paste, fish sauce, and coconut milk. Ladle it up and luxuriate. Even if your Bumble match sucks, the soup won’t.

Chow-dah.EXPAND
Chow-dah.
Allison Young

New England Clam Chowder at the Salt Cellar

Chowder from scratch isn’t the norm in the Valley. Heck, chowder at all is rare, and even then, chances are good that the clams have come out of a can. Not so at Salt Cellar, a 45-year fixture built bunker-style in south Scottsdale (the restaurant is literally underground). Like the restaurant itself, the rich, warming bowl of chowder hasn’t been fancified, fusioned, or gentrified; its DNA is still very much intact and apparent in its salty bits of bacon, hunks of potato, and generous hits of fresh clams. The result: a smoky, tangy, creamy consistency that’ll instantly teleport you to New England. And of course, it comes with a side of oyster crackers.

The meatballs make this soup.EXPAND
The meatballs make this soup.
Allison Young

Albondigas Soup at La Piñata

Meatball soup is a mainstay at Valley Mexican joints, but this ain’t just any albondigas. The soothing, substantial bowl isn’t shy on carrots, cabbage, green beans, onions, zucchini, mouthful-sized meatballs, or comfort. It has that simmer-on-the-stove-all-day familiarity only an abuela can deliver. Not that surprising, since it comes out of the eatery that invented the chimichanga, a Phoenix institution now housed in a hipper hood — the Seventh Avenue location’s interior is bright and open with funky light fixtures and a campy cocktail menu — yet the food hasn’t lost any of its homespun charm.

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