By Donna Marie Iadipaolo / WLD
When the weather is cold and snowy, few things warm the shivers more than some comforting chicken soup to soothe the body and spirit.
I recently had the pleasure of savoring some tasty chicken soups at local Ann Arbor restaurants. My criteria for a good chicken soup is that the soup needs to be from uniquely local, Ann Arbor restaurants and have the basic ingredients. Classic chicken noodle soup is often thought to consist of chicken, broth, celery, carrots, onions, herbs, and often some kind of pasta or noodle. But I accepted various renditions as long as there was the chicken and veggie component. These are my favorite to date, but I am still considering others. Also, I asked for input from neighbors and friends. What follows is a chicken soup list, albeit incomplete, in no particular hierarchical order.
Overall, I found that no matter what style or ethnicity, it is reassuring to know that the basic ingredients of chicken soup are common to all. We are all more similar than different. And chicken soup is supposed to have very many medicinal qualities as well.
1.) Don Juan Mexican Bar and Grill, 2135 W Stadium Blvd—“Caldo de Pollo.” I have been going here for years for their tasty Margaritas, guac and yummy mole sauce. When I wanted some hot soup one time, this was highly recommended. The soup had huge pieces of quality white chicken breast, large chunks of fresh zucchini and broccoli, fresh cilantro, and was topped with sliced avocado. Served with quartered lime, it was reminiscent of a Thai soup, but yet its distinct own taste.
2.) Star Cafe, Middle Eastern Oasis, 2575 Jackson Ave—Chicken Lemon Rice. Thick and wholesome. Wonderful aroma and unique Middle Eastern spices that I could not quite place, but seemed other-worldly. This one tasted really home made as well. Nice veggies included. They told me the dish is seasonal, so get it while you can.
3.) Metzger’s German Restaurant, 305 N Zeeb Rd—Homemade chicken soup. Delicate and clear. Homey and soothing. What I really liked about this one is that it was not overly salty. Sometimes a soup that is rich with a lot of flavors tends to be over salted, but this one was easier on the system.
4.) Zingerman’s Deli, 422 Detroit St— “Jewish Chicken Broth” —Perhaps one of the best known in town, with onions, celery, carrots, thyme, bay leaves and Amish chicken. You can get the soup with Matzo balls, rice, kreplach, or egg noodles. You can also request their clear broth with local Al Dente pasta at a higher price, which has a separate place on the menu.
5.) Arbor Farms, 2103 W Stadium Blvd—“Roasted Chicken Noodle”—When I asked my friends and neighbors to name their favorite chicken noodle soup in Ann Arbor, this selection came up the most. There were roughly 20 recommendations for this roasted chicken noodle soup! So I had to try it. While Arbor Farms is not officially a restaurant, there is a small seating area for eating. The placard lists the ingredients as: “Roasted Amish Chicken, Pasta, Chicken stock, onion, carrots, celery, parsley dill, butter, and S&P.” I definitely thought the dill and butter flavor made the taste unique. Overall, I would say that the soup is very good. My only criticism is that the fusilli pasta was overcooked (I like it al dente) and maybe a bit too salty for me, but overall I can see why people like it.
6.) Village Kitchen, 241 N Maple—The “Soup of the Day” changes, but when Chicken Noodle is offered, to it is tasty and hits the spot in a kind and welcoming atmosphere. I also really like the 1950s music that they play in the restaurant, the prices are very reasonable, and the art of different Ann Arbor locales on the walls make it a favorite.
7.) Knight’s Downtown, 600 E Liberty—The Knights have been providing Ann Arbor with food since 1952. They now have three locations to purchase food: Knight’s Steakhouse on Dexter Road, Knight’s Downtown on Liberty and Maynard, and Knight’s Market. The restaurant has various chicken-based soups, such as Chicken Noodle, Chicken and Dumplings, and Chicken and Rice as their soup of the day and Knight’s Market often features the same soups.
8.) Le Dog, 306 South Main —I tasted their Chicken Noodle and thought it was pretty good. There was nowhere to sit on the first floor so we went to the basement and found a rectangular block area to eat. I noticed the pasta in the soup was not overcooked and also had peas and corn in it. My friend described it as “worker’s soup,” which I thought was an appropriate description. I was going to get their Italian Wedding Soup, but they said it was the traditional chicken-based stock, so I declined.
9.) Tomukan, 505 East Liberty—Chicken Pho-I’ve had this dish on occasion when I have felt a cold coming on. I add some hot sauce and it really clears me up. It consists of chicken broth, pulled chicken, cilantro, scallions, and red onions. And of course, there are the pho noodles, which is a Vietnamese rice noodle. The accompaniments of sprouts, Thai basil, mint, jalapeños, and lime are nice touches as well.
10.) Dalat, 2216 S Main St—“Canh ga”—Chicken Vegetable Soup. My husband and I have traveled to their Ypsilanti location for some fine Vietnamese food, so we were delighted to find out that they now have a restaurant in Ann Arbor. This soup has a nice clear broth with mushrooms, broccoli, and shredded chicken. They also have “Pho Has Mi Ga” which is a chicken-based and rice or egg-noodle soup with poached chicken, bean sprouts, onions, and cilantro. Everything we had here was good, so we will be back.
11.) Your Own Homemade—Many people reported that when and if they have the time, they like to create their own soup the best because it is healthier and less salty than restaurants’ versions. I make Italian chicken soup at home when I can, which is basically the same as the classic chicken soup recipe, but I tend to use organic chicken and various pastas and lots of garlic. (I have yet to find a truly authentic Italian-style chicken soup in Ann Arbor.) So I prefer mine. My favorite pasta with soup is “acini di pepe,” which are tiny little spheres. I made Italian Wedding Soup recently with a chicken broth and used kale instead of the traditional spinach that the recipe calls for, and it came out well. This is a very special kind of chicken soup that has meatballs instead of torn or pulled pieces of chicken. The best secret to making a delicious chicken soup in my opinion is lots of garlic and onions and quality ingredients.
Chicken Soup Honorable Mentions: Plum Market’s Italian Wedding Soup, Cafe Verde (People’s Food Coop), Produce Station, Pilar’s Tamales.