Winter made it clear it isn't over yet. A smart way to stay warm is with soup. These seven are always on the menu.
‘Best Seller’ at Tori Ramen
Among the Twin Cities’ many first-rate ramen shops, Tori stands out due to its no-pork pledge, although chef/owner Jason Dorweiler manages quite well without it, thank you very much. His most impressive sleight-of-hand is this vegetarian beauty ($12), which features a broth that’s built on the heft of fermented mushrooms, burdock and celery root. Keep it vegan, or add a barely cooked egg for a protein boost. Dorweiler is adding a second location — and his first noodle production facility — in the former Victory 44 space (2203 44th Av. N., Mpls.), with a plan to open in early April.
161 N. Victoria St., St. Paul, 651-340-4955, toriramen.com
Tomato-bread soup at Cafe Alma
This oldie-but-goodie floated on and off the menu at Restaurant Alma for years. When chef/owner Alex Roberts added his adjacent cafe in late 2016, he and chef Matt Sprague made this robust recipe ($11) a staple. Its appeal lies in its simplicity, just the bright acidic jolt of tomatoes and the punch of garlic, both mellowed with refreshing pops of rosemary and basil and plenty of toasty croutons and bread crumbs. It’s served with a salad that’s alive with crunchy lettuces and garden-fresh herbs, a mix that’s eons better than what sadly passes for a “side salad” in most restaurants. Yes, the $4 bread plate is worth it.
528 University Av. SE., Mpls., 612-379-4909, almampls.com
Wild rice soup at General Store Cafe & Bistro
This Minnesota classic more than gets its due at this cheery cafeteria-style setup, with a skilled version ($4.95 and $6.95) that manages to be super-creamy without tilting into casserole-like heaviness, an issue that trips up many a wild rice soup. “Nothing complicated” is the mantra here, just all kinds of juicy roast chicken and plenty of tender, nutty wild rice, with diced carrot adding color and onions lending a quiet sweetness. It’s served with garlic toast or crackers, but go ahead and splurge on one of the eggy, softball-size popovers ($2.95), served warm with honey butter.
14401 Hwy. 7, Minnetonka, 952-935-7131, generalstoreofminnetonka.com
Chicken noodle soup at Cecils Deli
St. Paul’s fourth-generation deli of delis has been in the chicken soup business since Harry Truman occupied the Oval Office, so the descendants of founders Cecil and Faye Glickman know what they’re doing. It’s one of those versions ($5.39, $6.29) that’s more noodle than broth — always a plus — and the bowl has more than its share of thick, tender carrot slices and a hefty dose of shredded chicken. Matzo balls available. The peppery broth, deeply golden, shimmers with chicken essence. Forget about Nyquil. This “Jewish penicillin” will more than calm the edges of the common cold.
651 S. Cleveland Av., St. Paul, 651-698-0334, cecilsdeli.com
Poultry bone broth at Sweet Chow
“Pho is everywhere in the city, but I wanted to make one that was ours,” said chef John Krattenmaker. He encountered poultry-based pho during an eating journey through Hanoi, and took that idea ($16) back to the kitchen of his North Loop newcomer. Krattenmaker builds his slurp-every-spoonful broth the low-and-slow way, roasting chicken bones, adding warming spices (cinnamon, cloves) and charred garlic and ginger, with fish sauce coming in as a mood-altering finishing touch. Tender, salty duck confit and vermicelli noodles take on co-starring roles, finished with traditional pho accompaniments.
116 1st Av. N., Mpls., 612-767-4605, chowtakeway.com
Broths at Tao Natural Foods
Because they’re such an expedient way to warm up from the inside out, it’s great to see bone broths — light, uncomplicated and nutritious — popping up on menus. At this cozy counter-service spot — which has been promoting wellness for 50 years — chef Sam Needham nurtures a pair ($5 and $6) of options. One starts with bones from grass-fed cattle, their flavors boosted by ginger, turmeric and thyme. His vegan version gets its oomph from shiitake and orange-tinted reishi mushrooms, amplifying the combination’s gentle earthiness with sesame.
2200 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls., 612-377-4630, taonaturalfoods.com
Clam chowder at Oceanaire Seafood Room
It’s a shame that most restaurants serving clam chowder relegate it to a Friday-only delicacy. Not here. A hearty bowl of New England-style clam chowder ($10) anchors the menu at lunch and dinner daily. Chef Andrew Wilson packs his ultra-creamy rendition with plenty of tender clams but leaves room for a respectable amount of neatly trimmed potato dices, and traces of smoky bacon enhance rather than overwhelm. The gratis hunk of crusty sourdough (served with a generous swipe of whipped butter) and palate-cleansing relish tray help make this an ideal single-dish meal.
50 S. 6th St., Mpls., 612-333-2277, theoceanaire.com