The thick of it
Bisques, chowders, chilis, stews and more
Published: December 26, 2012
Mudgie's 1300 Porter St., Detroit; 313-961-2000; mudgiesdeli.com: The artisanal Corktown sandwich shop, uses only the freshest, highest-quality ingredients, local when possible. Soups are always fresh and change daily. Check their website or Twitter feed for what's on offer day-to-day. One recent offering was a vegetarian "creamy cabbage."
PJ's Lager House 1254 Michigan Ave., Detroit; 313-961-4668; pjslagerhouse.com: The Lager House, long a destination for shows and suds, not only has added food, but the new kitchen is aiming high and being creative. One of the best things we've ever had there, though, was a tasty potato-leek soup, with skin-on potato chunks and just enough thickness to coat a spoon.
Red Coat Tavern 31542 Woodward Ave., Royal Oak; 248-549-0300: Red Coat is just so well-known as a burger joint that it's easy to forget that the tavern keeps a full menu, and serves excellent renditions of classics. So why should the chili be anything less than top-notch?
R.P. McMurphy's 2922 Biddle Ave., Wyandotte; 734-285-4885: One of our co-workers was raving about this place's Northeast Clam Chowder, biscuits and lobster gravy, and other treats, calling it "Maine meets Downriver!" We haven't been there, but, with rants like that, it sounds like it could be worth a try.
Sweet Lorraine's 29101 Greenfield Rd., Southfield; 248-559-5985; sweetlorraines.com: For more than a decade, metro Detroiters have been grateful to count on the moderately priced pleasure of Lorraine Platman's casual but sophisticated cuisine. Though they only serve two soups at a time, call ahead to find out if they're serving their spicy Thai corn chowder. It's thicker than your usual soups, sort of like a cream of corn soup, but rich with corn, onions, lemon grass, coconut milk, red curry paste, lime juice, Hungarian paprika and tomato paste, all on a base of mushroom and vegetable stock. At 2.75 a cup, $3.95 a bowl, this sounds like one of the more innovative treats of the season.
Tap Room 201 W. Michigan Ave., Ypsilanti; 734-482-5320; taproomypsi.com: Established in 1941, the Tap Room enjoys a quaint existence on the corner of one of downtown Ypsilanti's main drags. But it's not all just beer and song, there's a full menu of bar fare, including warm soups and homemade hearty chilis that get a bit of extra attention from the chef in the kitchen, as a former Tap Room chef told us that the chili comes from "an old recipe, handed down to me from the owner. It's very basic — your normal chili — but you put a little bit of love into it."
Tom's Oyster Bar 519 E. Jefferson Ave., Detroit; 313-964-4010; tomsoysterbar.com: Check the blackboard for a list of the daily specials; they include six ever-changing varieties of raw oysters. Around this time of year, though, what we crave are those satisfying and warm soups, including seafood chowder, crawfish bisque or seafood chili.
Union Street 4145 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-831-3965; unionstreetdetroit.com: Hearty bowls abound at this stylish Midtown fixture. There's a seafood chowder, New England-style, with bay scallops, shrimp, clams and even fresh hickory-smoked salmon ($4 a cup, $5 a bowl). Then there's the chili, with Black Angus steak tips "simmered in red Mexican chili beans, assorted herbs and spices, delicious and full-bodied." Hotter than most, it can be topped with sour cream, scallions and cheddar cheese.
Wasabi 15 E. Kirby St., enter on Woodward side, Detroit; 313-638-1272; wasabidetroit.com: Japanese cuisine isn't known for rich, thick soups, but the comfort factor of some soups really soars. The nabeyaki udon comes in a hot pot, a potent broth in which swirls mushrooms, shrimp tempura, and even egg. But best of all are the thick udon noodles, which can be piled into a Japanese soup spoon and consumed by the mouthful. Spice-loving diners may shake a bit of shichimi powder over everything for a bit of extra heat.
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