Comfort Zone

November 2017 View more

It’s that time of year. A chill is in the air. We reach for our blankets and cozy up to our fires. But nothing welcomes autumn into our hearts like a hot bowl of soup. From creamy chicken corn chowder, to a zesty roasted tomato, or a rich, brothy pho, Naperville and surrounding west suburban restaurants, cafes, and delis spoil us with the best soup the area has to offer.

From exotic soup selections like Cream of Apple Celery at Town House Cafe in St. Charles, to heart-warming soups like Potato Leek with Rosemary and Brie at Oprah’s much-loved Moveable Feast in Geneva, or the hearty European bowls at Stockholm’s in Geneva, it can be hard to choose. We talked to owners of three of our local favorites, but add to these local gems such well-loved franchises like Zoup!, Panera Bread, and Ted’s Montana Grill, and one thing, at least, is for certain: Soup’s on.

Pho Thien Vietnamese Kitchen

Relying on generations-old family recipes, Thien Nguyen and her family-run restaurant, Pho Thien Vietnamese Kitchen (above), have won a loyal following for their authentic cuisine. The specialty, however, is pho (pronounced “fuh”), a traditional Vietnamese soup many would argue is the latest inductee to America’s pantheon of comfort foods.

This incredibly aromatic broth-based soup—served with an abundance of noodles, flavorful herbs, fresh vegetables, and tender meats—has become wildly popular in recent years. And, like most good things in life, a good, authentic pho (denoted by its clear bone broth) takes time.

“We spend 17 hours cooking beef pho soup. This is why our soup is concentrated and so flavorful,” says Nguyen. One of its most popular soups, which sells out each Sunday afternoon, is Bun Bo Hue, a spicy pork noodle dish with lemongrass, annoatto and shrimp paste served to a lucky few who can get it Friday through Sunday. Pho Thien Vietnamese Kitchen is open for lunch and dinner, Tuesday through Sunday, at 931 West 75th Street in Naperville.

Gnarly Knots Pretzel Company

Ever since Gnarly Knots Pretzel Company opened its doors four years ago in Winfield, it has won oven die-hard fans of its unique stuffed homemade pretzels and the what’s-not-to-love incredible soups. “Soups are my own special love,” admits Funi McLoughlin, co-owner with Matt Finn. A self-described “soup Nazi,” McLaughlin’s soups are the result of countless hours experimenting, tweaking and perfecting them before they debut on the menu board.

With soups like Carrot Ginger, Mushroom and Wild Rice, Chicken Corn Chowder, Minestrone with fresh basil and parmesan, and Roasted Garlic Mashed Potato, customers enjoy a variety of daily rotating specials, including gluten-free and vegetarian options. Funi’s current favorite is the Italian Wedding soup, a meatball based creation. But the winner is clear: “Hands down the best-selling soup is the Cheddar Ale.” Gnarly Knots Pretzel Company is open Tuesday through Sunday at 27W570 High Lake Road in Winfield.

Everdine’s Grilled Cheese Co.

Naperville natives and married owners Brian and Kelly Herkert first conceived the idea for their grilled-cheese-and-soup focused restaurant, Everdine’s Grilled Cheese Co., on their honeymoon abroad. Today customers enjoy their savory grilled creations and deliciously crafted soups in a kitschy downtown Naperville location.

“We make all of our soups—and grilled cheeses—with a lot of love,” Kelly says, adding that they take great pride in making everything from scratch. While the tomato soup is, understandably, a traditional favorite, another popular option is chicken ramen with mushrooms, a dish Brian describes as an Asian spin on chicken noodle. This fall and winter will see the addition of more soups to the lineup, with last year’s big winners being broccoli cheese, chili and stuffed pepper. Everdine’s Grilled Cheese Company is open Tuesday through Sunday at 24 West Jefferson Avenue in Naperville.