Food Critics: The Best Soup And Stews In Kansas City | KCUR

Food Critics: The Best Soup And Stews In Kansas City

Jan 8, 2016

The ramen at Columbus Park Ramen Shop is just a taste of the soup discussed on this episode of Central Standard.
Credit Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

When it’s cold and snowing — or if you’re feeling under the weather — there’s just something that’s so comforting about a hot bowl of soup or stew.

From pho to pozole to chicken noodle and chicken pot pies, KCUR’s Food Critics uncovered the best soup and stew dishes in Kansas City.

Here are their recommendations:

Charles Ferruzza:

  • One of my favorite soups in Kansas City is the chicken noodle soup at Stroud's: Comforting, healing, soothing. It has very thick noodles and a lot of chicken. It’s not going to win any awards, but for some reason, it always hits me the right way.
  • The herb soup at Malay Café: Feeling punky? On the verge of a cold? Pneumonia? Depression? This Malaysian restaurant's signature soup is a bowl of translucent broth with pieces of chicken, broccoli, onion, carrot, cabbage, green peppers and squash. The secret ingredient is the ginseng.
  • The tom yum soup at Hot Basil. The combination of potent lemongrass, kaffir lime and cilantro is not only soothing but intoxicating. You can get well just smelling the soup, it’s that beautiful. There are a lot of things going on in that soup – competing flavors – but for some reason, they all work together; they play off each other really well.
  • Red Snapper is the only restaurant that actually has an egg drop soup that’s really good.
  • I love the hot and sour soup at Bo Lings because it has an extra note of vinegar, which makes it sour.
  • Café Provence makes a wonderful French onion soup.
  • I love tomato basil soup. My favorite is the tomato basil soup at Café Europa; it’s really good. I’m not a big tomato soup fan — I, like probably everybody here, grew up with tomato soup as my mother’s choice as get-well soup, it was always canned — so I like to have a tomato soup with a little vigor and punch.

Mary Bloch:

  • Columbus Park Ramen Shop. It’s owned by Josh and Abbey-Jo Eans of Happy Gillis, which is next door. The couple flew around the country doing research to come up with the ideal way to make the broth, which noodles to source, how to put together the ingredients, etc. and they have a winner on their hands. I especially love the kimchi ramen, which is nirvana for a spice lover because it's packed with Chinese sausage and kimchi. I'm also a fan of the mushroom ramen because the broth is so intensely earthy and tastes just like a mushroom. It’s open only in the evenings, since they share a kitchen with Happy Gillis (which is breakfast and lunch only).
  • Chile verde pozole at Port Fonda. You could call it a soup or a stew. It's made with green chile marinated pork shoulder, spicy tomatillo-poblano broth, hominy, crunchy garnishes, fried farm egg, cilantro and lime, and it is immensely satisfying on a cold winter's day (or night.). I'm also a fan of Port Fonda's tortilla soup, made with roasted white and dark meat chicken, roasted chicken-chile de guajillo broth, avocado, chihuahua cheese, tortilla strips, crema, chile, oregano, cilantro and lime.
  • Pork soup at The Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange. It's a cross between a pork stew and French onion soup. Chunks of pork are enveloped in gruyère and a hearty broth for a rich soup that can serve as a full meal.
  • Corn soup at Novel. An intense corn broth, best at the height of the season when corn is at its sweetest, topped with crab or clams, seafood and jalapeno. Sublime. It reminds me of the fresh pea soup at Bluestem, which is a brilliant green soup that needs no embellishment.
  • San jan jam bong at Red Snapper. This is not your mother's chicken noodle soup. Filled with scallops, shrimp, mussels and squid, and veggies, it's very spicy and it’s perfect for clearing your sinuses.
  • Charisse makes a good French onion soup.

Jenny Vergara:

  • Sunchoke soup at Room 39. It’s drizzled with truffle oil and served with a scant few croutons. Sunchokes are also known as Jerusalem artichokes, and they have a sunflower/artichoke flavor that is unique. You can only find them in the winter months, and chef Ted Habiger’s creamy flavorful version is a great way to try them. It was soft and silky and it had this nuttiness that harkened back to the taste of artichoke … delicious.
  • Beef bone broth at Uncommon Stock. Animal bones are cooked down to release all of the protein and collagen, which can benefit your skin, hair and nails, and it’s also understood to help people who suffer from digestive issues. It’s a very thin, light, rich-tasting broth with the essence of beef. Simple, flavorful, best when heated in a mug and sipped almost like tea.
  • Chicken pot pie at Anna’s Oven. It is the stew that eats like a soup. A brown crock dish is filled with a light chicken broth that is full of generous pieces of carrot, onion, celery and pieces of tender white meat chicken, covered with a flaky puffed pastry and baked golden brown.
  • Tomato basil soup at Nordstrom Café. Tomato soup is my ultimate go-to comfort food. The secret to the soup is that they cook down carrots with the tomatoes to give it sweetness and used dried basil. The sweetness of the carrots kind of counterbalance the acid of the tomatoes. It’s sweet and creamy with a little hint of basil.
  • Tom kha gai from Thai Place. To cure what ails me, tom kha gai soup is always my go-to soup. It has a rich coconut broth cooked down with galanga roots, lemongrass and kaffir lime with sliced fresh mushrooms, onions, scallions and cilantro. It’s a very light soup, broth-y for sure. It doesn’t have coconut pieces in it; the coconut broth adds the little bit of creaminess and sweetness. It cures the common cold, and I am pretty sure it was responsible for the birth of my son, Dominic, after the doctor sent me home and suggested spicy foods to help the process along. I ate a bowl of tom kha gai from Thai Place and he was born the next day.
  • Summit Grill in Waldo has a fantastic French onion soup.

Soup that I miss: Souperman’s West African peanut soup.

Chicken noodle soup is a timeless soup classic, and the ultimate in comfort food.
Credit jeffreyw / Flickr

Listener Recommendations:

  • Peking Restaurant has the best hot and sour soup I think I’ve ever had. It’s very, very hot when they serve it to you, and it’s also spicy-hot. The flavor is fabulous.
  • Chicken broth from La Fonda. It’s called “chicken broth,” but it has chicken, rice, cilantro, lime and avocado. It’s amazing and it makes you feel really good, especially if you’re not feeling well.
  • Chicken pho from Vietnam Café in the River Market. It’s really fragrant, and it comes with the usual bean sprouts, cilantro, jalapenos, limes and basil. It’s always super-good and really fresh, and not super-sweet.
  • The brisket pho at iPho Tower is really good.
  • The seafood pho at iPho Tower.
  • Sausage lentil soup at Carrabba’s. It’s a thick soup that’s packed with lentils, and the sausage gives it a light kick.
  • I love the wonton soup at Blue Koi and the (spicy!) tom kha gai at Lulu’s Thai Noodle Shop.
  • The artichoke bisque at Blue Moose is wonderful! It’s creamy and it doesn’t have big chunks of artichokes in it. It’s served with crostini with goat cheese, and it’s delicious
  • Bone broth is also available at Broadway Butcher Shop.
  • The broths at Blue Koi (vegetable- or meat-based). They cure a shaky tummy every time.
  • If we're talking soup, I'm talking about the lentil soup at the Holy Land Cafe in Lenexa.
  • The smoked chicken gumbo at Joe's Kansas City is outstanding!
  • Don’t forget the daily array of soups at French Market to-go. Mushroom is my favorite.
  • Ragazza has fantastic Italian sausage with artichoke soup.
  • The clam chowder at Whole Foods is first-rate. I'm a chowder fan and have had few or none that are better.
  • Caldo de cameron (Mexican shrimp soup) at El Maguey: Best soup I have had. Big shrimp, pico de gallo, rice. Excellent.

Jen Chen is associate producer for KCUR's Central Standard. Reach out to her at jen@kcur.org.