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Food recs: Kansas City's best restaurants for soups and stews

Woodyard Bar-B-Que
KCUR's food critics and listeners agree: Woodyard Bar-B-Que's burnt end chili is one of the best stews in the metro.

Where to get the most flavorful gumbo, pho, chili, ramen, pozole and French onion soup in Kansas City according to KCUR food critics and listeners.

The weather may be trending towards warm, but the aftermath of Kansas City's recent cold snap still has a lot of us craving soup.

Then again, soup isn't exclusive to frigid temps, is it?

"There's nothing better on a grey, rainy day than a bowl of soup," says food critic Liz Cook. "Whenever the weather doesn't match your mood, soup is a great way to have a comforting hug."

Another great thing about soup is its variety. Every cuisine seems to have a few staples — whether it's a light, flavorful broth or a thick, hearty chili.

As KCUR host Brian Ellison points out though, "If you need a fork, it's a stew."

Whether you prefer stew or soup, here are the restaurants our food critics recommend trying this spring.

Liz Cook, The Pitch:

  • Kin Lin — tomato egg drop soup. This rendition of egg drop soup featuring a brightly acidic broth, a red flush of chili oil and generous hunks of soft-stewed tomato deserves to be the default. For a heartier meal, order it with noodles. You can find it on Kin Lin's "Authentic Chinese dishes" menu.
  • Vietnam Cafe — beef & brisket pho. With its add-your-own garnishes, this beef and brisket pho is perfectly suited to carryout. Vietnam Cafe even packages each item separately to keep the basil and bean sprouts crisp and the noodles chewy until you get home. The broth is the star here, though: complex, slightly sweet and fragrant thanks to star anise.
  • The Corner Lalo’s Kitchen — menudo. This small restaurant in Mission is justifiably popular for its cochinita pibil served on unusually sturdy corn tortillas, but don't sleep on this traditional Mexican soup, complete with chewy hominy and perfectly tender tripe. Unlike other restaurants, you can get this soup any day of the week here.
  • Waldo Thai Place — Gaeng Orm Nua Issan. The latest iteration of this northern Thai beef stew may be Waldo Thai's best yet. Spice-averse diners shouldn’t be deterred by the ingredients list. Serrano and Thai chilis may be part of the package, but the stew is mild and delicate overall.
  • Kobi-Q — kimchi soup. Once-pungent kimchi infuses the broth of this bright red mildly spicy soup. The cabbage is tender and sweet and cubes of buttery tofu and thin frills of pork add bulk. It's perfect fare for a chilly, gray March day.
  • My Village Grill — efo riro soup. This traditional Nigerian soup is lively and a little smoky, with a bracing heat from the pepper base and stewed spinach. It's a great entry point to the bevy of excellent Nigerian soups and stews here. Order it with fufu, which can be used as your edible utensil.
  • Westport Cafe & Bar — French onion soup.

Mary Bloch, Around the Block:

  • Happy Gillis Cafe + Hangout. The soup selection changes all the time here, so just order whatever Chef Abbey-Jo Eans has on special. Whether it's carrot, squash or chili, it’s all good.
  • The Bite — pozole. This traditional Mexican hominy stew comes with a choice of pork, chicken and mushrooms, as well as traditional garnishes. It's one of my favorite versions in town.
  • Kobi-Q — kimchi soup. This Korean stew features a spicy broth that is chock-full of aged kimchi, pork, tofu and rice. If you're used to their rice bowls and rice cakes, this is a nice change of pace.
  • Extra Virgin — French onion soup. This classically rich beef broth of caramelized onions is served piping hot under a blanket of cheese. It's very worthy of some love.
  • Woodyard Bar-B-Que — burnt end chili. This Kansas City classic is so good that it's featured in the book, "500 Things to Eat Before It's Too Late."
  • Danny Edward’s BBQ — chili. You can only get this Mexican chili on a seasonal basis, but it's worth the effort. In addition to beans, it's filled with tender pork.
  • Novel — butternut squash soup. Any seasonal soup that Chef Ryan Brazeal creates here is exceptional, but this is particularly impressive and complex thanks to the addition of jalapeno sauce, cardamom, coconut tapioca and black garlic.
  • Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar — crawfish and andouille sausage gumbo. This is thick and satisfying with red & green peppers, long grain rice and preserved okra.
  • Gram & Dun — chicken & sausage gumbo.
  • Anousone — khao poon. Picture delicious pulled pork and bamboo shoots in a red curry coconut broth alongside a bed of vermicelli noodles, shaved cabbage, long beans, banana blossoms and fresh herbs.
  • Sura Noodle Bar — kimchi shin ramyun. This is a standout ramen bowl thanks to homemade pork broth, pork belly, kimchi, shiitake mushrooms, roasted seaweed, chili-sesame oil and a soy-marinated egg. This new pop-up is from the owner of Sura Eats at Parlor.
  • Bella Napoli — cacciucco. This Tuscany-style fish stew has shrimp, mussels, clams and octopus, nestled in a spicy tomato broth. For a complete meal, dunk some grilled bread in it.

Listener recommendations:

Liz Cook and Mary Bloch joined Brian Ellison on a recent episode of KCUR's Up To Date.

Whether it’s something happening right now or something that happened 100 years ago, some stories don’t fit in the short few minutes of a newscast. As a podcast producer for KCUR Studios and host of the podcast A People’s History of Kansas City, I help investigate questions and local curiosities in a way that brings listeners along for adventures with plot twists and thought-provoking ideas. Sometimes there isn’t an easy answer in the end – but my hope is that we all leave with a greater understanding of the city we live in. Reach me at mackenzie@kcur.org.
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