With the holidays in the past, it's time to focus on healthful choices while simultaneously seeking out warming comfort foods to combat the January temperatures. Fortunately, that’s what soup is for. With January also being National Soup Month, it's prime time to get your slurp on in Chicago.
When it comes to that perfect bowl of soup, it's hard to top the almighty matzoh ball. At once enriching and comforting, this Jewish deli classic is perfected at Eleven City Diner. This modern, slick ode to Jewish diners of Americana yore does matzoh ball soup, swimming in aromatic chicken broth, better than pretty much anyone, especially considering the recipe has been handed down through the owner's family, and his mother has even been known to get in the kitchen and roll matzoh herself.
OK, so creamy clam chowder may not be exactly healthy like other brothy soups, but it still qualifies for National Soup Month, regardless of how indulgent it is. Be sure and try the version at New England Seafood Company. The Roscoe Village fish market and eatery does classic New England seafood right, especially apparent in their masterful clam chowder. Other stellar soup options here include lobster bisque and cioppino.
For those who resolved to keep things healthy, at least for the time being, Heartland Cafe has something that is equal parts hearty, comforting, and healthy: buffalo chili. The restaurant prides itself on responsibly sourced, healthier alternatives to gluttonous comfort foods, offering more nutritious renditions of things like chili, burgers, and chips. By eschewing beef for buffalo, the restaurant automatically reduces fat without sacrificing flavor. Each bowl of buffalo chili is positively brimming with beefy flavor, minus any of the innate, binge-y side effects that come with beef. There's also a bean-filled vegetarian chili for those who'd like to take it a step further.
The caldos at XOCO, Rick Bayless' casual homage to Mexican street food, are more like elaborate deconstructed meals than your standard bill of bowl fare. You can't go wrong with any of the bracing options here, especially the short rib-red chile version or the succulent carnitas with potato-masa dumplings.
When it comes to soupy comfort food, there's a whole world beyond chicken noodle and split pea. Let's not forget that quintessential Asian warmer: pho. The preeminent noodle soup, pho can be found all over Chicago in various forms, studded with all sorts of meats, seasonings and garnishes. One of the most cultishly adored is that at Tank Noodle, the largest and most popular restaurant in Uptown's Vietnamese enclave. And for good reason. Bowls of pho here are colossal, awash with succulent noodles, anise-scented broth, crisp herbs, and any cut of beef imaginable. For those who'd like to take a more modern route, pho doesn't get any ritzier than the version at Le Colonial. The glistening Asian gem in the Gold Coast serves up a luscious version made with oxtail, beef tenderloin, and pungent herbs, in a setting that will make you feel like Anna in Siam.