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Yes, it’s pumpkin spice season. And definitely apples’ favorite time of year. But the best part of the region’s dropping temps is the opportunity to seek culinary refuge in a steaming hot bowl of soup.
We’ve put together a list of some of our favorite fall options, from a traditional West African peanut dish to a beefed-up version of a Japanese starter. There are chunky chilis perfect for curling up on the couch, and a gulp-worthy chicken broth you can pick up for lunch.
Take on the chilliest of days with our picks for soul-soothing soups to slurp around the city.
Have an idea for a dish we should try for a future edition of Things to Eat? Let us know.
Soondubu at Jong Ka Jib
6600 N. 5th St. (Olney)
Make the trip to this staple of North Philly’s Koreatown for this bubbling pot that’s as fiery as it is soothing. Served in hot stone, soondubu is a spicy mix of soft tofu slipping through a thick gochujang chile broth with kimchi tossed in for tang and crunch. Pick your style, then crack a raw egg in the top and mix it well for one of the most satisfying meals you can get for $12.
Tomato Crab Bisque at Haute Lounge
1420 Locust St. (Rittenhouse)
Buttery, sweet and spicy with giant lumps of crab, plus a presentation that ranks 10 out of 10. There’s not much more that needs to be said about Haute’s savory crab bisque. The location, nestled between Broad and 15th streets on Locust, doubles as a true bar and lounge. The atmosphere is high-end and the food is worth checking out. As fall and winter descend, this bisque could be the perfect thing to try first.
Matzah Ball Soup at Prescription Chicken
111 S. Independence Mall (Historic District)
Matzah? Matzoh? Matzo? However you spell it, the fluffy balls of traditional Jewish cracker at this outpost inside the Bourse Food Hall add welcome texture to a broth that would make bubbe proud. Redolent with garlic and ginger, the “grandma style” option is the cure to lunchtime doldrums — and just about anything else. Get at $12 bowl with noodles and veggies, or just a cup of broth to sip your blues away.
Miso Seafood Soup at Aki Nom Nom
1210 Walnut St. (Center City)
This pumped up miso soup isn’t on the menu anymore at Aki Nom Nom (formerly Aki), but the restaurant will serve it up for insiders who order it anyway. The traditional milky looking miso broth flavored with bonito fish flakes is augmented with huge chunks of shrimp and scallops. With bits of green seaweed and scallions, this unassuming bowl is a meal on its own.
Sopa de Frijoles at Sazon
941 Spring Garden St. (Spring Arts/Callowhill)
Few things showcase Venezuelan chef Judith Suzarra-Campbell’s intense love for her native country’s cuisine than what appears to be a simple bean soup. A staple at the adorable BYOB she runs with her husband, chocolatier Robert Campbell, this vegetable stew takes legumes to a new level, sparking them with spices and soothing them with avocado and sour cream on top. It’s yours for $11.50 a bowl.
Ethiopian Dahl at Uncle Bobbie’s
5445 Germantown Ave. (Germantown)
Uncle Bobbie’s is a bookstore and coffee shop known for its sweet potato pie. But this community space also serves a delicious East African take on chickpea dahl. The vegan soup is a smooth, curry-based bowl with comforting spicy and floral notes. The soup offerings rotate, so call ahead to confirm — though we’ve never tried a soup there we didn’t love.
Bun Thang at Banh Mi and Bottles
712 South St. (South Street)
This favorite comfort food of Vietnamese moms was formerly just offered as a special at this combo beer shop, restaurant and cocktail house, but it’s now a staple on the menu. Loaded with vermicelli noodles, chicken, shrimp, Vietnamese pork roll and egg in a rich chicken broth, it’s like you took a warm, cozy night by the fire and transformed it into meaty, slurpable form. The giant bowl runs you $15, and will last you at least two meals.
Chickpea Chili at All The Way Live
538 W Clapier St., 6108 Germantown Ave. (Germantown and Mt. Airy)
For a hearty soup that will really warm you from the inside out, try this vegan chickpea chili soup in Northwest Philly. Chunky enough to be a chili but light enough not to overwhelm, this bright orange and tomato-y take on chickpeas is spiced with Indian flavors offering a heat that goes beyond temperature. It’s the meaty-textured soup’s slight kick that really thaws the soul.
‘Peanut Sauce’ at African Small Pot
6505 Woodland Ave. (Southwest Philly)
This classic Mauritanian dish served over rice is just as delicious spooned directly out of the cup, with shreds of beef floating in a “peanut sauce” swirled with chile oil. At $12, it’s a meal that’ll sustain you for days. The time-intensive stew is the work of well-traveled chef Abdarahmane Diop, who with his son Bocar runs this tiny spot — a must-try on any visit to Southwest Philly’s West African strip.
Turkey Chili at Panera Bread
We know, we know. This is a chain restaurant where the food is often compared to hospital cuisine. But anyone who’s tried the seasonal turkey chili can’t argue the soup is good. We can’t be the only ones who wait for that first crisp fall air to descend so that we can head to one of Panera’s three Philly locations (the newest and largest of which opened in University City this fall) for its protein-rich take on a seasonal fave, chock full of ground turkey, black beans and corn. Pro-tip: chose the french baguette as a side and dip away.