Wild Rice and Beer Cheese Soup Kelly O

Soup needs no introduction.

Wild Rice and Beer Cheese Soup at Zayda Buddy's

Rarely can so many great things be found in so small a space—this soup contains cheese and beer, and it is topped with a layer of popcorn. Eating popcorn partially submerged in warm cheese made me feel as if all the popcorn I had eaten before was merely the pale shadow of popcorn—it made me feel that I was having an ideal popcorn experience of a platonic kind. "Total Eclipse of the Heart" was blasting while I ate, which contributed to this effect. I want more. (5405 Leary Ave NW, 783-7777) SARAH GALVIN

Campbell's Alphabet Soup from my stove

This soup probably contains high-fructose corn syrup—I don't want to know. You can get a more salubrious version from Amy's—I've never tried it. Every once in a while, on a rainy afternoon, with a certainty that I am doing exactly the right thing, I eat Campbell's alphabet soup. It's technically called Vegetable, even though it's made with (presumably inorganic/Astroturf-fed) beef stock, and despite that "Alphabet Soup" is clearly the best name ever. I use three-fourths of a can of organic whole milk (tastes better), add some fresh-ground pepper, and heat it slowly, stirring often, while grating some good-quality Parmesan or Irish cheddar to sprinkle over the top. It's true what Campbell's says: Soup is good food. And even bad soup can be great. (Eat the initials of your beloved for good luck.) BETHANY JEAN CLEMENT

Tortilla Soup at Señor Moose Cafe

This soup is simple and right. You will receive a large bowl of broth: hearty, aromatic, cloudy with particulate chicken matter. In the broth: strips of tortilla that are somehow both saturated and crispy in that magic tortilla-soup way. Ample chunks of tender shredded chicken. Half an avocado, giving way before your spoon like... you know, like a ripe avocado in a bowl of hot broth. Then there are the lime wedges next to the bowl. The lime wedges are key. Do not neglect the lime wedges! I like to use all four lime wedges because I enjoy maximum tang in my soup. Oh, were you in the mood for some spice? Add some fuckin' hot sauce, bro! This soup is a canvas, and the world is your oyster, and this tortilla soup is like your canvas oyster world in a bowl! With limes! For you! It is literally nature's oyster! (Note: Tortilla soup does not actually contain oysters.) (5242 Leary Ave NW, 784-5568) LINDY WEST

Cabbage-Dominated Vegetable Soup made by my mother

Michigan winters demand world-class comfort food, and my sainted mother came through many times with her cabbage-dominated vegetable soup made with tomato broth. I've not eaten this soup since Reagan's first term in the White House, but the memory of its hearty flavor and supernatural warming capabilities hasn't diminished over the decades. After shoveling snowy driveways in marrow-chilling temps, nothing hit the damn spot better. Besides the cabbage, the soup contained carrots, cucumbers (my favorite food of all time), corn, cauliflower, and probably some other veggies that don't begin with the letter c. Consuming the thick, tomatoey broth along with the panoply of vegetables cooked to a decadent succulence ameliorated the suffering of moving hundreds of pounds of white stuff while freezing my 'nads off in suburban Detroit's grim winter. DAVE SEGAL

Borscht at Piroshki on Madison and Piroshki on Third

Picture every time you tripped as a kid and ended up with skinned knees and a mouthful of dirt, or you ate grass to see if it was edible, or you chewed on bark because it might taste like cinnamon. The lesson you learn as a kid is this: Nature tastes like shit. But good borscht tastes the way a day-old campfire smells—like pleasant earth. It tastes how you imagined nature should taste as a child. For that reason, it's the correct soup for winter, when nature is at its shittiest. Borscht has a mellow, uncomplicated mix of flavors—beets, kidney beans, cabbage, and potatoes. It's healthy until they add a semi-enormous scoop of sour cream, which changes the color from a mesmerizing scarlet to fuchsia as it melts in. The two Piroshkis make the best borscht in the city. (1219 Madison St, 624-1295; 710 Third Ave, 322-2820) CIENNA MADRID

Korean Hangover Soup at Revel

Tested against an unmedicated hangover formed over the course of several days and one very sorrowful event, this soup was as efficacious as one could hope. Its broth was so dark and deep as to be opaque, with an ideal level of sodium; its kale held out the possibility of redemption; its house-made blood pudding provided protein in a tasty, fortifying, mild format; its rice soothed. Its four sauces of different consistencies and hues were left untouched, gauged to be too challenging, but appeared promising for the less delicate. It cost $13, which, yes, is a lot, but each ingredient bespoke its high quality and its healthfulness, while summarily besting all grease-based remedies. It caused a headache to recede and laid a superlative foundation for three ibuprofen and a nap. Only time heals a hangover—same with sorrow—but soup can help. (403 N 36th St, 547-2040) BETHANY JEAN CLEMENT

Oyster Stew at my apartment

The secret to oyster stew rests in its simplicity: In a heavy pot, sauté a tablespoon each of minced leek and celery in two tablespoons of butter. Add about a pint of coarsely chopped raw oysters with their liquor (Madison Market has stellar fresh ones from Willapa Bay in jars), one and a half cups of whole milk, a half cup of half-and-half, and a dash of salt. Cook on low heat, stirring until the milk is hot and the oysters float. Serve in deep bowls, sprinkled with fresh-ground pepper and chopped parsley. The slow, low heat just barely cooks the oysters, creating an unparalleled texture, just beyond raw, while the milk tempers any brininess. Oyster stew is best for dinner—its tryptophan will immediately direct your body to the closest bed. And as you sleep, its creamy, buttery, oceany essence will fortify you with a shield of coziness, impervious to winter's chill. JESSE VERNON

Taro Curry Noodle Soup at In the Bowl

Hyped as a "special winter offering," this soup is a beyond-filling amalgamation of vegetarian delights: red and green curry paste, coconut milk, broccoli, carrot, green beans. Heft is supplied by massive chunks of taro (aka "the potato of the humid tropics") and the great noodle swamp that fills the bottom third of the huge bowl (diner's choice of wide/small/tiny). Intoxicating deliciousness is supplied by the mingling spicy curries and absolutely fresh vegetables. Meatiness is approximated by a selection of veggie protein constructs, from fried tofu to fake duck. The result is a soup that tastes like the love child of a bowl of pho, a plate of pad thai, and an order of vegetable jalfrezi. It costs a little more than $10, but one bowl will easily make two people extremely happy. (1554 E Olive Way, 568-2343) DAVID SCHMADER

Shoyu Ramen at Tsukushinbo

From 11:45 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on Fridays, this tiny, unpretentious place in the ID serves a stellar shoyu ramen. They usually run out by one o'clock. The rarity of this ramen makes it all the more precious. (515 S Main St, 467-4004) BRENDAN KILEY

Pappa al Pomodoro at Salumi

It cannot be disputed that tomato soup is the best soup; the only possible improvement would be to make it somehow more than, well, just soup. Leave it to the starch-happy Italians, who apparently always had lots of old bread around, to invent bread soup. At meat temple Salumi, it's made, simply, with tomatoes, garlic, onions, and stale bread, cooked until it approaches a texture not unlike baby food. The soul-swelling power of many, many fresh tomatoes (Merlino-brand pear tomatoes during winter) is self-evident, and the bread provides toothsome, rib-sticking fulfillment. You sit at the table (a single stretch of wood inaugurated long before "communal" was a thing), and various Batalis twist your arm to have a few inches of house wine. Even though you've got to go back to work and you're in America, you relent. (309 Third Ave S, 621-8772) RACHEL EGGERS

Sunday Soup Suppers at Joule

Every Sunday evening from now through March 27, the excellent Joule is making family-style soup suppers such as "red hot" chili (Feb 6), Japanese oden (Feb 27), and Mexican posole (March 13). It's $25 per person ($10 kids), but you get half a dozen different dishes along with your soup, and if previous experience is any indicator, each will be more awesome than the last. They're calling it "Winter Supper 2011: Best Soup in Town." This is very unlikely to be hyperbole. (1913 N 45th St, 632-1913) BETHANY JEAN CLEMENT

Kimchi Soup at Korean Tofu House

It comes to the table still bubbling, a bright orange color that says, "This is going to hurt, and you're going to like it." Packed with big chunks of spicy cabbage and little nubby morsels of pork, it'll warm you up for hours. A bonus: the banchan, small dishes that accompany most Korean meals—you get soft potatoes in sweet sauce, bean sprouts, scallion pancake, and of course, more kimchi (you can never have too much). (4142 Brooklyn Ave NE, 632-3119) ANNA MINARD

All the Soups at the Hopvine

You won't want to get drunk at the Hopvine Pub. The lights are too bright, the music is too low, the crowd is too outdoorsy (unless you're into L.L.Bean sweaters or white guys with dreadlocks). But its soups are a treasure. There's a good rotation of seasonal varieties, and longtime chef Michael Congdon always toggles between two habit-forming standbys, which he creates in 200-gallon batches that last about three months. Just finishing its run: the creamy Southwestern pumpkin, which pairs sweet with spicy (cinnamon and cumin, chili powder and maple syrup). Just starting its run: the roasted garlic, containing white wine, cream, and loads of crushed herbs. Homemade croutons and cheese (sometimes Gruyère, sometimes Swiss) add heartiness. Customers tend to go apeshit. "They've asked if they can get it intravenously," says Congdon. Huffing the Hopvine's soups is not recommended. (507 15th Ave E, 328-3120) MARTI JONJAK

Oxtail Pho at Monsoon and Monsoon East

Because I can never shut up about pho, I was charged with covering that particular genus of the soup family. I imagined I'd search the International District for the magic bowl of pho (in reality, almost all bowls of pho are magical), but instead I was charged with the wagyu beef species at Monsoon. "They live better than you and I," Bethany Jean Clement said of wagyu cattle. Admittedly, it was a bit odd eating $10 pho to a smooth-jazz version of "Hit the Road Jack" surrounded by wealthy lunching wives. But as soon as that first glorious, marbled slice of pampered-cow meat contacted my taste buds, I no longer cared. Aside from the delightful freshness of every ingredient involved—no soggy bean sprouts here, no wilted, blackened, holey basil or lifeless green onion—the meat alone sets Monsoon's pho apart from all competitors. (Pho served at lunch/brunch only; 615 19th Ave E, 325-2111; 10245 Main St, Bellevue, 425-635-1112) GRANT BRISSEY

Every Soup Ever at Cafe Presse and Le Pichet

Bistros make the best soup because they are concerned with feeding you good things rather than astounding you with novelty. In chef Jim Drohman's benevolent empire, this recently meant roasted pumpkin soup stoked with clove, cinnamon, and gems of port-poached pears that gently send flavor all over the place. Now he's serving white bean puree with crisped ribbons of serrano ham, garnished with parsley and lemon for freshness. These soups are unfussy studies in contrast, between hot and cold, spice and cream, smoothness and bite. They're usually touched with cream, but never so much as to be oppressive. They're served in hardworking yet elegant bowls, shallow and wide and white; the server must carry them carefully because the soups are so smooth, they move as though alive. French onion soup appears regularly as an exception to the general rule of restraint—once meant to richly fill a peasant's belly, it now serves a 21st-century purpose: curing hangovers. (Cafe Presse, 1117 12th Ave, 709-7674; Le Pichet, 1933 First Ave, 256-1499) RACHEL EGGERS

Trader Joe's Carrot Ginger Soup with Braised Fennel in the privacy of your own home

Take the white fist of the fennel, slice it vertically (its curvaceous layers fall open), throw it in a pan with a pat of butter until it's brown, and pour on Trader Joe's Carrot Ginger soup. The slices of fennel, each shaped like the flare of a great woman's hip, will be crunchy, in memory of the carrots that gave their lives for this far-better-than-carrot-soup-should-be soup. On the flavor level, the licorice and ginger bounce off each other all sweet and tangy. Do this for yourself. JEN GRAVES

Dill Pickle Soup at the Polish Home

Have you ever driven past the two-story Dom Polski on Capitol Hill and wondered what the heck is going on in there? That, my friends, is the Polish Home Association—a grand dame of a hall celebrating 91 years in that very location. For almost a century, it's been the first place you'd come upon arriving in Seattle from Poland—a place for meetings, celebrations, and for eating traditional Polish food. Eight years ago, the Polish Home opened the hall, and its kitchen, to the regular Joe Schmoe public. On Friday nights and Sunday afternoons, anyone can come and taste golabek, pierogi, pstrag pieczony, and, most importantly, zupa ogorkowa—dill pickle soup. Ogorkowa may sound crazy on paper, but it's a deliciously creamy-tangy soup, served piping hot, made from potatoes, carrots, milk, fresh dill, and chef Basia Patrick's homemade pickles. Why not use store-bought dills? "I can my own pickles, every summer!" says Patrick. "It's just the way it is done." (1714 18th Ave, 322-3020) KELLY O

Any Brand of Frozen Ramen from Uwajimaya

Costs more than the dried kind, but not as much as ramen at a restaurant. Slightly more complicated—you have to make the noodles and the broth separately, or it comes out weird. Completely worth it. (600 Fifth Ave S, 624-6248) BETHANY JEAN CLEMENT

Tomato-Basil Soup formerly from Cafe Minnie's

The tomato-basil soup was the only reason to eat at Minnie's. The omelets were oily, the potatoes were always cold, and I can't remember what was wrong with the veggie burgers, but I remember I never got them for a reason. But the tomato-basil soup! A chunky, simple, and shockingly delicious bowl of magic spiked with pepper, basil, and cream. How something so perfect could come out of an otherwise worthless kitchen still baffles. Sadly, a restaurant can't survive solely on one great soup, and Minnie's is long gone. Supposed recipes for the soup are floating around the internet, with some debate on which one is legit, but if you dice and sauté an onion, then add a few cans of diced tomatoes, about a half cup of chopped fresh basil, one cup of heavy cream, garlic powder, and some salt and pepper, you can have almost the same thing. MEGAN SELING

Hall of Fame Clam Chowder at Pike Place Chowder

It's a clam-claim assault, all the plaques and cries of "Nation's Best!" as you step up to the register at Pike Place Chowder. But then you order and sit at the white-tiled counter with its baskets of oyster crackers and sourdough bread, put a spoonful of perfectly hot soup to your lips, and realize that the proprietors are just stating facts: They make the best fucking chowder anywhere. The Hall of Fame Clam Chowder is the most decorated, and rightfully so. Nothing in this soup is allowed to be larger than the clams, and that is as it should be. Diced potatoes and sliced celery need to know their place. Dill, parsley, red pepper, maybe some zest of orange or lemon—you will taste them all, you will marvel at how the flawlessly smooth and creamy soup brings the brininess of the sea without making you feel like you're licking the underside of a whale, and at the end of it all, you will be extraordinarily happy and surprisingly full. (1530 Post Alley, 267-2537; 600 Pine St, 838-5680) ELI SANDERS

Tonkotsu Ramen at Samurai Noodle

The tonkotsu ramen at Samurai is unimpeachably tasty—arguably the best in town. You can order extra noodles, but you won't need to. You can order extra pork lard, but you shouldn't unless you're a sumo wrestler. The ID location, with only eight tables, is a small, efficient engine of deliciousness (where sometimes they play a 1994 Offspring album); the U-District one is the best thing that ever happened to a college student (time to graduate from Top Ramen); and a Capitol Hill Samurai is on the way, where Bailey/Coy Books used to be (though note that it took approximately two years for the U-District one to finally open). (606 Fifth Ave S, 624-9321; 4138 University Way NE, 547-1774) BRENDAN KILEY

Fishermen's Bowl at Phnom Penh Noodle House

The Fishermen's mix of seafood is (go figure) just right—not too much of any one thing, but a lot to look forward to, including prawn, tender calamari, fat slices of spiced fish cake, and springy fish balls (the hot dog of Asia). It's topped with green onion, cilantro, and roasted garlic; add the house-made roasted chili and a squeeze of lime to spice it up. Plop some bean sprouts on top for a fresh crunch. Slurp the perfectly balanced herbed broth, chew the perfectly cooked slender rice noodles, and revel in the sea bounty. (660 S King St, 748-9825) GILLIAN ANDERSON

Kent, Ohio, Squash Delight Soup at your house or at the Funhouse this Sunday (see Stranger Suggests)

While I was in college in small-town Ohio, I played drums for a music group that included three people well over 15 years my senior. Not only did they teach me how to be less of an insolent teenager, they also introduced me to Indian food, Iannis Xenakis, and this squash soup. There is a trend to add green apples to squash soup, but that's for the birds. Simple is best. You'll need: one large butternut squash, one medium yellow onion, one stick of butter, three cups of cream, two tablespoons of fresh ginger, and salt and pepper. It would be helpful if you had a blender as well. Halve the squash and remove the seeds; bake facedown in a preheated oven at 350 degrees until soft. Meanwhile, chop the onion and sauté in the butter until the onion is soft and nearly clear. Roast the ginger on the burner of your stove, turning often. When it is soft, peel the skin. Scoop the insides of the cooked squash into the butter-and-onion mixture and place that in the blender. Add the cream and blend. Thin with water if necessary; add salt, pepper, and ginger to taste. You could serve it with a dollop of sour cream, but that's arguably overkill. DEREK ERDMAN recommended

This article has been updated to reflect the fact that tonkatsu and tonkotsu are different things (duh).