Stock up: 9 great Milwaukee soup places to help stay warm this winter
People has always known the supreme power of soup. According to culinary legend, the first official restaurant – opened in France in 1765 – was essentially a soup kitchen, with the word "restaurant" even coming from the history-making hotspot's main menu item: restorative broths.
Centuries later, soup still works its simmering magic – especially when the temperatures take a polar plunge and the winter wonderland of December turns into the icy hellscape of January and February. You can bundle up under layers upon layers of clothes, long underwear, scarves and more to the point that you can't put your arms down at your sides, but nothing can keep the soul warm on a skin-slappingly cold day like a good soup. And considering Wisconsin tends to take the brunt of mother nature's various polar vortexes and thunder-snows, good soup of all varieties is thankfully not hard to find.
To help, here are just a few of the city's stew-pendous soup-focused options to help keep you warm this winter.
1. Soup Otzie's
3950 S. Howell Ave.
There's certainly SOUP FOR YOU! at this lunchtime favorite, which delivers all the tasty crave-worthy soup of its famed "Seinfeld" namesake with none of the grumpy attitude. Instead, you'll find a cozy classic lunch counter – opened in 2003 by Joan Otzelberger (thus the name) and now run by two long-time fans keeping the restaurant and the recipes alive and simmering – with warm and pleasant company behind the register as opposed to some domineering meal-time oppressor.
Soup Otzie's is more than just a clever name, too. The South Side hotspot dishes out three delicious regulars on the daily – cream of potato, chicken soup with either noodles or dumplings, and a pot roast that tastes like your favorite beef stew – plus two daily rotating favorites, ranging from a dynamite pork posole to a hearty bacon mac 'n' cheese, to a Thai coconut chicken and many, many more. It may be a tiny shop, but the menu is massive – and if you're planning on stocking up before a snowstorm, they often have some soups available frozen and ready to take home and cook up on your own time. And most important of all, you can order however you like without fear of punishment.
Various locations across Milwaukee
This popular local chain may be bad at reality television, but it's excellent at soup. With five locations scattered across the city – from Bay View to Hales Corners, Vliet Street, the Milwaukee Center and the Public Market – each with about seven or eight soups moving in and out of the menu every day, you're bound to find a brothy restorative that'll keep you warm when the weather is anything but.
And no matter how often you hit The Soup Market, you'll seemingly find a new tasty option to try every single day – whether you're craving a classic like chicken dumpling, New England clam chowder, chili of all nations and spice levels, or loaded baked potato soup, or you want to try some globe-trotting unexpected favorites like hoisin pork stew, soup inspired by Philly cheesesteaks, Polish pickle soup or Croatian sarma soup. There's seemingly an endless supply of soup ideas boiling around the Soup Market kitchen and rotating through the menu – and you'll want to dig a spoon into all of them.
761 N. Water St.
The long deli window of various exquisite meats and cheeses, hot plates and more may be the star at this Downtown staple (well that AND the fun little conveyor belt that delivers your food to the second level if you're dining in), but don't sleep on the soups behind the counter either. With a shifting trio of soups on the menu every day – all hearty and satisfying classics, from beef barley to chicken dumpling and more – Waterfront Deli almost certainly has an option that'll warm your soul when its namesake, the Milwaukee River, found just behind the eatery, is frozen over.
Pro tip: If you're landing here for lunch, get there early because this Downtown favorite grows a line quickly – and once you snack on its soups and classic deli sandwiches, whether on the run or in its uniquely artistic dining space, you'll understand why.
4. Cafe Zupas
8775 W. Sura Ln. #108
Sometimes, there's a reason why national chains are national chains: because they're good at what they do. That's the case with cafe Zupas, which now has three locations in Wisconsin and two around Milwaukee in Greenfield and Menomonee Falls. The popular lunch spot offers a menu of sandwiches and healthy protein-packed bowls, but obviously judging by the name, the star of the show is the soup – ranging from a classic chicken noodle to tomato basil to southwest potato and green chili and even one option representing our own fine state: a creamy Wisconsin cauliflower that's cheesy and rich – but hey, there's cauliflower in there too! Top it with some cheese and bacon, and you've got a good way to kill off the cold this winter. Plus, each order comes with a little dessert surprise: a chocolate-dipped strawberry!
324 E. Michigan St.
(*Sung like The Commodores*) Aww, it's a soup ... HAAAAUS. Anyways, now that you have "Brick House" stuck in your head, get some warmth in your belly courtesy of this Downtown soup spot, ladling out six steamy options every day. The chicken soup is always at the top of the menu, while The Soup House fills the rest of its daily options out with soul-soothing options like buffalo chicken, seafood gumbo and regular vegan and vegetarian choices including white bean and tomato or smoky sweet potato. Important: The Soup House only takes cash or check, so be sure you've planned accordingly – otherwise else you'll leave with a sad song and an even sadder stomach.
1433 N. Jefferson St.
With one Milwaukee location in the Points East neighborhood, Zoup! earns its exclamation mark with a solid menu of sandwiches, bowls, mac 'n' cheese specials and, of course, soup, flipping out about a dozen options daily – including chicken noodle, broccoli cheddar, Jamaican bay gumbo, Italian wedding, cheeseburger soup and many more. So if you're wondering how to keep warm this winter, turn that question mark into an exclamation point.
7. Soup Bros.
212 W. Florida St.
The only thing that goes better with soup than some bread or a sandwich? Quirk – the more, the better. At least, that's definitely the case at Soup Bros., which has been ladling up plenty of peculiar decor, unusual charm and unusually delicious soup in Walker's Point since the turn of the century thanks to owner and soup superfan Richard Regner. In addition to a unique setting filled with charming kitsch, the kitchen serves up a combination of six vegetarian and meat-based options a day, complete with fresh-baked bread that makes a mean sandwich as well – just ask the regulars at Boo Boo's, Regner's sandwich shop just a few blocks away since 2017. Soup and a sandwich? This winter never stood a chance against that power couple.
8. Bella Caffe
189 N. Milwaukee St.
Founded almost two decades ago, Bella Caffe was the first coffee house in the neighborhood when it first cracked open its doors, helping fuel business people, creatives and those just dropping by. Good brews are still a part of Bella's brand today in its tucked-away Third Ward meet-up, but it's also focused on a different fuel these days: food, especially soup. Simmering a constantly changing selection of Soup Market restoratives (founder Ted Talsky opened the local chain three years after the coffee shop), Bella Caffe almost certainly has a soup to help your brain power through the rest of your work day, whether you're taking a tub back to the office or working away in its cozy coffee lounge atmosphere. And they've got a dessert counter as well, featuring various key lime pie, creme brûlée cheesecake and other tasty treats. Because hey, your sweet tooth deserves a little love too when it's cold out.
9. Stone Bowl
1958 N. Farwell Ave.
Any place can serve up hot soup, but Stone Bowl can serve up hot soup in even hotter bowls. The East Side restaurant's name comes from its famed way of heating up its stone dishes to boggling levels so your brothy meal arrives bubbling, gurgling and steaming like a sauna – so much so it works not only as a delicious restorative but also as a wonderful way to open one's pores.
Once your done savoring the steam, though, the soul-snuggling experience has just begun as you dive into the actual food and enjoy the rich, immensely flavorful soup or noodle dish radiating all that warmth – whether you get the jjam-pong seafood noodle stew or the yook-gae-jang with shredded flank steak. And if you're really desperate for any kind of heat you can get, both of those options will bring the spice and make your palate sweat. Also: We're just saying there's an item at Stone Bowl called "hangover soup" ... just in case you need to fight off more than just cold weather.
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