Over the past week, furnaces around the region have kicked on (or conked out) with Mother Nature’s plunge into colder weather. And while homes may be cozy and warm, stomachs ought to follow suit. Enter: Soup. Lots and lots of soup.
There are a multitude of spots around down to pick up a good bowl of soup, but several eateries stand out as reliable go-tos. Whether brothy or thick, meaty or veggie-centric, these restaurants offer up a plethora of options for every palate.
Caphe Banh Mi, 407 Cameron St.
The throngs of people waiting outside the tiny café on Cameron Street ought to tell you something: First, the dining room is full, and second, it’s full for good reason. For years now, Caphe Banh Mi has been ladling out bowls of pho in nearly every variety, from the meatiest flank steak to a light – but hearty – vegetarian version.
Now, pho isn’t the only menu item Caphe Banh Mi offers – for instance, its banh mi sandwiches are right there in the eatery’s name – but gaze around the restaurant at any given time and it’s clear that the pho is a runaway favorite. The broth is plentiful, the vegetables are crisp, the noodles light and airy, and the bowls are popping with protein. It’s sure to warm up a cold day.
Hard Times Cafe, 1404 King St.
OK, so Hard Times’ chili isn’t really a soup, per se. But as it lives in the same general family, it’s worth a resounding recommendation. Any Alexandrian who’s been around town for any length of time knows Hard Times. Its four styles of chili – Texas, Cincinnati, Terlingua and vegetarian – are hallmarks of the Old Town restaurant, and as the temperatures dip lower and lower, the desire for a thick bowl of the stuff goes higher and higher.
Looking for more than just a bowl of chili? Dress it up with spaghetti, Fritos, Tater Tots or – gasp – lettuce for a salad. Piled high with all the fixins, it’s a bowl (or plate) of comfort right at the table.
Zento, 693 N. Washington St.
More than just a sushi bar, Zento offers a wide array of dishes from the kitchen, and the restaurant’s ramen and udon selection is extensive and delicious. Sure, you could order up a cup of miso soup instead – or perhaps to accompany a main course of sushi – but why would you stop there when so many other great options await?
The ramen selections run the gamut from Japanese fried chicken to steamed tofu, and the noodles that accompany the dish are pleasantly thin and pliable, with just a touch of bite to them. The udon, meanwhile, offers up thick, chewy noodles that easily hold their own in the broth, as well as pair nicely with the protein options available. Choose either one and await satisfaction. A hot sake accompanying the soup will warm you further – a bonus on a cold winter night.
Hope Nelson owns and operates the Kitchen Recessionista blog, located at www.kitchenrecessionista.com. Email her any time at firstname.lastname@example.org.