January 20

Soup Up Your Winter Meals

Warm and hearty eats in SLU

Lifelong Seattleites have a litany of strategies for getting through the dreariest and drippiest days of winter, ranging from hitting the slopes to extensive hours of cat-snuggling. But the easiest of them all is also the one that tastes best: eating warmth-inducing foods. Endless bowls of Vietnamese noodle soup, bubbling curries, and bright Middle-Eastern stews are all on the menu of ways to steam up the windows and chase away the seasonal gloom.

The best soup is often the one closest to you—apply that hot liquid to a chilled soul quickly—so it’s convenient that you can hardly go a block in South Lake Union without hitting a place you can get a soup on the side of your sandwich, as at Homegrown or Yellow Dot Café. For those just looking to grab soup to go, Whole Foods offers a daily rotating selection that’s quick and convenient. But to crawl out of the true depths of winter drabness, try the neighborhood’s best day-brightening soups.

In searching for soups, the logical place to start is at a specialist: The Great Northwest Soup Company. They make it easy to find the exact right soup for you with samples of each of their dozen or so daily choices, which include all sorts of limited-diet options (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian, vegan). While classics like chicken noodle can be comforting, the thick and rich broccoli poblano shows off with just a mild hint of spice. (For extra spice, choose the jalapeño-cheddar cornbread to accompany.)

At the opposite end of the focus scale, soup is practically an afterthought at Tom Douglas’s Serious Biscuit (the casual counter-service portion of his grand Westlake complex). But even a T-Doug afterthought is impressive: there’s just a single soup of the day, but for a mere $9, you can get a veritable tanker of it, along with one of the namesake buttermilk biscuits and plenty of butter (which is light and sweet). The soup itself changes daily and fits the season, and is anything but simple—look for winter warmers such as a recent farro, kale, and chickpea version.

For something just a bit heartier, Eltana—a bagel shop and so much more—stews up the Israeli breakfast called shakshuka (ironically, only at lunch). The base is tomatoes and peppers, and each serving comes with a wood-fired bagel—perfect for dredging through the egg, releasing the sunshine-yellow yolk to thicken and enrich the bowl.

Later in the day, the neighborhood’s hot new brewpub, Mollusk, brings the heat with both its curries and the accompanying hot sauces. Choose from Laotion lemongrass wild mushroom, Sumatran white nut, or chicken in the curry section of the menu, which put to good use chef Travis Kukull’s background cooking at the late Wallingford Southeast Asian restaurant, Mandalay.

For all the warmth and comfort that a good soup or stew can bring, where you eat it matters too, and there’s hardly a better place to sit down to a bowl of tomato soup (and, ideally, a grilled cheese sandwich) than the Row House Café. Not only is the roasted tomato basil on point with a flavor that tastes like an Italian nonna has been stewing it for hours, the repurposed 1904 buildings in which it is housed and for which it is named are a tiny dose of old-school charm rare in the neighborhood. The comfy chairs and mismatched tables are decorated straight out of grandma’s stylebook, but it’s the ones under the window that are the best: There’s nowhere better around to sit and slurp soup while watching that infamous Seattle rain pour down outside.

Story and photos by Naomi Tomky

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