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Soup's On

Eleven recommended bowls at Chicago restaurants

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The Bagel

3107 N. Broadway | 773-477-0300



A big bowl of Mish-Mash Soup—chicken broth with noodles, kreplach, rice, kasha, and a matzo ball—is the object of many a flu-addled diner's pilgrimage to this much-loved Lakeview deli. Other menu items, while not as overtly therapeutic, have similarly comforting effects. They include an array of hearty sandwiches, daily soups, and hot entrees. Breakfast is served all day. The room has been given a recent face-lift, but retains its Broadway theme. A take-out counter in front does brisk business. —Martha Bayne

Birrieria Zaragoza

4852 S. Pulaski | 773-523-3700


Mexican | 10 AM-7 PM Monday-Friday, 8 AM-7 PM Saturday, 8 AM-4 PM Sunday

John Zaragoza learned to make birria from a master: Miguel Segura, who runs the venerable Birrieria Miguel at the market in Zaragoza's native town of La Barca, Jalisco. Zaragoza goes through five to seven young goats in a weekend, seasoning the meat with kosher salt before gently cooking it in a sealed steamer on a stovetop for up to six hours. Unlike most birrieros, he makes his consomme, which is tomato-based, without drippings from the meat. It's a method he learned by videotaping Segura's wife, and it results in a clean broth without the fat and excessive saltiness that can ruin a plate of chivo. After steaming, he lightly applies an ancho-based mole to the meat and transfers it to an oven. The handmade tortillas are prepared on a mesquite wood press he brought back from La Barca. When these are freshly pressed and heated on the grill until slightly puffed, they're an exquisite vehicle for the goat, lightly drizzled with the consomme and garnished with salsa, onions, cilantro, and lime. —Mike Sula

Han Bat

2723 W. Lawrence | 773-271-8640



This unassuming, half-hidden hole wedged between a defunct Korean bar and the late, great Penguin does one thing well enough to win written testimonials from Korean pop stars and luminaries. It's sul lung tang, or ox-bone soup, a great bowl of goodness with its origins in centuries-old harvest rites, after which the bones of a sacrificial beast of burden were boiled for hours to make a milky white broth. Bland, silky, and rich with marrow, it's a specialty of the region surrounding Seoul, and in these times, valued as hangover remedy or a soothing morning meal. Here it's available with a choice of chap chae or white noodles and a variety of cow parts (flank, brisket, tongue, tripe, spleen, tendon, or a combination) and accompanied only by hot roasted corn tea and the refreshing, crisp, and spicy contrast of kkakdugi (diced radish) and whole cabbage kimchi, which a waitress scissors into pieces at the table. The soup can be livened at the diner's discretion with sea salt, chopped green onions, and chile paste. Should one desire some additional protein, plates of boiled brisket, tendon, or tongue are available, but a single spicy beef vegetable soup is the sole alternative to the house specialty. —Mike Sula

Jibek Jolu

5047 N. Lincoln | 773-878-8494



"Don't expect the food in Kyrgyzstan to be the highlight of your trip," reads the back of the menu at Jibek Jolu. The humility is endearing, but I think these folks are selling their product short. The food from countries along the former Silk Road is pretty special, reflecting a synthesis of cuisines from eastern Europe, China, Persia, Turkey, and beyond. You can find representative dishes at a handful of Russian restaurants around town, but as far as I know this is the only place within the city limits strictly devoted to central Asian food. When they opened, owners Marat Bilimbekov and Atai Irsaliev reckoned there were only about 50 of their countrymen around town and guessed their cause would be missionary. But since then Bilimbekov says about 300 Kyrgzstanis have stopped in to partake of the home-style food of chef Anora Khudayberdeva, who stuffs the house-made beef dumplings such as manty and pelmeni, as well as lamb- and potato-stuffed hand pies known as samsy. Central Asian specialiaties are the main draw: cuminy Korean carrot salad, lamby shorpa, house-baked lepeshka bread, and lagman, a soupy, garlicky bowl of painstakingly hand-pulled noodles topped with lamb, daikon, banana peppers, and tomatoes. Reflecting a nomadic tradition, there's lots of lamb, and lots of beef, yet in general the menu as a whole reflects a stronger eastern European influence than you might imagine. But if Russian vareniki, kotlety, and deep bowls of bright red borscht are too tame to your taste, everything can be amped up with a mix of white vinegar and garlicky chile paste called lazy. —Mike Sula

Kasia's Deli

2101 W. Chicago | 773-486-7500



Kasia's Deli has been a Ukie Village landmark for 27 years, and owner Kazimiera Bober has proudly served her pierogi and galompki (cabbage rolls) to presidents (Clinton), mayors (Daley) and domestic divas (Martha Stewart). In addition to the Polish dumplings, there's a fine selection of mildly spiced, mostly meat-based dishes that'll easily fill two hungry guys for under $20. In fact, if you spend much more than that, you'll probably need a two-wheeler to cart home your doggy bag. Soups are outstanding, particularly the mushroom barley. Veal meatballs, flecked with dill, are subtle, and like many of the dishes here, satisfying though not aggressively flavored. If salad appeals, the pureed beet has a soft whisper of horseradish, and there are several types of slaw, as well an oxymoronically lightweight potato salad with carrots and peas. The best ordering strategy is to buy a quarter-pound of six or seven selections and then nosh at one of two small cafe tables at the front—the staff will warm everything for you. —David Hammond

Laschet's Inn

2119 W. Irving Park | 773-478-7915



There's a pervading spirit of gemütlichkeit in this little bar. Old guys tie it on and sing in the mother tongue at the bar, but they mingle with a younger crowd: relative shortpants working tattooed biceps with huge steins of beer or neighborhood mommies and daddies introducing offspring to their first Wiener schnitzel. There's a range of robust provender to accompany the wide selection of German beer on draft. Big steaming plates of roast veal or sauerbraten, cooked long and laden with rich gravy, are the most dependably hearty dishes, but the relatively lighter, crispy schnitzels wouldn't starve anyone either. In the middle of that scale, königsberger klopse, soft meatballs in lemony sauce with capers or sausage duets of glistening bratwurst, Thuringer, or veal wieners are fine fuel for long winter hibernations. Most plates are flanked by spaetzle or roast potatoes and a pile of sweet stewed red cabbage, and rounded out with a soup du jour—for example, a thin but deliciously hammy pea soup—or a distinctly German interpretation of vegetables, e.g., a three-beaner with pineapple. These dishes are icons of meat-and-potatoes eating, which isn't to say there aren't opportunities for decadence: you can't get any more fancypants than the Saturday night special hackepeter appetizer—coarse rye bread topped with raw minced beef garnished with chopped onions and capers. Go on any day but Monday, when the kitchen is closed. —Mike Sula


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