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The Best Bowls of Soup in SF

Hog Island's Chowder. Photo via Chiarezza.Dolce on Flickr.com

It's a bit chilly and all we can think about is soup for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Here's some (that aren't pho or ramen) we're dreaming of. Are we missing any? Bring on the suggestions for your favorite soups!

Vege-Tofu Curry from Cha-Ya Vegetarian Japanese

There's something about the mildly sweet, savory and spicy Japanese curry, poured over noodles or rice, that feels like a warm blanket on a cold, rainy day. The curry soup at vegan mecca Cha-Ya on Valencia St. is filled with tofu, fresh noodles and so many vegetables (kabocha, pearl onions, sugar snap peas, celery, carrots, cauliflower, zucchini and mushrooms) you probably won't need any for the rest of the week. Count on this concoction to act like more of a meal than any soup you've had in a while.

Tortilla Soup from Chilango

Our food editor Jessica Battilana first turned us on to Chilango's refined bowl of tortilla soup. For less than $10, they'll serve you a heaping, bright red, perfectly-spiced portion of rich chicken broth, shredded meat, soft, cubed Oaxacan cheese and avocado, and crispy tortilla strips (form their handmade tortillas) for that extra crunch. If you can't finish the entire thing, this stuff makes excellent leftovers.

French Onion Soup from Absinthe

One of Absinthe's most popular offerings, this soup's deep, beefy flavor, soft onions, soup-saturated bread and gooey pillow of Gruyere cheese wins hearts and minds every day. Lauded by cascades of Yelpers as the best they've ever had, this is comfort food in a bowl, so if the rain's got your boots wet and making your ceiling leak, breathe deeply and calm down, one spoonful at a time.

Tingly Lamb Noodle Soup from Mission Chinese Food

The further into the bowl you get, the more you can't feel your mouth, but that's all part of the fun. Fresh noodles, succulent lamb breast, baby bok choy and a magical, meaty broth spiced with ginger, herbs and Szechuan peppercorns that makes your lips tingle makes this steaming bowl of palate-pounding, sinus-clearing soup together into a perfect antidote for a chilly night that will get you back in fighting form.

Soft Tofu Soup from My Tofu House

It gets cold in the Inner Richmond on the regular, but for the rest of us, we need a little something extra to thaw us out. Check out My Tofu House, a neighborhood staple that excels in all things Korean and all things spicy. Get a neon red bowl of soft tofu soup for a lightning bolt of spice and flavor and you'll see why this stuff is the most-unanimously adored dish. And if you plan on going again and again, you can never get bored of it, because they cook up 9 different versions. 

Chicken Noodle Soup from Yamo

If you're lucky enough to pass by Yamo while there's no wait, drop what you're doing and squeeze onto a seat at the counter for a cheap bowl of their thick chicken noodle soup. You won't be sorry you put your life on hold for it; it's tender chicken strips, mounds of green onion, al dente noodles and creamy coconut broth flecked with ground red chiles is the cheapest bowl of heaven you'll find in the city. It will wrap you in its warmth and send you back into the night rejuvenated.

Seasonal Soups at Outerlands

Anyone who's made it out to this beloved neighborhood joint will rave about their soups, which are lovingly made according to the seasons. Just as the air outside starts to cool, Outerlands has started whipping up kabocha squash soup with spiced pumpkin seeds and potato herb soup with toasted walnuts, as well as a hearty seafood stew filled with clams, squid, fennel and carrots in a lemongrass ginger broth. Whether you've spent the day surfing and need to relax or just want a pick-me-up from the fog of the Outer Sunset, Outerlands is the place to find it. Oh, and don't forget to dip a slice of their delectable, Tartine-inspired fresh breads in whatever you've got in your bowl.

Samusa Soup from Burma Superstar

Forget about actually eating in—the lines are too long and the wait on the sidewalk is much too cold. Get a quart of the samusa soup to go, and dig into the thick broth, afloat with pieces of potato-filled samusa and falafel balls, while catching up on the latest episode of Glee.

Wonton Soup from Out the Door

What makes this soup so special—in addition to rich chicken broth, tender pork-and-shrimp dumplings and a tangle of noodles—is that each bowl is finished with a showering of deep-fried pork skin, making it extra savory and rich. You can get the soup at all three locations, though it's only served at Bush street for lunch.

Garlic Soup at Piperade

This classic Basque dish has been on the menu since the restaurant opened, and for good reason. A robust, garlic-infused liquid, thickened with bread and bolstered by bacon, rock shrimp and egg? Yes.

Clam Chowder at Hog Island Oyster Co.

Here's what makes this soup good: bacon, Yukon gold potatoes, the freshest clams (and plenty of 'em) and a hefty dose of heavy cream. What could possibly go wrong? Remember, you need extra calories during the winter months.