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Kalbitang from Daeho Kalbijim & Beef Soup in Japantown.
Daeho Kalbijim & Beef Soup | Instagram

14 Soups to Keep You Warm in San Francisco

Here, have a bowl of soup. It’ll make you feel better.

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Kalbitang from Daeho Kalbijim & Beef Soup in Japantown.
| Daeho Kalbijim & Beef Soup | Instagram

It’s a cold fall in the Bay Area — that prodigal late summer come and gone — and there may be no single food group as nutritious to the chilly soul as soup. Sure, soups may be overlooked in the food pyramid of yore (it’s got to be at least as significant as grains and dairy, right?) but there’s a generational return to the lovely nourishment that is a well-done soup. There are newcomers, such as Hayes Valley’s Om Sabor and SoMa’s La Société, and there are stalwart soldiers in the war of providing yummy warmth, who can count Polk Gulch’s Grubstake and Richmond District’s Cinderella Bakery in its ranks. New or old, seafood or veggie, slurp these 14 soups for a taste of the good (read: warm) life. (Also, here's an entire map for ramen before anyone asks.)

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Lazy Man’s Cioppino at Scoma's Restaurant

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Once a Pier 47 coffee shop that catered to Wharf workers, in its 55 years in business Scoma’s has transformed into one of the city’s greatest classic restaurants, with a menu of reliable favorites made with freshly-caught local seafood. The “lazy man’s” cioppino begins with Al and Joe Scoma’s family recipe broth, a tomato base that’s packed with crab, shrimp, scallops, clams, mussels, seasonal fish, and calamari — so much, in fact, that it’s barely soup at all.

Clam Chowder at Sabella & La Torre

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Established as a crab stand back in 1927, Sabella & La Torre transformed into a full-service restaurant some time around World War II. All this to say that they’ve had plenty of town to nail their clam chowder recipes — they offer a cream-based Boston and a hearty tomato Manhattan, for folks who have yet to pick a team. There’s a bread bowl option, too, for those who’ve realized that that dish is one thing tourists get right. They also have one of the best lunch deals around, with half a shrimp salad and a cup of chowder for only $12.

Caldo Verde at Grubstake Diner

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Grubstake has long been a favorite destination for fans of caldo verde, the green Portuguese soup composed of potatoes, kale, and linguica sausage.

La Société Bar & Café

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While Chez Maman’s take on the french onion soup is nothing to scoff at, newcomer La Société in SoMa may be the new belt-holder for best bowl of cheesy, edifying goodness in San Francisco. Executive Chef Alexandre Viriot is no pushover; he cooked for French chefs Guy Savoy and Joël Robuchon and even Alain Ducasse, and it shows.

Patricia Chang

Kalbitang at Daeho Kalbijim & Beef Soup

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This Japantown favorite offers four different takes on the beef rib soup known as kalbitang, including an extra spicy version and a “premium” version with abalone and shrimp. Even its standard version can be customized with a dizzying array of add-ons like purple rice and cucumber kimchi.

Pho Ga (F9) at Turtle Tower

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The not-so-secret secret menu at Turtle Tower is a soup lover's delight. Order F9, the special chicken, which comes with secret toppings. Or, go with the regular version — you won't be disappointed.

Any Soup at Tu Lan

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Asking a Tu Lan fan to pick the restaurant’s best soup is a thorny affair, as each dish on this classic SoMa restaurant’s menu has a slew of assertive advocates. While almost all of its soups rely on pork, shrimp, or chicken for flavor, its vegetarian bún chay is of special note: heavy with noodles, bamboo shoots, mushrooms, and broccoli, its so packed with flavor that non-meat-eaters will travel to the neighborhood from miles away to score a bowl.

Lentil Soup at Bistro Mediterraneo

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Inside an unassuming Outer Richmond bodega, Bistro Mediteranneo is serving some of the most fundamentally warming soup around. Made with red lentils, rice, parsley, carrot, and onion, the pot goes on first thing in the morning and bubbles all day. This means that by dinnertime, it’s a concentrated bowl of flavor and spices — and all without any animal products, at all.

Samusa Soup at Pagan Restaurant

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Nearly every Burmese restaurant in San Francisco offers a samusa soup, but Pagan’s is one of the best, with crispy falafel bits and flaky samusa crumbles packed separately for takeout customers to pour into flavorful broth at their leisure. With toothsome chunks of potato and a healthy serving of lentils, this soup — especially if ordered with a salad (we recommend the tea leaf) makes for an excellent main dish, not just a side.

Om Sabor

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Inside Hayes Valley’s Phonobar lies one of the most reliable vegan soup destinations in the city. The Mexican, diet-sensitive minds behind Om Sabor keep a rotating soup on deck; a hardy cashew bisque held it down recently, and a soy-free, gluten-free, and vegan clam chowder ($14) full of crimini bacon and bechamel is doing the job this fall. 

Borsch at Cinderella Bakery & Cafe

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This classic Russian cafe’s take on borsch is served hot, with chopped vegetables, shredded cabbage, cubed potatoes, beets lurking below its tomato broth surface. Served with a dollop of sour cream, its one of the most delicious ways to dirty a white shirt in all of SF — and since it’s only $7, you still have plenty to spare for dry cleaning.

Tomato Egg Flower Soup at San Tung

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San Tung is known for its dry fried chicken and shrimp, but savvy diners know that its wettest dishes are some of its best. Its tomato egg flower soup is a heartier and more flavorful version of the egg drop soup popular in Chinese diners across the U.S. This one takes the standard chicken and egg broth, mixes in tomatoes, then adds shrimp, mushrooms, peas, and spinach to turn this classic side into a meal.

Pozole at SanJalisco Restaurant

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Family owned since it was founded in the 1950s, SanJalisco (which before 2010 was known as Los Jarritos) is one of the most venerable Mexican spots in the Mission. And who makes better soup than family, right? The restaurant boasts a rotating menu of soups, and Friday and the weekend is when to score its pozole rojo de puerco, a pork version of the hominy-laden classic.

Kimchi Soup at Toyose

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In these pandemic times, the long waits previously associated with Sunset cult classic spot Toyose are no longer an issue — and their full menu of Korean dishes is yours within minutes. That means a massive bowl of its sour-and-spicy kimchi soup, laden with pork, tofu, and chili paste, is within reach with no lingering required.

Lazy Man’s Cioppino at Scoma's Restaurant

Once a Pier 47 coffee shop that catered to Wharf workers, in its 55 years in business Scoma’s has transformed into one of the city’s greatest classic restaurants, with a menu of reliable favorites made with freshly-caught local seafood. The “lazy man’s” cioppino begins with Al and Joe Scoma’s family recipe broth, a tomato base that’s packed with crab, shrimp, scallops, clams, mussels, seasonal fish, and calamari — so much, in fact, that it’s barely soup at all.

Clam Chowder at Sabella & La Torre

Established as a crab stand back in 1927, Sabella & La Torre transformed into a full-service restaurant some time around World War II. All this to say that they’ve had plenty of town to nail their clam chowder recipes — they offer a cream-based Boston and a hearty tomato Manhattan, for folks who have yet to pick a team. There’s a bread bowl option, too, for those who’ve realized that that dish is one thing tourists get right. They also have one of the best lunch deals around, with half a shrimp salad and a cup of chowder for only $12.

Caldo Verde at Grubstake Diner

Grubstake has long been a favorite destination for fans of caldo verde, the green Portuguese soup composed of potatoes, kale, and linguica sausage.

La Société Bar & Café

While Chez Maman’s take on the french onion soup is nothing to scoff at, newcomer La Société in SoMa may be the new belt-holder for best bowl of cheesy, edifying goodness in San Francisco. Executive Chef Alexandre Viriot is no pushover; he cooked for French chefs Guy Savoy and Joël Robuchon and even Alain Ducasse, and it shows.

Patricia Chang

Kalbitang at Daeho Kalbijim & Beef Soup

This Japantown favorite offers four different takes on the beef rib soup known as kalbitang, including an extra spicy version and a “premium” version with abalone and shrimp. Even its standard version can be customized with a dizzying array of add-ons like purple rice and cucumber kimchi.

Pho Ga (F9) at Turtle Tower

The not-so-secret secret menu at Turtle Tower is a soup lover's delight. Order F9, the special chicken, which comes with secret toppings. Or, go with the regular version — you won't be disappointed.

Any Soup at Tu Lan

Asking a Tu Lan fan to pick the restaurant’s best soup is a thorny affair, as each dish on this classic SoMa restaurant’s menu has a slew of assertive advocates. While almost all of its soups rely on pork, shrimp, or chicken for flavor, its vegetarian bún chay is of special note: heavy with noodles, bamboo shoots, mushrooms, and broccoli, its so packed with flavor that non-meat-eaters will travel to the neighborhood from miles away to score a bowl.

Lentil Soup at Bistro Mediterraneo

Inside an unassuming Outer Richmond bodega, Bistro Mediteranneo is serving some of the most fundamentally warming soup around. Made with red lentils, rice, parsley, carrot, and onion, the pot goes on first thing in the morning and bubbles all day. This means that by dinnertime, it’s a concentrated bowl of flavor and spices — and all without any animal products, at all.

Samusa Soup at Pagan Restaurant

Nearly every Burmese restaurant in San Francisco offers a samusa soup, but Pagan’s is one of the best, with crispy falafel bits and flaky samusa crumbles packed separately for takeout customers to pour into flavorful broth at their leisure. With toothsome chunks of potato and a healthy serving of lentils, this soup — especially if ordered with a salad (we recommend the tea leaf) makes for an excellent main dish, not just a side.

Om Sabor

Inside Hayes Valley’s Phonobar lies one of the most reliable vegan soup destinations in the city. The Mexican, diet-sensitive minds behind Om Sabor keep a rotating soup on deck; a hardy cashew bisque held it down recently, and a soy-free, gluten-free, and vegan clam chowder ($14) full of crimini bacon and bechamel is doing the job this fall. 

Borsch at Cinderella Bakery & Cafe

This classic Russian cafe’s take on borsch is served hot, with chopped vegetables, shredded cabbage, cubed potatoes, beets lurking below its tomato broth surface. Served with a dollop of sour cream, its one of the most delicious ways to dirty a white shirt in all of SF — and since it’s only $7, you still have plenty to spare for dry cleaning.

Tomato Egg Flower Soup at San Tung

San Tung is known for its dry fried chicken and shrimp, but savvy diners know that its wettest dishes are some of its best. Its tomato egg flower soup is a heartier and more flavorful version of the egg drop soup popular in Chinese diners across the U.S. This one takes the standard chicken and egg broth, mixes in tomatoes, then adds shrimp, mushrooms, peas, and spinach to turn this classic side into a meal.

Pozole at SanJalisco Restaurant

Family owned since it was founded in the 1950s, SanJalisco (which before 2010 was known as Los Jarritos) is one of the most venerable Mexican spots in the Mission. And who makes better soup than family, right? The restaurant boasts a rotating menu of soups, and Friday and the weekend is when to score its pozole rojo de puerco, a pork version of the hominy-laden classic.

Kimchi Soup at Toyose

In these pandemic times, the long waits previously associated with Sunset cult classic spot Toyose are no longer an issue — and their full menu of Korean dishes is yours within minutes. That means a massive bowl of its sour-and-spicy kimchi soup, laden with pork, tofu, and chili paste, is within reach with no lingering required.

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