Noodles and soup are more than fine on their own, but put them together and you have something much, much greater. If you don’t quite get what we mean, think of Nicole Richie and Paris Hilton - they’re worth mentioning as individuals, but together they created a TV show studded with essential life lessons and Von Dutch hats. Noodle soups are similarly soothing and even potentially influential. From phở and udon to ramen and kho soi, here’s a list of our favorite noodle soups in the city.
The Noodle Soups
Strings in Chinatown is our favorite spot in Chicago for a bowl of classic tonkotsu ramen. The broth is rich and flavorful, and the handmade noodles have the perfect bite and chew. They’ll ask you if you prefer lean or fatty pork belly, and just in case you don’t eat pork they have options like turkey, seafood, or duck. If you happen to be one of those “I don’t like soup” people they also have mazemen too. But also, why are you reading this guide?
Ca Phe Da
This particular iteration of phở can best be described as… crunchy. But we mean that in the best way, especially if you love fresh herbs and green things. We’re talking four-inch segments of green onion, huge leaves of green and purple Thai basil, pops of Vietnamese coriander, crunchy bean sprouts, and thin-sliced raw onion. All that basil plus some star anise gives the broth a sweet licorice-y flavor, which goes perfectly with the shredded chicken and thick hand-cut rice noodles.
Min's Noodle House 渔家重庆小面
The chung king noodle soup from Min’s is rich, spicy, fragrant, and perfect for these frigid times we’re living in. It’s a generous portion of skinny noodles swimming in a spicy, perfumed broth with your choice of braised meat (our favorite is the beef), bok choy, and crunchy additions like fried garlic and fresh scallion. Plus, it’s topped with a poached egg.
So Gong Dong Tofu House & B.B.Q.
This rich stew is a must grab when you’re getting groceries from H-mart. It’s a little sour from the kimchi and pieces of pork gives it a wonderful fattiness. Combine that with the silken tofu, ramen noodles, and clear-your-sinuses spice level, and it will make you look forward to grocery shopping.
The khao soi’s rich curry from Immm Rice definitely falls on the thiccer side of things. It’s a spicy but sweet curry with braised beef and chewy hand-cut noodles, topped with a tangle of fried egg noodles, and a dollop of chili paste. It’s perfect for cold nights when you just want to be snuggled up with a blanket and Netflix.
Vegetarian Noodle Soup
Lao Peng You is known for its dumplings, which you can order floating in a delicious broth. And luckily for the cold-weather season, they’ve brought back their fantastic noodle soups. The vegetarian is our favorite and comes with fresh carrot, watercress, and enoki mushrooms along with chewy handmade noodles and a rich chili and vinegar spiced soup. Which is also perfect for dunking their crispy xian bing, so you should probably get an order of that, too.
Hand-stretched Lamb Noodle Soup
Food from Xi’an (the region of China that inspires this restaurant) often uses a cumin-heavy chili blend that gives a special kick to the meats, soups, and flatbreads. The delicious flavor definitely makes an appearance in the lamb noodle soup from Xi’an Cuisine. It also features fresh noodles that absorb the hot broth quickly, so eat your bowl as soon as possible.
Chicken Noodle Soup
The soup 2020 needs, no: deserves. Manny’s has been around since 1942 and makes a comforting, classic, chicken noodle soup. It has a rich and flavorful clear broth, pieces of white meat chicken, and big fat chewy noodles. They also have a fantastic matzo ball soup that you should know about.
Penny's Noodle Shop
BBQ Pork Noodle
We believe BBQ pork is delicious. Therefore a pork broth coupled with slippery egg noodles and a big portion of BBQ pork is also delicious. Enter Penny’s perfect BBQ pork noodle soup, which is here to fulfill all your BBQ house/noodle house dreams.
CoCo Vietnamese Sandwiches & Pho
Beef Stew Noodle
We love a good phở, and that’s why you’ll find a lot of them are on this list. But there’s something about the braised meat in CoCo’s delicious pho broth that puts the beef stew noodle here on another level. And in this bowl’s case, it’s the slurpability factor of the slippery noodles and tender beef that sets it apart.
University of Chicago students and Hyde Parkians far and wide rejoice - Saucy Porka has opened in your neighborhood. While the original is in the Loop, the new 55th street location means you have easy access to their fantastic carnitas ramen. The tender meat is paired with wavy ramen noodles and a delicious pho broth.
Maitake Mushroom Ramen
If you’re looking for a meatless option, we suggest the maitake mushroom ramen from High Five ramen. After all, mushrooms are known in the culinary community as the meat of the vegetable world. OK, we made that up. Either way, the mushrooms really punch up the miso base and add a rich umami flavor. This is an exceptionally filling, and flavorful ramen.
Fried Chicken Kimchi Ramen
We can’t front on the deliciousness factor of this bowl. The sweet corn, sour kimchi, and miso broth pair perfectly with the little pieces of deep-fried chicken thigh. We highly recommend.
This particular bowl of soup is hidden behind stacks of candy, chips, soaps, and paper towels. That’s because (as the name suggests) this phở shop is located in the back of a bodega in Wicker Park. But one that happens to be churning out some damn good chicken phở.
This bonito miso broth is one of the richest, creamiest options on this guide, and that’s without containing any pork in the soup at all. Instead, The Musclemen from Oiistar has a chili-slicked white seafood-based broth, along with wavy noodles and mussels served in their shells.
Saigon Sisters Restaurant
Bún Bò Huế
Speaking of rich, seafood broths - the bún bò huế from Saigon Sisters is flavored with shrimp paste, fish sauce, lemongrass, and chili, which makes for a wonderfully spicy and pungent soup. Floating in that delicious broth you’ll find paper-thin slices of beef, both lean and fatty cuts of pork, pork sausage, and slippery udon noodles.
Spicy Seafood Noodle soup
This noodle soup is another seafood option but on the late-night tip, even though Chi Cafe now closes at midnight instead of 4 a.m. Their spicy seafood noodle soup is thick, aromatic, and filled with crab, clam, fish, and mussels. So this winter, next time you find yourself with an 11pm craving for Chinese food or (let’s be honest) a craving to leave the house, head here.
Wonton and Beef Brisket
Sometimes noodles aren’t enough, and you just want some plump dumplings to crash the party. That’s when you order the wonton and noodle soup from Yummy Yummy. The brisket is tender, the noodles silky, and the dumpling and noodle combo is a wonderfully, chewy mouthful. You can even specify whether you want egg, rice, or ramen noodles - and either thin or thick. Plus, the portions are huge, so plan on either sharing or saving some for later.