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Pho and Bar - photo by Eric Tsao.

Featured Article

Bowls of Goodness

Taking Stock of Denver's Soup-er Selections

Article by Tony Firestine

Photography by Eric Tsao, Twist & Taylor

Originally published in Cherry Creek Lifestyle

There aren’t many things more comforting than a warm bowl of soup on a brisk day. With the temperature fluctuating on the turn of a dime in Colorado, we’re lucky to have a tapestry of diverse restaurants specializing in hot, steaming bowls of heavenly goodness to warm your belly and soul. Some of these soupy selections are so superb, that you might find yourself craving them in the middle of the sweltering summer heat, well after the chill of winter is gone.

Matzo Ball Soup Dumplings – El Five

Justin Cucci’s El Five has been a staple in Denver’s Lohi for over six years and has gained a hip and raving following since day one. The décor is as eclectic as the menu—the walls plastered with old-school Egyptian and Turkish movie posters—if you can actually peel your eyes away from the stunning view on the fifth floor. El Five’s take on matzo ball soup finds itself nixing the bowl and doubling the comfort factor by presenting it in the form of a succulent soup dumpling. Filled with chicken sausage, mirepoix and a collagen-rich bit of chicken bone broth, make sure you place the parcel in a soup spoon and pierce it open with a chopstick to get the full umami experience of full-bodied, piquant broth followed by a delicate, pillowy dumpling.

Pozole – La Diabla Pozole y Mezcal

Recently recognized by Colorado’s first Michelin guide in 2023 as a Bib Gourmand selection, chef Jose Avila’s La Diabla Pozole y Mezcal brings pozole—a traditional Mexican soup made with hominy—front and center by featuring a customizable concoction of both traditional and unique ingredients. Choose from traditional rojo, verde or blanco broth, or opt for the negro version, spiked with charred chilies. There’s also a vegan version infused with chayote squash and mushroom for the plant-based folks. Top off your pozole with lettuce, radish, cabbage, onion and a squeeze of lime to suit your taste. Add avocado, a poached egg or chicharrons (fried pork rind) to build on the abundance of savory and spice. Pair your pozole with a flight of mezcal and let the smoky and complex libations heighten your experience.

Sichuan Braised Beef Noodle Soup – Zoe Ma Ma

Union Station’s Zoe Ma Ma (with another outpost in Boulder) ties together a fast-casual and unpretentious atmosphere with traditional Chinese street food infused with the love that comes from real home cooking. Their traditional Sichuan Braised Beef Noodle Soup—only available Sunday-Tuesday—is an amalgamation of chewy handmade noodles enriched with egg, fall-apart braised beef, bok choy, zesty pickles and whole chilies, steeped in a deep and complex beef broth. The fork-tender beef is reminiscent of the most decadent of comfort foods, the humble pot roast, with the addition of heat and vibrant flavors of anise and exotic chilies. Wash down the generous bowl with green tea infused with ginger and a little sugar to combat the intensity of the chilies.

Pho & Bar – Pho

The energetic and animated atmosphere at Pho & Bar matches its take on traditional Vietnamese fare with a creative bar program to match. It’s hard to beat a bowl of piping hot pho with your choice of beef—yours truly tends to gravitate towards the paper-thin slices of raw beef that cook up rare upon entering their brothy bath. A side of sriracha and hoisin sauce for dipping and you’re set. At Pho & Bar, you can go with the traditional broth infusion of onion, cinnamon, ginger and star anise or opt for a spicy version with the addition of shrimp paste and lemongrass. Vegans are covered with a meatless broth option and your choice of tofu or vegetables (or both). Don’t forget the side of crispy five-spice fries to dunk in your soup. Get an ice-cold mule in a copper mug to match with your soup and savor the juxtaposition of frigid and steamy hot.

Sera’s Ramen Enclave – Spicy Dashi Ramen

At Sera’s Ramen Enclave, a little bit north of Sloan’s Lake in Denver, many styles and unique flavors are covered at this Pan-Asian haven for ramen lovers. With a wide range of selections for both herbivores and omnivores, as well as many gluten-free options, Sera’s is ready to please every ramen connoisseur. Take a seat in the bustling, yet cozy, dining room replete with hip-hop on the hifi, and enjoy Sera’s Spicy Dashi Ramen, a guest favorite. The creamy mix of dashi miso and briny bonito flakes infuse the chicken broth base. Bits of tender grilled chicken, enoki mushrooms and slices of kamaboko garnish the dish, finished with a perfectly poached quail egg. Don’t miss the well-curated sake selection. In a city of top-quality ramen spots, Sera’s is a surefire standout.

Fish N Beer – Clam and Andouille Chowder

For those East Coast transplants looking for a taste of home, look no further than Fish N Beer. A piping hot bowl of “chowdah” is waiting for you, along with some fresher-than-fresh oysters and an uber-chill atmosphere. Fish N Beer’s Clam and Andouille Chowder is a standout on their ocean-heavy menu. The base of a luxurious and chunky traditional New England-style clam chowder is studded with a pleasant surprise of spicy andouille sausage to add a little meaty Cajun kick to a well-executed steamy seafood delicacy in landlocked Colorado. Don’t miss out on the oysters—both East and West Coast selections—on the half shell or baked in their wood fire oven with garlic butter.

  • Zoe Ma Ma’s Sichuan Braised Beef Noodle Soup
  • La Diabla Pozole - Photo by Twist & Taylor
  • La Diabla Pozole - Photo by Twist & Taylor
  • La Diabla Pozole - Photo by Twist & Taylor
  • La Diabla Pozole - Photo by Twist & Taylor
  • Pho and Bar - photo by Eric Tsao.
  • Pho and Bar - photo by Eric Tsao.
  • Pho and Bar - photo by Eric Tsao.
  • El Five