It’s winter. It gets dark early and it’s (sometimes) cold out. That means warm, cozy meals are calling. Throughout these chilly East Coast months, soup is just the ticket. This guide includes 10 local soup stars, including some of the best takes on French onion and clam chowder, along with rarities like a mustard-based soup and a historic dish made with snapping turtles. Philly restaurants are also known for their steaming bowls of pho, ramen, and sundubu jjigae — there are too many great options to include here, so find those on the Vietnamese food, Korean food, and ramen maps.Read More
10 Soups to Seek Out in Philadelphia
Chicken with matzo balls, clam chowder, French onion, and more soups that stand out in Philly
1. Tomato Bisque and African Peanut Soup at Café Lutécia
On a Fitler Square corner, Valérie Blum’s French cafe has been a neighborhood mainstay for decades. Known for its soups, Cafe Lutecia’s creamy tomato bisque and African chicken peanut soups are both favorites. Slurp one up alongside a slice of quiche or a sandwich on French bread.
2. Clam Chowder at Oyster House
Sansom Street’s Oyster House, which has been cranking out quality seafood dishes for decades now, serves its clam chowder two ways: creamy New England-style with bacon or a tomato-based Manhattan version. Both feature fresh local clams. Chef Aaron Gottesman estimates that the kitchen goes through eight to 10 gallons of chowder a day. Enjoy a bowl with crunchy oyster crackers.
3. Mustard Soup at Noord
A condiment soup may sound strange, but Noord’s mustard soup is a longstanding favorite on this East Passyunk Avenue BYOB’s Scandinavian menu. Chef Joncarl Lachman combines mustard with carrots, cream, chicken stock, caraway, and onions to create this soup, which is topped with a seared scallop, a rye crouton, pickled mustard seeds, and a drizzle of tarragon oil.
Another condiment-based soup worth trying: the pickle soup at Mom-Mom’s Kitchen in Bridesburg.
4. Consomme at South Philly Barbacoa
Known for her orange-infused lamb barbacoa tacos, South Philly Barbacoa’s Cristina Martinez doesn’t let even the drippings of the delectable meat go to waste. She turns them into a bright consommé with rice and chickpeas. It’s perfect on its own or alongside those famous tacos.
5. Tortilla Soup at Blue Corn
The Italian Market’s Blue Corn does a lot of things right and one of them is its classic tortilla soup. The soup’s bright red tomato broth is full of fried tortilla strips, crema, cheese, slices of avocado, and dried pasilla pepper.
In Rittenhouse, El Rey offers a different take on this classic, with chicharron and cubes of panela.
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6. Shaved Noodle Soup at Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House
At Chinatown’s no frills Nan Zhou, the choice is yours: long, hand-drawn noodles or wide, flat, shaved noodles in one of nearly two dozen soups. First timers should try the ribbony shaved noodles in beef brisket soup and then branch out into lamb, oxtail, and more.
7. Matzo Ball Soup at Famous 4th Street Delicatessen
Bigger is better at Famous 4th Street, where the kitchen plunks a baseball-sized matzo ball into its chicken broth along with bowtie noodles, kreplach (dumplings), kasha, rice, and carrots. This bowl serves two to three people for $19.
Find more chicken soup with matzo balls or noodles at Hershel’s East Side Deli in Reading Terminal Market, Schlesinger’s or Rachael’s Nosheri in Rittenhouse, and pretty much anywhere on this Jewish deli map.
8. French Onion Soup at Bloomsday
Bloomsday’s French onion soup starts with a stock made from dark roasted Primal Supply beef bones and caramelized onions deglazed with apple brandy. It’s served in the traditional way, in a crock with plenty of melted cheese on top.
Find this French favorite at several other Philly spots, including Gabi, Parc, and Oregon Diner.
9. Snapper Soup at Elwood
People often think this historically significant soup is fish-based, but it’s actually made with snapping turtles (not snapper fish). Snapper soup has been found in Philadelphia restaurants since Colonial days, so it’s not surprising to spot it on the menu at Adam Diltz’s history-focused Elwood in Fishtown. The chef uses 15-pound local turtles to make the thick brown soup and serves it in an elegant crock with sherry on the side.
Worth noting: The Olde Bar and Oyster House are also known for snapper soup.
10. Sicilian Fisherman Stew at Zeppoli
The seafood soup at Joey Baldino’s Zeppoli in Collingswood is no appetizer. Packed with tender Mediterranean fish and shellfish, this fisherman stew is a full meal. The light tomato-infused broth is flavored with saffron and dotted with Tunisian couscous in a nod to the cultural melting pot of Sicily.