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It is officially soup season, and to celebrate this glorious occasion, I thought it would be an ideal time to go over 10 of My Favorite Soups in Little Rock. But first, some ground rules. All soups mentioned below must be from Little Rock restaurants, not Little Rock area restaurants. Apologies in advance to places that call home to the likes of North Little Rock, Benton, and Conway. Second, no national chains. Third, also check the menu for soups. Some are specials, others are seasonal. Fourth, well, there is no fourth. Let’s get to it.
This list is not in ranking order, but I really should get one thing out of the way from the get-go. Bossa Nova’s Chicken and Hearts of Palm Soup is the best soup in Little Rock. This is not up for debate. To say otherwise will get you a stern talking-to from yours truly. The creamy soup loaded with chunks of chicken and hearts of palm is best paired with an order of cheese bread. Pro tip: get a double order. It re-heats well.
Wonton soup is nostalgia in a bowl. Why? I can still remember eating my first bowl inside a tiny spot in Houston. I loved wonton soup at 4-years-old, and four decades later, this soup still holds a special place in my heart. Fantastic China serves up a very traditional version, complete with pork-filled wontons and bits of roasted pork swimming in a clear broth. When I’m under the weather, this is my go-to cure-all.
I have written about Baja Grill’s Smoked Chicken Tortilla Soup pretty extensively through the years, and for good reason. A rich, tomato-based broth comes loaded with cheese, cilantro, lime, crema, and fried tortilla strips. Oh, and then there is the smoked chicken, the ingredient that truly separates this tortilla soup from the competition.
Local Lime’s Green Chile Stew gives off all those New Mexico vibes. A bowl loaded with chunks of tender pork shoulder, roasted green chiles, and corn tortilla strips has that affect. Add in a little queso fresco, fresh corn, and avocado, and you’ve got yourself a perfect meal starter at Local Lime. And spare me your argument. A stew is close enough to the soup family to be included on this list. So is chili. Hello, foreshadowing.
Sometimes you just need a massive bowl of pho, and in Little Rock, it doesn’t get any better than Mike’s Café on Asher Drive. The rare beef, which is literally thinly sliced raw beef that cooks in the broth, is probably the most popular version, but I actually enjoy the chicken pho. It’s a little lighter, but still comes with a pile of vermicelli, along with all the standard plate of accompaniments, including fresh sprouts, cilantro, sliced jalapenos, and lime.
This soup is a touch reminiscent of Bossa Nova’s Chicken and Hearts of Palm in that it’s a tomato-based soup that leans more towards the creamier side. As expected, this tomato bisque is so simple and smooth and pairs well with one of the sandwiches at the popular downtown eatery, like the Dave’s Special (turkey, Swiss, mayo, lettuce, and tomato on spinach feta bread).
Is chili a soup? Maybe. Maybe not. Honestly, as it pertains to this list, who cares? At minimum, it’s in the ballpark, and you won’t find a better store-bought one than the one at K Hall & Sons Produce. Large batches are generally made during the colder months, so keep an eye out for quarts in their freezer or chilled cases. This chili has a nice subtle heat and is loaded with ground beef and a smattering of red beans.
Birria has been crazy popular the last few years, and while we have several great options throughout Central Arkansas, my vote for best one goes to Camp Taco. It comes with a heavy hand of ramen noodles swimming in a spicy chili-lime broth. Slaw and avocado make an appearance, as does a perfectly executed soft boiled egg and a pile of braised beef. The soup is rich and hearty, so good luck finishing an entire bowl.
Three Fold’s Dumpling Soup combines two of my greatest joys in life: dumplings and soup. Seriously, six of their awesome house-made dumplings (opt for the pork filling) share a bowl with clear broth, pickled veggies, green onions, cilantro, and slaw. During the colder months, this dumpling soup is a nice alternative to Three Fold’s salad or even a bowl of the dumplings.
Arkansans love some cheese dip, so why not include a bowl of soup on this list that honors our infatuation with melted cheese? Scallions has figured out that making a slightly thinner version of the liquid gold and calling it “soup” allows diners to justify eating cheese dip with a spoon at 11 a.m. on a Wednesday morning. Brilliant!
French Onion Soup at SO Restaurant-Bar
Hot & Sour Soup at Fu Lin
Pho at Pho Thanh My
Poblano Cheese at Trio’s
Taiwanese Wonton Soup at Mr. Chen’s
Chicken Soup at El Porton
Tomato Basil at Izzy’s
Mulligatawny at Boulevard Bread Co.
Broccoli Cheese Soup at EJ’s
Chicken Curry at ZAZA
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