Food for Thought

Where to find the best soup in Houston — including ones that stare back

Where to find the best soup in Houston — including ones that stare back

French onion soup
Chef Philippe Schmit does use some garlic in his French onion soup, one of the staples at Philippe Restaurant + Lounge. And it’s awesome. Photo by Catherine Walsh
News_David Luna_Line & Lariat
"French onion soup...is always comforting and calming to the soul," says David Luna of Line & Lariat. Photo via Hotel Icon
News_Jenni's Noodle House
And let’s not get started on Vietnamese soups. Who can pass up Jenni’s Noodle House? Photo by Joel Luks
News_Marene_soup and a chef_Bistro Alex_tortilla soup.jpg
There's also tortilla soup, and TQLA chef Tommy Birdwell does a mean Aztec tortilla soup that will warm your bones Photo by Scott Lindsey
French onion soup
News_David Luna_Line & Lariat
News_Jenni's Noodle House
News_Marene_soup and a chef_Bistro Alex_tortilla soup.jpg

Recently felled by a vicious head cold, I lay on the sofa clutching the TV remote in one hand and a box of tissues in the other, longing for soup.

But not just any soup.

Many years ago, in Austin, we used to swear by the garlic onion soup that was made daily and sold on The Drag at the grocery co-op. It was really more garlic than onion. Not only was it delicious, it was better than penicillin for curing whatever ailed you. One cup and you felt instantly revitalized.

You could breathe again! You just couldn’t breathe on someone else.

 Soup is such a simple and sustainable dish. I have no idea how many kinds of soup there are but just Google soup recipes and you’ll get 64,800,000 results. 

Sadly, I don’t know anywhere in Houston that sells garlic onion soup. And I wasn’t about to get up off my deathbed and make it myself.

So I settled for a mercy delivery of Tex-Mex and aspirin.

But the thought of soup remains with me, particularly with the fact that January is National Soup Month.

So what’s your favorite soup?

For Dad, surprisingly, it’s French onion soup. I would have thought it would be some kind of cheese soup, considering how much he loves chili con queso. But no, he loves French onion soup. And I have to admit I do to.

And we’re not alone.

“My favorite soup is French onion soup,” say chef David Luna of the Line & Lariat at Hotel Icon. “It’s always comforting and calming to the soul.”

He makes his with chicken stock instead of beef stock but insists on a good nutty Gruyère. (His recipe is below. Next time I’m sick please make this for me, and maybe throw in some garlic.)

Actually chef Philippe Schmit does use some garlic in his French onion soup, one of the staples at Philippe Restaurant + Lounge. And it’s also awesome, although it’s pretty hard to mess up onion soup. Even the canned versions are pretty good in a pinch. Just add some warm bread to sop up the remains.

But soup is such a simple and sustainable dish. You can make it from almost anything. I have no idea how many kinds of soup there are but just Google soup recipes and you’ll get 64,800,000 results.

I’d have to say one of my favorites is broccoli cheese, the cheesier the better. Check out the creamy broccoli cheese soup at Luby’s (oh, come on, you know you eat there, too) for a real homey taste that you can make at home yourself, the recipe is included in the Luby’s Recipes and Memories Cookbook

Oh, and then there’s the great and hearty baked potato soup at The Black Labrador, snuggle up by the fire with a bowl and a pint of black and tan and you’ll be good to go.

And let’s not get started on Vietnamese soups. Who can pass up the pho at Jenni’s Noodle House (there’s also a Faux Pho for vegetarians) or the Mama Tran shrimp soup?

And of course, let’s not forget those soups from South of the border way. TQLA chef Tommy Birdwell does a mean Aztec tortilla soup that will warm your bones but there’s also menudo, although it’s not for the faint of heart . . . er . . . stomach. Since it’s made from beef tripe. As in stomach.

“Growing up, my grandfather’s menudo was a wintertime tradition for us, especially around the holidays,” says chef Roland Soza of Bistro Alex. “We have a huge family, so it was great to see everyone enjoy a big bowl of soup with limes, fresh corn tortillas and onions, while enjoying the moment of family time. Another childhood memory tied to soups was my uncles’ goat stew.

"It would freak my cousins out when they saw the whole head of the goat floating in the soup. Now I know what my uncles were trying to accomplish, it was to add more flavor to the broth.”

I’m not sure I could eat that, particularly if I were under the weather, say, with a stomach virus. At least with menudo you don’t actually see the stomach looking back at you.

Maybe when under the weather I’ll stick with some Jewish penicillin. Just a big bowl of chicken soup with a giant matzo ball from Kenny & Ziggy’s Deli.

Because the matzo ball can’t stare back at you.


Chef David Luna’s French Onion Soup Recipe
6  each Yellow onions, sliced 1/4" thick
¼    Pound Unsalted butter, sliced
1 Tbs All-purpose flour
1  gallon Dark chicken stock
Pinch Sugar
Splash Sherry vinegar
Salt/Pepper, to taste
 
 
1.    Melt butter in a large heavy bottom pot. Add onions and gently cook for about one hour or until deeply caramelized.    
2.    Add flour and cook 10 minutes. Add the stock and simmer for one hour, reducing by about 1/4th.
3.    Add a little sugar and vinegar. Adjust seasoning.

How to Serve

12 oz onion soup, hot
1-2  pieces French baguette crouton
2 slices Gruyère, sliced
¼ cup Gruyère, grated

1. Ladle the hot soup into a lion’s head tureen or French onion soup crock.
2. Set the crouton on top of the soup and place a slice of cheese on top.
3. Spread the grated Gruyère on the sliced cheese and place another slice on top of that.
4. Bake under a broiler for about six to eight minutes or until the cheese is browned and the soup is bubbling.
5. Serve immediately.