Best of Denver

Ten Great Soup Spots to Warm Up a Wintry Day in Denver

Any kind of soup is good for the soul.
Any kind of soup is good for the soul. Westword
Is it soup yet? We think so — especially as the snowflakes swirl and the ice builds up on city streets. Not only is soup a hot meal on a cold day, it feeds the heart with childhood memories of nourishing food. Here are ten great places for a warming bowl, from spicy Asian sizzlers to Midwestern home-style warmers. Soup's on!

1. Duck Chao at V Express
333 South Federal Boulevard

Many Asian countries have a version of rice soup or porridge that's a way to extend a portion of rice or offer a warming meal to those in need of culinary comfort. Vietnam’s rendition, chao, adds colorful elements that enliven the tastebuds. V Express cooks up the dish in two styles: chao ga and chao vit, made with chicken and duck, respectively. This is also a breakfast mainstay, and luckily, V Express opens at 10 a.m. daily. The duck chao as served at V Express is much thinner than Chinese congee; a cloudy broth hides rice and chunks of duck (complete with bones, so be careful). A good stir brings matchsticks of ginger and onion to the surface and disperses a raft of cracked black pepper and rau ram, a Vietnamese herb with a pungent, musky flavor similar to that of cilantro. This chao comes with a side of dipping sauce, made with fish sauce, vinegar, sugar, ginger and dried red-chile flakes to up the flavor another notch or two.

2. Mexican Soups at El Chingon
4326 Tennyson Street

At El Chingon, the flavors of dried chiles shine in soups like a smoky, creamy camarón bistro soup made with chipotles or a hearty posole bolstered with lamb shoulder. Chef David Lopez captures the soul of Mexico while introducing modern cooking techniques. Head inside the homey Berkeley bungalow for a delicious dive into bowls guaranteed to melt away the winter frost.

3. Flavorsome Ramen at Sera's Ramen Enclave
3472 West 32nd Avenue

Sera Nguyen opened this laid-back West Highland noodle joint in the former Bang! spot (3472 West 32nd Avenue) in May and has been making fans ever since — even more since the weather turned frigid. All it takes is one bowl of Nguyen's comforting ramen to seal the deal, and a noodle bowl called Flavorsome Ramen did it for us. The $14 bowl contains a rich but not heavy oxtail broth and hearty, tender chunks of pulled, braised oxtail. Leeks and fried shallots melt into the bowl so that you hardly know they're there, but the flavor works to add the slightest piquant twist and fresh crunch to the broth's luscious umami nuances. Nguyen tops the bowl with a pile of dainty, raw enoki mushrooms, some slices of pink-and-white fish cake and a butter-lettuce cup filled with bright-orange masago (Japanese fish roe). Of course, there's also the pile of thick, curly, buttery noodles that do such a good job of absorbing the flavor and fat of the meat.
4. Toomkha at US Thai Cafe
5228 West 25th Avenue, Edgewater
Nuclear heat is usually the draw at this Edgewater cafe, but the yellow-white broth swimming with chunks of pale onion, even whiter strips of chicken, fat button mushrooms and a hint of dark-green cilantro offers a more soothing way to warm up. It doesn't look too exciting, but each spoonful of the tangy, spicy and almost buttery broth will bring you closer to licking the bowl clean — and since a bowl of toomkha is only $6.50, you may consider calling for another round. It's rare that a sour dish can also offer a comforting richness, but between the velvety coconut milk that acts as a base and the sparks of Thai chili peppers and piquant galangal, an Indonesian ginger, this bowl of toomkha satisfies on so many levels.

5. Spicy Beef Hot Pot at Bronze Empire
1591 South Colorado Boulevard
This is more than just a bowl of soup; it's an entire pot — so bring friends — that you make yourself over a tabletop hot plate with fresh ingredients. The first thing you'll do when ordering is pick a soup, selecting a flavor profile and a broth; we recommend the spicy soup made with beef broth. This particular style mimics classic Sichuan-style hot pot, made there with racy red chiles, mouth-numbing Sichuan peppercorns and beef tallow, which gives the broth a voluptuous mouthfeel and deep flavor. While Bronze Empire's version ditches the peppercorns, the broth is spiked with habanero and serrano chiles, layering in enough heat (if you ask for it) to make you sweat. And the kitchen renders its own tallow, making this broth rib-sticking and an excellent rendition, peppercorns or no. Once you have the soup worked out, order the meats and veggies you'd like as the soup simmers in front of you. We'd recommend lamb and ribeye, tofu skin, mushrooms and plenty of greens.

Keep reading for five more soup spots.

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