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The Scoop on Soup: 8 Best Bowls in San Diego

Warm up your winter with these satisfying soups.

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Sure, this is still San Diego and our idea of ‘cold’ would make most of the country laugh, but we should be allowed to indulge our winter fantasies just as much as the next person. And what embodies the changing seasons more than a cup of piping hot soup in front of a roaring fire on a chilly day? Granted, you’ll have to provide your own fireplace but we can steer you in the right direction for finding some of the most delicious, satisfying bowls in town. There’s no denying that mom’s chicken noodle soup tastes great, but why limit yourself to the basics? We bring you a little bit of everything with recipes inspired by flavors from all over the world, from Ramen to Pozole, that are all waiting for you in your own backyard. Happy slurping!

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Bleu Boheme

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4090 Adams Ave
San Diego, CA 92116
(619) 255-4167
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The Soup: French Onion. This classic dish is often imitated and rarely perfected, but the French onion soup (Soupe à l'Oignon Gratinée) at Kevin Irvine’s (Gold Medallion Award Chef of the Year, 2005, and Restaurateur of the Year, 2012) Bleu Boheme comes pretty darn close without actually flying to Paris. The traditional bistro-style restaurant, which has won San Diego Magazine’s award for Best French Restaurant four years in a row, serves up an ooey gooey mess of baked cheese and delicious onion broth that’s generous in flavor and paired perfectly with fresh bread. ($9.95 for a bowl.)

2. Dobson's Bar & Restaurant

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965 Broadway Cir
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 231-6771
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The Soup: Mussel Bisque en Croute. Since opening in the eighties, this place has become a veritable San Diego institution, famous for their flakey puff pastry-topped mussel bisque which is now almost synonymous with the name Dobson’s. The presentation of the savory soup itself is beautiful, but the fun really starts when you break through the pastry crust top; the waiter will top your bowl off with a shot of sherry before you get into the deliciously delicate mussel flavored soup. Creamy, rich, and filled with just the right amount of tender meats, you can’t come here and not order the bisque. ($9.95 for a bowl.)

3. George's At The Cove

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1250 Prospect St
La Jolla, CA 92037
(858) 454-4244
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The Soup: Smoked Chicken, Broccoli, and Black Bean. George’s has long been regarded as a La Jolla establishment with a drop-dead view and an equally impressive menu, so when you hear people are seeking out this fine dining establishment just for their soup, you know it must be good. The original recipe was created by Chef Scott Meskan, and it is requested so much they keep printed copies at the hostess stand. Both creamy and comforting, its perfect for any occasion. ($10 for a bowl.)

4. Ironside Fish & Oyster

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1654 India St
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 269-3033
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The Soup: Clam Chowder. For being a relatively new restaurant in town, Ironside has fast become a favorite in Little Italy, and the surprising stand out menu item is the hot spot’s clam chowder. Creamy, smooth, rich (but not too rich), and an ideal flavor ratio of clam to everything else (lentils, garlic, onions) are a just a few ways to describe this indulgent appetizer. Oh, and did we mention it comes with a side of cheddar biscuits and a generous helping of bacon on top? ($8 for a bowl.)

5. Pho Cow Cali Express

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9170 Mira Mesa Blvd
San Diego, CA 92126
(858) 271-8341
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The Soup: #01 Phở Dặc Biệt Xe Lửa. Pho places are a dime a dozen in this town, but not all of them hold to the standard of quality that makes Pho Cow Cali Express the go-to for fans of the traditional Vietnamese beef noodle soup. Loyal patrons will say you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, but the true customer favorite is the #01, a special Pho combo with rare slices of steak, well-done brisket, flank, tendon and tripe in an extra large bowl. The result is a thick, rich, consistent, and delicious depth of flavor; perfect for a cold day. The portion size relative to the price makes this one of the best deals around. ($7.25 for a bowl.)

6. Ramen Yamadaya

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4706 Clairemont Mesa Blvd
San Diego, CA 92117
(858) 483-3431
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The Soup: Yamadaya Ramen. If you’re not up to snuff on your ramen game the menu at this (award-winning) traditional ramen house might seem a bit intimidating, but all you have to know is that your order should be this: #1 Yamadaya Ramen, spicy level 1 or 2, depending on how brave your taste buds are. The authentic Tonkotsu broth is cooked for 20 hours using 120 lbs. of pork bones, resulting in a rich, bold and flavorful taste for the base. Thrown in the mix are seaweed, minced green onions, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, egg, a hefty serving of tender meat that literally melts in your mouth, and--of course--the traditional ramen noodles. When you come here, you better come hungry because the portions are beyond generous and the flavor makes it hard to stop, even if your pants are busting at the seams. ($9.95 for a bowl.)

7. The Waterfront Bar & Grill

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2044 Kettner Blvd
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 232-9656
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The Soup: Pozole. When an Eater interview with Waterfront’s veteran bartender, Kevin Mikesell, revealed that the pozole was one of the restaurants most popular and best-selling dishes, it came as a surprise--especially since the dish is typical of Mexican cuisine. Further investigation, and a taste test, affirmed that the soup does in fact have a devout following of regulars who come in to get their fix of the chunky pork and hominy concoction--and for good reason. Killer flavor, the right amount of spice, and fresh ingredients make this a win for any soup lover. ($9.95 for a bowl.)

8. Lourdes Mexican Food

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650 S Escondido Blvd
Escondido, CA 92025
(760) 746-1141
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The Soup: Chicken and Rice. The recipe may be a family secret but the unbeatable flavor is a well known fact. An otherwise standard taco shop, Lourdes is definitely best known for its soup, which represents approx. 33 percent of all sales (45 percent during the winter and rainy season), and an average of 300 bowls a day (as of 2013). The ingredients are fairly simple--chicken, rice, onion, cilantro, spicy broth--which is part of what makes the soup so great, but the long-time owners say the technique is the true secret to the taste that has created such a dedicated following. ($5.79 for a half bowl; $6.99 for a full bowl.)

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1. Bleu Boheme

4090 Adams Ave, San Diego, CA 92116
The Soup: French Onion. This classic dish is often imitated and rarely perfected, but the French onion soup (Soupe à l'Oignon Gratinée) at Kevin Irvine’s (Gold Medallion Award Chef of the Year, 2005, and Restaurateur of the Year, 2012) Bleu Boheme comes pretty darn close without actually flying to Paris. The traditional bistro-style restaurant, which has won San Diego Magazine’s award for Best French Restaurant four years in a row, serves up an ooey gooey mess of baked cheese and delicious onion broth that’s generous in flavor and paired perfectly with fresh bread. ($9.95 for a bowl.)
4090 Adams Ave
San Diego, CA 92116

2. Dobson's Bar & Restaurant

965 Broadway Cir, San Diego, CA 92101
The Soup: Mussel Bisque en Croute. Since opening in the eighties, this place has become a veritable San Diego institution, famous for their flakey puff pastry-topped mussel bisque which is now almost synonymous with the name Dobson’s. The presentation of the savory soup itself is beautiful, but the fun really starts when you break through the pastry crust top; the waiter will top your bowl off with a shot of sherry before you get into the deliciously delicate mussel flavored soup. Creamy, rich, and filled with just the right amount of tender meats, you can’t come here and not order the bisque. ($9.95 for a bowl.)
965 Broadway Cir
San Diego, CA 92101

3. George's At The Cove

1250 Prospect St, La Jolla, CA 92037
The Soup: Smoked Chicken, Broccoli, and Black Bean. George’s has long been regarded as a La Jolla establishment with a drop-dead view and an equally impressive menu, so when you hear people are seeking out this fine dining establishment just for their soup, you know it must be good. The original recipe was created by Chef Scott Meskan, and it is requested so much they keep printed copies at the hostess stand. Both creamy and comforting, its perfect for any occasion. ($10 for a bowl.)
1250 Prospect St
La Jolla, CA 92037

4. Ironside Fish & Oyster

1654 India St, San Diego, CA 92101
The Soup: Clam Chowder. For being a relatively new restaurant in town, Ironside has fast become a favorite in Little Italy, and the surprising stand out menu item is the hot spot’s clam chowder. Creamy, smooth, rich (but not too rich), and an ideal flavor ratio of clam to everything else (lentils, garlic, onions) are a just a few ways to describe this indulgent appetizer. Oh, and did we mention it comes with a side of cheddar biscuits and a generous helping of bacon on top? ($8 for a bowl.)
1654 India St
San Diego, CA 92101

5. Pho Cow Cali Express

9170 Mira Mesa Blvd, San Diego, CA 92126
The Soup: #01 Phở Dặc Biệt Xe Lửa. Pho places are a dime a dozen in this town, but not all of them hold to the standard of quality that makes Pho Cow Cali Express the go-to for fans of the traditional Vietnamese beef noodle soup. Loyal patrons will say you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, but the true customer favorite is the #01, a special Pho combo with rare slices of steak, well-done brisket, flank, tendon and tripe in an extra large bowl. The result is a thick, rich, consistent, and delicious depth of flavor; perfect for a cold day. The portion size relative to the price makes this one of the best deals around. ($7.25 for a bowl.)
9170 Mira Mesa Blvd
San Diego, CA 92126

6. Ramen Yamadaya

4706 Clairemont Mesa Blvd, San Diego, CA 92117
The Soup: Yamadaya Ramen. If you’re not up to snuff on your ramen game the menu at this (award-winning) traditional ramen house might seem a bit intimidating, but all you have to know is that your order should be this: #1 Yamadaya Ramen, spicy level 1 or 2, depending on how brave your taste buds are. The authentic Tonkotsu broth is cooked for 20 hours using 120 lbs. of pork bones, resulting in a rich, bold and flavorful taste for the base. Thrown in the mix are seaweed, minced green onions, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, egg, a hefty serving of tender meat that literally melts in your mouth, and--of course--the traditional ramen noodles. When you come here, you better come hungry because the portions are beyond generous and the flavor makes it hard to stop, even if your pants are busting at the seams. ($9.95 for a bowl.)
4706 Clairemont Mesa Blvd
San Diego, CA 92117

7. The Waterfront Bar & Grill

2044 Kettner Blvd, San Diego, CA 92101
The Soup: Pozole. When an Eater interview with Waterfront’s veteran bartender, Kevin Mikesell, revealed that the pozole was one of the restaurants most popular and best-selling dishes, it came as a surprise--especially since the dish is typical of Mexican cuisine. Further investigation, and a taste test, affirmed that the soup does in fact have a devout following of regulars who come in to get their fix of the chunky pork and hominy concoction--and for good reason. Killer flavor, the right amount of spice, and fresh ingredients make this a win for any soup lover. ($9.95 for a bowl.)
2044 Kettner Blvd
San Diego, CA 92101

8. Lourdes Mexican Food

650 S Escondido Blvd, Escondido, CA 92025
The Soup: Chicken and Rice. The recipe may be a family secret but the unbeatable flavor is a well known fact. An otherwise standard taco shop, Lourdes is definitely best known for its soup, which represents approx. 33 percent of all sales (45 percent during the winter and rainy season), and an average of 300 bowls a day (as of 2013). The ingredients are fairly simple--chicken, rice, onion, cilantro, spicy broth--which is part of what makes the soup so great, but the long-time owners say the technique is the true secret to the taste that has created such a dedicated following. ($5.79 for a half bowl; $6.99 for a full bowl.)
650 S Escondido Blvd
Escondido, CA 92025

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