Matzo Ball Soup
Jewish kids grow up with either Bubbie’s chewy “sinkers” or airy “floaters”—the descriptors used for the dumplings in matzo ball soup. Secluded from street view in a West Seattle mall, Eats Market Café has been winning acclaim for its sinkers for years—and deservedly so. A cup of this golden-hued elixir, rich with vegetables and dark chicken meat, is yours for only $4.95 ($6.95/bowl).
Talk about unexpected finds. It’s easy to overlook the chicken soup ($5.95/small, $7.50/large) at White Center’s Salvadorean Bakery & Restaurant. There are, after all, all those pupusas, tamales and an array of festive pastries lined up in the case. But this satisfying broth, heady with chunks of zucchini, carrots and endless tender morsels of moist, light and dark chicken meat, is stupendous. Thickened with the barest amount of rice and perfumed with dill, it comes with hot corn tortillas for dipping. Sliced jalapeños on the side are yours for the asking.
Butternut Squash Soup
One of the most underrated gems in the city is charming, Euro-inspired Tilikum Place Cafe. And a bowl of its deeply flavored, persimmon-hued butternut squash soup ($4/cup, $7/bowl), scented with that wintry flavor of dusty sage and apple, is quite possibly the finest thing we’ve tasted from the kitchen there (though we would never turn down a side of the maple-y, bacon-flecked baked beans).
Aromatic with spices like cinnamon and star anise, and fragrant with charred onions and ginger, a proper bowl of pho (Vietnamese beef noodle soup) is mandatory when the temperature drops. Scattered with jade slivers of green onion and fresh cilantro, and brimming with chewy rice noodles, the pho tai at Pho Bac comes with thinly sliced beef that cooks in the hot broth. Feeling more adventurous? Try the flavorful fatty flank, tendon and tripe version. Small bowls run a little more than $6 each. (For a more deluxe noodle nirvana experience, try Monsoon’s exquisite oxtail pho during its weekend brunch.)
French Onion Soup
The old-timey charm of a tummy-warming crock of French onion soup and a side of crusty baguette for dipping is one of life’s simplest pleasures. How fortunate we are that Place Pigalle in the Pike Place Market has refined this meal in a bowl with the addition of moderately sweet, caramel-y cream sherry, and a blistered blanket of gooey Gruyère ($9/cup, $11/bowl). Add an order of Pigalle’s famous balsamic and bacon mussels ($15) for a date-night meal that’ll leave you swooning.
Forget the chain restaurants that serve bowls of hot wallpaper paste. Real chowder, light in texture and not too thick, generously peppered with clams and made substantial with cubed potatoes, can be found at the Pike Place Market’s Market Grill ($4.50/8 ounces, $5.50/12 ounces, $6.50/16 ounces). It is the ideal accompaniment to the grilled wild salmon sandwich, slathered with house-made rosemary aioli, lettuce and tomato, on an airy Le Panier baguette.