Lunch’er Grace Reports: The Ultimate Midtown Soup List
I am not a huge soup person, but when the weather gets like this it’s tough to resist… so rather then attempt to fake expertise, I asked Midtown Lunch’er Grace, our resident soup expert, to compile a list of her favorite soups in Midtown. Here’s what she came up with:
- The Creamy Chicken Soup ($4.95) at Akdeniz (46th between 5th and 6th) — Akdeniz is hands down my favorite Turkish place in midtown. I normally go for the Sultan’s Delight (stewed dark meat chicken over smoky eggplant puree) as an entree, but when I just have to have soup, the creamy chicken soup can’t be beat. The silky, milky broth has a butteriness to it that complements the sweetness of long simmered vegetables and goes perfectly with the rich dark meat chicken chunks.
- The White Bean Escarole Soup (about $3.50 and for a small) at Green Symphony (43rd btw 7+8th) — This place bills itself as a “healthy” food place and many of their soups are vegan for those that flow that way. Most of the soups here are pretty tasty, but I particularly like the white bean escarole on a cold winter day. I probably like it because despite being vegan, it tastes like it has meat in it. The owner tells me that the secret ingredient that gives it that carnivorous richness is misoâ€”never would have guessed that a little soy could make a soup taste like that.
- The Jamaican Jerk Chicken at the “hot soup” carts (Multiple Locations) — I use to work by one of these carts on 34th and Park, and my take on it was that the soups were a bit too artificially starchy for me so I sort of avoided them. However, I remember the Jamaican jerk chicken being somewhat tasty despite the gunky cornstarch thickener.
- Potato Cabbage Soup at Hallo Berlin (54th and 5th ) —Though German sausages are the star at this cart, my co worker once brought me back a creamy potato cabbage soup from this cart that tasted like a German grandmother slaved away in the kitchen all day to make it. He said it came as part of the “Dictator’s Special,” so he wasn’t allowed to choose from the other soups on the menu. I haven’t tried any of the other soups, but if the potato cabbage is any indicator of the rest of the soup, it’s definitely worth the trek to try the rest.
- Soups at the Jamaican Dutchy (51st between 6th and 7th) — Now I haven’t had a chance to try the soups here yet, but they just sound plain intriguing. A” Goat’s Head” soup? Bring on the weird animal parts!
- The Harvest Pumpkin Soup (about $4 for a large) at Au Bon Pain (Multiple Locations) — Of all the commercial, mass market soups out there, ABP’s are probably some of the best in terms of consistency and seasoning. This creamy pumpkin creation that starts to be available around October has the perfect amount of spice (the ingredient list includes curry) and sweetness with a silky consistency.
- The Macaroni and Cheese with Beef Soup and Mulligatawny Soup ($4.39 Small/ $ 6.19 Medium/ $ 7.19 Large) at Hale & Hearty (Multiple Locations)— I’m not generally a huge fan of Hale & Hearty because many of the soups taste gummy and I think they are overpriced, but I do really like these two soupsâ€”to the point where I have Hale & Hearty send me email alerts when they are available. I’m not sure it’s fair to call the Macaroni and Cheese with Beef a Soup because it is so thick that it is almost the consistency of a casserole, but whatever it is, I can never resist the meaty, cheesy goodness of this comfort food classic turned soup. I love the bold curry flavor of the Mulligatawny soup reminds me of a number of Indian dishes, but has a sweetness that is almost like a Japanese curry you might get at place like Go-Go Curry.
The longest list of Asian soups you’ve ever seen… after the jump
- The Hakata Ramen ($7.75), Chige Miso Menchanko ($9.95), and Oden ($1-$2.50 per ingredient in broth) at Menchanko-Tei (45th between 3rd and Lexington and 55th between 5th and 6th) — There are so many delicious variations of Japanese noodle soups at Menchanko-Tei, but these three are my favorites on the menu. The Hakata Ramen features ultra thin ramen noodles in a rich pork bone broth that is cooked for so long that it actually turns white and the addition of julienned pickled ginger nicely cuts the broth’s richness and complements the other ingredients such as sliced pork, black mushrooms, and scallions. The Chige Miso Menchanko, served in a large cast iron bowl, is a heartwarming spicy red broth with a hint of miso that includes thick udon-style noodles, cabbage, an assortment of tofu of varying textures, and two head on shrimp among other goodies. The Oden, a traditional Japanese winter soup, made with a light soy-flavored dashi broth, has no noodles, but comes with a variety of stewed Japanese ingredients such as fish cakes, radishes, seawood, tofu, or salmon balls. At Menchanko-Tei, you can see all of day’s ingredients separately and pick what you want for $1-S2.50 per ingredient or just ask for the chef’s choiceâ€”5 ingredients of the chef’s choosing.
- The Tantan-men ($8.35) at Sapporo(49th between 6th and 7th) — I love the richness of the sesame paste broth in the Tantan-men at Sapporoâ€”heartier than a clear broth, but still light-tasting.
- The Yukejang ($8.95) and Kimchee Chigae ($7.95) at Ambrosia(45th between 5th and 6th) — Thank goodness for the hidden Korean counter at this deli. Though the versions of Yukejang (A spicy soup with shredded beef, scallions, Korean vegetables, and glass noodles) and Kimchee Chige (Kimchee and pancetta-like sliced pork cooked together in a spicy broth) certainly can’t top any random place in K-town, they are a quick fix for anyone that works in the 40’s and just doesn’t have the time to trek to K-town. And the good thing about Ambrosia is that those Korean ladies cooking in the back don’t mess around with the spiceâ€”if you like heat in your food, this is where to get it.
- The Soft Tofu Soup ($7.95) at Café Duke (Broadway at 41st and 51st between 6th and 7th ) — Yet another seemingly generic deli with a redeeming hidden Asian soup station. Café Duke serves everything from Udon to Pho, but my heart goes out to the Spicy Soft Tofu Soupâ€”silky tofu in a spicy kelp-flavored broth that comes with a choice of either vegetables, beef, or chicken. You can get it mild or medium too, but why? There’s nothing like the bright red heat of the spicy version to warm you on a cold day. Again, most soft tofu in K-town has this beat, but a good quick fix.
And now for the listing of the best soups in K-town which certainly dominates this list. The best part of K-town is that many places offer lunch specials that make many expensive dinner dishes within the Midtown Lunch price range…
- The Ka Jang Tang ($9.95) at Kunjip (32nd between Broadway and 5th)— Kunjip is considered one of the most authentic Korean places on the K-town strip on 32nd and the Ka-Jang Tanâ€”chunks of meaty pork bones and potatoes in a spicy brothâ€”Is the best dish on the menu if you ask me.
- The Soft Tofu (about $9) at Seoul Garden (32nd between Broadway and 5th)— For authentic soft tofu soups or “Soondubu”, this is the place to go. The seafood one, the most traditional choice, comes with a generous helping of squid, octopus, and other shellfish.
- The Soul Long Tang at Gahm Mi Oak ($6.95) (32nd between Broadway and 5th) — The Soul Long Tang, a long simmered Oxtail broth, is the specialty that this K-town place is best known for. Don’t neglect the dish of salt on the tableâ€”it’s tradition to season it yourself
- The Duk Mandoo Guk ($10.50) or “Korean Morning Soup” at Kang Suh (32nd between Broadway and 5th) — Love dumplings in broth? This is a traditional breakfast soup in Korea and includes beef dumplings, Korean rice cakes (coin shaped medallions of rice flour that is kind of like a very chewy and springy pasta), ribbons of egg, and scallion. Ask for a little chili paste on the side if you are a spice fiend like me.
- Doon jang chigae at Shilla ($7.95 as a lunch special) (32nd between Broadway and 5th) — The fermented bean paste in this soup gives it its distinct flavor. I also like the combination of land and seaâ€”it includes beef and clams, as well as vegetables such as squash.
- Dae Gu Maewoon Tang at Won Jo ($9.95 as lunch special) (32nd between Broadway and 5th) — The equivalent of Matzo Ball Soup as “Jewish Penicillin,” this soup is the Korean cure for a cold. With codfish simmered in a spicy soup with sprouts and tofu, this soup is both soothing and sinus clearing.
- Cho Cang Gol Son Doo Boo Jun Gol ($34.95, but can serve up to 4) at Cho Dang Gol (35th between 5th and 6th) — This soup features three types of handmade tofu w/ potato, mushroom & squash in spicy broth with or without beef.
- Malaysian Curry Chicken Broth Noodle Soup ($8.95 for lunch special, $9.50 off regular menu) at Fusia Asian Cuisine (Lexington at 56th Street) — Fusia on Lex, not to be confused with Fusia on 2nd Avenue or Fusha at 58th and 1st is one of those “Pan-Asian” places that serves everything from Thai to Vietnamese. I normally frown on these jack of all cuisine places, but everything from their curries to their sushi is pretty decent and very flavorful. Their Malaysian Curry Noodle Soup comes with egg noodles in a coconut chicken broth topped with sautéed chicken, eggplant, green beans, enoki mushrooms, shitakes, onions and frizzled shallots . At $8.95 as a lunch special with your choice of soda or a side of another soup (the more the merrier), it comes just within the midtown lunch price range when you include tax.
- The Brazilian Chicken Soup (Small $4.50/ Medium $5.50/ Large $6.50), African Peanut Chicken Soup at Dishes (Small $4.50/ Medium $5.50/ Large $6.50), and Vegetable Tom Yom Soup ($10.50) at Dishes(45th between 5th and Madison, Park between 53rd and 5th) — When I’m looking for something heartier than a clear broth soup, any soup that uses coconut milk broth as a base is a winner in my book. The Brazilian Chicken Soup and African Peanut Chicken Soup actually taste fairly similar since they both star coconut milk and chicken and contain similar vegetables, but the African Peanut Soup has much nuttier flavor from the peanuts and a more pronounced sweetness from the chunks of sweet potatoes in the broth. Dishes is usually a madhouse at lunchtime, but when I am feeling brave, I also like to get the Tom Yom Soup at the made-to-order noodle soup stationâ€”pick your broth, pick your noodles, and pick your vegetable an meat toppings. Though it’s slightly over the ML price range, the Tom Yom is my favorite of these “make your own creations” because of the tangy vinegar kick in the broth and the fried shallot topping. My coworker tasted one of the shallots and actually asked me if it was bacon because it lent such a smoky and caramelized flavor to the soup.
- The Chicken and Oats soup ($1.25) at the Outpost (NW Corner of 44th and Broadway)- With soups priced at only at $1.25 for what most places would consider a “medium” sized container, the Outpost may be the soup deal of a lifetime. Hidden in the MTV/Viacom Building (Northwest corner of 44th and Broadway). The soups are fresh-made by a chef who basically invents whatever soup he is in the mood to cook. He usually comes up with 3-4 soups each day ranging from Mushroom Brie to Chicken Tortilla. And occasionally he will get inspired and do something random like throw oatmeal into chicken vegetable soup—and voila, Chicken and oats soup is born. Sounds kind of strange, but the combination actually works and is reminiscent of congee or risotto.
Wow. It’s going to take the rest of the winter to get through that checklist. Thanks Grace. Do you have a favorite soup in Midtown? Feel free to post it in the comments…
And as always, if you have a report, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org