Seriously, who doesn't love soup? The possibilities are literally infinite, it's easy to make and serve, and it's warm and comforting. Thankfully, restaurants all throughout the country are making some truly great bowls of soup from scratch, and we've tracked down the best in every state.
Anyone can throw together a halfway decent pot of soup, but in the hands of professional chefs, soup can become a work of art. For our ranking, we're highlighting individual scratchmade bowls of soup from restaurants as well as soup shops that sell a variety of soups that change regularly; because many of the best shops change up their offerings on a daily or weekly basis based on what's fresh and in season, it can be tough to track down one soup that's the absolute best (you'll just have to try them out for yourself!).
Each region of the country has certain soups that it's known for; so we tried to highlight as many of those as possible. Asia, with its wide variety of spectacular soups (and thousands of restaurants across the country that specialize in them) could have taken over this whole ranking by itself, so we didn't take Asian soups like ramen into consideration this time around. We're also defining soup as any hot liquid-based concoction that you eat from a bowl with a spoon (except for chili, which is another animal altogether), so stews and chowders weren't exempt from consideration. As for cold soups, well, hold off until it gets warm out and we'll tell you where to find the best gazpacho.
From gumbo in Louisiana to clam chowder in Massachusetts, from matzo ball in New York to she-crab in South Carolina, read on to learn where to find the very best bowl of soup in all 50 states as well as Washington, D.C.
Spoon and Ladle
Alabama: Spoon & Ladle (Birmingham)
Chef Monty Todd started Spoon & Ladle to showcase the amazing soup recipes that he learned from his grandmother as a child (as well as a few that he's come up with on his own). While he doesn't have a dedicated storefront, his soups can be found at a few local restaurants, supermarkets, and the Pepper Place farmers market on Saturdays. The selection changes weekly, but his soups always use fresh, seasonal ingredients; popular ones include chicken and sausage gumbo, old-fashioned vegetables, Brunswick stew, Guinness beef and barley, and beer cheese and bacon.
Spoon & Ladle
Alaska: Smoked Salmon Chowder, Humpy's Great Alaskan Alehouse (Anchorage)
This laid-back neighborhood alehouse has a massive beer selection, but the finest item on the menu is the smoked salmon chowder. Alaskan red salmon is smoked in house and mixed into a classic white chowder made with fresh vegetables. It's Alaska in a bowl.
Yelp/ Amy C.
Arizona: Gadzooks Enchiladas & Soup (Phoenix)
Gadzooks founder Aaron Pool has become renowned for his enchiladas, which are made with handmade tortillas, slow-braised meats, and fresh-grated Mexican cheese, and he gives his soups just as much attention as his enchiladas. His restaurant takes a DIY, fast-casual approach, which means that your (already stellar) homemade tortilla soup of spicy potato corn chowder can be kicked up with an endless variety of meats, sautéed vegetables, sauces, cheeses, and other Mexican-inspired toppings.
Yelp/ Jennie Y.
Arkansas: Caldo de Pollo, Rosalinda (Little Rock)
Yes, the best bowl of soup in Arkansas can be found at a real-deal Honduran restaurant in Little Rock called Rosalinda. This hidden gem serves a caldo de pollo (chicken soup) that's essentially perfect: the homemade stock is slow-cooked for hours, and it's loaded with big chunks of chicken (don't be surprised if you get a whole leg), plenty of vegetables, and mild seasonings. You actually won't mind catching a cold if it gives you an excuse to eat this soup every day.
Yelp/ Sug D.
California: Clam Chowder, Hog Island Oyster Bar (San Francisco and Napa)
Hog Island is one of the most famous restaurants in San Francisco, with a second location in Napa's Oxbow Public Market, and their oysters, from Tomales Bay, really are something special. For those in the know, their chowder is also a must-order. The bowl is loaded with bacon, potatoes, and cream, it's also overflowing with fresh manila clams still in their shell.
Yelp/ Adam S.
Colorado: Croc Soup (Golden)
Every day, Golden, Colorado's Croc Soup rolls out seven or eight scratch-made soups based on what's fresh and in-season. You might find gumbo, chicken noodle, tomato basil, potato cheese, chicken pot pie, or broccoli gruyere, but their most popular soup is lobster bisque, which is only available on Fridays.
Yelp/ Dan S.
Connecticut: Clam Chowder, The Clam Castle (Madison)
This seasonal roadside seafood shack is about as legit as it gets, and has been a shoreline destination for more than 60 years. Their lobster rolls and fried clams are second to none, but it's their clam chowder that sets it apart from the pack. Available in both Rhode Island and creamy New England styles, both chowders are equally delicious; the Rhode Island version won 2016's Chowdafest.
Yelp/ Brigit C.
Delaware: Cream of Crab Soup, Meding's Seafood (Milford)
This maritime-themed seafood shack on the road to Delaware's beaches serves some of the freshest seafood you'll find anywhere. The region is known for its crab, so you'll definitely want to sample the crab melt (Maryland crab and cheese broiled on an English muffin) and make sure you start with their famous cream of crab soup, made with fresh crabmeat and topped with a sprinkle of Old Bay. Their oyster stew is also made to order and worth sampling.
Yelp/ Traneshia C.
Florida: Conch Chowder, Conch Republic (Key West)
Key West may also be known as the Conch Republic, but there's only one restaurant on the island that's earned the right to carry the name. Conch Republic Seafood Company is located on the historic Key West Bight Marina, and they do their conch right. You can order it flash-fried or in fritters, but you'll also want to try it in their homemade conch chowder, a Bahamian-style red chowder made with ground conch, herbs, and potatoes. It's something no visitor to Key West should leave without trying; make sure you try the homemade Key lime pie, too, while you're at it.
Georgia is the home base of the legendary Brunswick stew, and ask any Savannah local where to find the best and they'll point you in the direction of Sandfly. Formulated by owner and former fine dining chef Keith Latture, it starts with chicken, beef, and pork that he's smoked in house, and it's rounded out with local corn, beans, onions, and diced tomatoes. It's so thick that a spoon will stand up straight in it, and it's absolutely stellar.
Yelp/ Darla R.
Hawaii: Oxtail Soup, Hawaiian Style Café (Hilo)
Hawaiian Style Café is one of the best places in Hawaii for classic Hawaiian comfort food, served in huge portions and prepared with a true chef's eye. They also serve Hawaii's best bowl of soup, but only on Thursdays. It's simple and delicious: oxtail that's been braised so long that it's falling off the bone, in beef broth that's insanely rich and beefy.
Yelp/ Taffany H.
Idaho: A Street Soup Market (Idaho Falls)
A Street Soup Market chef and owner Bryan Lloyd only uses the freshest ingredients in his soups, which he prepares fresh daily (breads are also baked in house, and all meats are house-roasted as well). The menu changes every day (check Facebook to learn what's available), but they're always interesting, and always delicious. Don't miss the tomato basil, cream potato bacon, chicken coconut curry, and lemon chicken asparagus.
A Street Soup Market
Illinois: Shortrib Red Chile Caldo, Xoco (Chicago)
Anything chef Rick Bayless touches turns to gold, and that's certainly true of the caldos he's serving at his casual Mexican street food shop, Xoco. His shortrib red chile caldo is already the stuff of legend, with a serious cult following: short ribs from Creekstone farms are braised until falling apart and they're added to a rich red chile-based broth along with roasted vegetables, epazote, arugula, and lime. It's a meal in a bowl, and deeply comforting.
Indiana: Soupremacy (Indianapolis)
This low-key Monument Circle storefront is a haven for in-the-know locals, who flock here on their lunch hour to see what soups will be on offer that week (more than 100 are served over the course of a year). Only fresh, all-natural ingredients go into their soups, and favorites include Italian kale parmesan with homemade Italian sausage, creamy chicken velvet, and sherry-kicked lobster bisque.
Iowa: Bacon Iowa Corn Chowder, Vesta (Coralville)
When in Iowa, you need to make sure you eat some local Iowa corn, specifically in a comforting bowl of chowder. The version at Iowa City's Vesta is the best around, thanks to the addition of plenty of smoky bacon.
Yelp/ Dong B.
Kansas: Tanya's Soup Kitchen (Wichita)
Located in Wichita's trendy Douglas Design District, Tanya's commands long lines on a daily basis. All soups are made fresh daily and rotate nearly as often, but favorites include tomato basil bisque, vegetable stew, and creamy artichoke gorgonzola. Can't decide on one? Try a flight of four.
Yelp/ Nhi T.
Kentucky: Burgoo, Stella's Kentucky Deli (Lexington)
You might not have heard of burgoo, probably because it's still a regional Kentucky specialty that you'd be hard pressed to find outside of the state. So when you're there, make sure you eat some of this thick, hearty soup loaded with meat and vegetables. The best place for burgoo is Lexington's homey Stella's, where it's made with beef, pork, chicken, and lamb with corn, beans, and other veggies, and is served with four mini corn muffins for sopping.
Yelp/ Brent R.
Louisiana: Gumbo, Dookie Chase (New Orleans)
Dookie Chase is one of New Orleans' most legendary restaurants, largely thanks to its legendary chef and proprietor, 95-year-old Leah Chase. Her gumbo is the platonic ideal of this Creole classic, made with a dark roux and loaded with shrimp, Creole sausage, smoked sausage, beef, ham, oysters, and chicken wings. It's thickened with file powder instead of okra, and even the most serious of the city's gumbo connoisseurs will tell you that hers is the best around.
Yelp/ Cynthia N.
Maine: Lobster Stew, J's Oyster (Portland)
Ask a handful of Portland locals where the best place in the city is for a lobster roll and some fried belly clams, and they'll point you toward this low-key institution on Portland Pier that's been going strong since 1977. Everyone gets the lobster roll, fried clams, or steamers, but regulars know to also order the lobster stew, which is made with a heaping pile of fresh lobster, and is creamy but not overly-so and brightened with a hit of sherry.
Yelp/ Sophia L.
Maryland: Crab Soup, Schultz's Crab House (Essex)
Going strong since 1950, Schultz's is a Baltimore-area institution that's famous for its hot steamed crabs and its expertly crafted soups. The one to order is Schultz's Original Crab Soup, a tomato-based concoction that's loaded with fresh picked crab and vegetables. If you're looking for Maryland in a bowl, this is it.
Yelp/ Douqi W.
Massachusetts: Clam Chowder, Union Oyster House (Boston)
The Union Oyster House is Boston's most famous restaurant, and its New England clam chowder is the definitive version, hands-down. It starts (as all great clam chowders do) with diced salt pork, which is rendered down and combined with butter, flour, onion, and celery to form a roux. It's combined with housemade clam juice, half-and-half, chopped fresh clams, a couple dashes of Tabasco, and diced potatoes, and end result is thick, creamy, simple, and perfect.
Yelp/ Hannah S.
Michigan: Cauliflower Gruyere Soup, Dime Store (Detroit)
This four-year-old restaurant has become a popular casual local gathering place, and regulars tell anyone who will listen to drop by and try the soon-to-be legendary cauliflower Gruyère soup. Executive chef Josh Taylor uses plenty of puréed fresh cauliflower and an ample amount of high quality Gruyère to make this creamy, cheesy creation that has regulars coming back for more and more.
Yelp/ McKinney K.
Minnesota: Matzo Ball Soup, Cecil's Deli (St. Paul)
Going strong since its founding by Cecil and Faye Glickman in 1949, this Twin Cities institution is legendary for its homemade cured meats, breads and other baked goods, and especially its soups. Its chicken soup in particular, made with long-simmered stock, plenty of chicken, and your choice of noodles or matzo balls (go for the matzo balls), is seriously the cure for what ails you, especially during a long Minnesota winter.
The oldest-operating restaurant in Mississippi's capital, Mayflower Café has been feeding hungry locals since 1935. Owned by generations of the Kountouris family, the restaurant is perhaps best known for its comeback sauce (similar to rémoulade), but its seafood gumbo is absolutely outstanding; it's rich, thick, and loaded with shrimp and okra, and with some rice mixed in a cup can count as a full meal.
Yelp/ Heide R.
Missouri: The Rieger Pork Soup, The Rieger (Kansas City)
The Rieger Hotel has been open since 1915, and its restaurant, now under the auspices of chef/owner Howard Hanna, has become a Kansas City must-visit. And when you visit, you must order the pork soup. It starts with a pork stock that's loaded with roasted garlic, into which pork confit, sherry vinegar, and Angostura bitters are added. After being ladled into bowls it's topped with crunchy housemade chicharrones and a generous layer of Gruyère before being finished off in the oven. It's a cheesy, porky masterpiece.
Reminiscent of a 1950s-style mechanic's garage, The Garage is a great spot for a hearty meal and a big bowl of soup. The restaurant boasts a soup bar, where six kinds of soup are available for the taking - pork chili verde, clam chowder, chicken soup, tomato basil, and two daily specials. Go for the tomato basil; it's super rich and creamy, and about as comforting as a bowl of soup can get.
Yelp/ Spencer D.
Nebraska: Grateful Bread (Lincoln)
Celebrating its 21st year in business, this quirky bakery and restaurant has become locally renowned for its great bread and soups (its macaroni and cheese is also pretty spectacular). Red bean gumbo with greens, Moroccan tomato, chipotle potato, Indian red lentil, South American vegetable... the available soups change daily, but two things remain consistent: they're all made from scratch with seasonal ingredients, and they're all vegetarian. Make sure you also buy a scone to sop it up.
Yelp/ Echo D.
Nevada: Artichoke Truffle Soup, Restaurant Guy Savoy (Las Vegas)
When a bowl of soup is one of the signature dishes from one of the world's most renowned chefs, and it's served at one of the most acclaimed fine dining restaurants in America, you know that this is going to be one heck of a bowl of soup. And it is. At his Restaurant Guy Savoy in Las Vegas, chef Guy Savoy creates a rich, creamy artichoke soup and tops it with slices of black truffle and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Mushroom brioche spread with truffle butter is served on the side, the very definition of gilding the lily.
Yelp/ Cindy W.
New Hampshire: Collins Brothers Chowder (Nashua)
A local gem hiding in plain sight for the past 15 years, Collins Brothers offers at least 12 different soups for take-out only. But just because it isn't a full-service restaurant doesn't mean it's not spectacular: owners Dan Largy and Robert Hughes only use the freshest ingredients, and serve up to 500 customers daily, not including wholesale. The clam chowder is a top seller, but you also can't go wrong with corn and bacon chowder, meatball and sausage Parmesan soup, or Nantucket seafood chowder.
Yelp/ Paul M.
New Jersey: The Fanwood Grille (Fanwood)
This casual café and lunch counter serves all the classic breakfast and lunch staples (their hot dogs and steak sandwich are especially popular), but it's the soups that have really put it on the map. The variety changes daily, but expect to find butternut squash, chicken noodle, beef stew, New England clam chowder, chicken gumbo, pasta fagiolo, and/or Spanish chicken soup, all made fresh every say using only the best seasonal ingredients.
New Mexico: Green Chile Stew, The Shed (Santa Fe)
Going strong since 1960, The Shed is one of Santa Fe's most renowned restaurants, and quite possibly the best place in the state to get your fix of dishes prepared with New Mexico's famed Hatch chiles. While the posole is also spectacular, the green chile stew is the one to order; made with roasted chiles, potatoes, and chunks of lean pork, it's everything that's great about New Mexican cuisine in a bowl.
Yelp/ Alan B.
New York: Matzo Ball, Second Avenue Deli (New York City)
There are countless great bowls of soup in New York, and even when you narrow it down to matzo ball soup (the hands-down signature soup of the Big Apple), the restaurants serving very good versions easily number in the dozens. But for the quintessential bowl of matzo ball soup in New York City, go to the Second Avenue Deli. Big stockpots of the stuff are kept simmering in the kitchen throughout the day, and every detail is on point: the broth is crystal clear and rich with chicken flavor, the matzo balls are light and buoyant thanks to the deft hand of the cooks, and the tableside addition of tiny noodles, carrots, and dill bring it all together.
Yelp/ Stephanie A.
North Carolina: Matzo Ball Soup, Lucky's Delicatessen (Durham)
Three-time James Beard Award semifinalist Matt Kelly has turned his attention to Italian- and Jewish-inspired comfort food at his newest restaurant, with astonishing results. The broth is rich and deeply flavored, and the matzo balls are light but hearty, made with some serious skill.
Yelp/ Celeste C.
North Dakota: Knoephla, Kroll's Diner (Bismarck)
If the word "knoephla" doesn't ring any bells, then you probably haven't been to North Dakota, and you definitely haven't been to Kroll's Diner, a German-influenced institution that's been a local favorite since 1972. So what is knoephla? It's a thick and creamy chicken and potato soup that can trace its roots to Germany, and in North Dakota Kroll's does it best.
Yelp/ Michelle S.
Ohio: Souper Market (Cleveland)
Cleveland's 18-year-old Souper Market has become a serious local cult favorite for its ever-changing lineup of soups, all of which are served with "a big chunk of bread." Fan favorites include jambalaya, chicken paprikash, pulled chicken noodle, New England clam chowder (pictured), and lobster bisque. It's all homemade, so they'll also sell you chicken, veal, fish, or vegetable stock by the quart or gallon.
This popular Oklahoma City hotspot has been an upscale destination since 2000, best known for its homey Southwest-inspired fare. The chicken tortilla soup is creamy, slightly spicy, loaded with chicken, and topped with fresh-fried tortilla strips, and is hearty and immensely satisfying.
Oregon:Savor Soup House (Portland)
For the past 10 years, a tiny cart called Savor Soup House has been serving some of the finest soups you'll ever try, all of which are made from scratch and rotate daily. Offerings include tomato with fennel and orange, vegan potato leek, pulled pork pozole, sweet potato kale and coconut, beer cheese, and bacon-topped New England clam chowder. And make sure you save room for the "Grilled Cheese Bar," from which you can customize your grilled cheese with more than 20 cheeses and toppings.
The Portland Soup Company
Pennsylvania: Snapper Soup, Oyster House (Philadelphia)
Snapper soup (made with snapping turtle, not the fish) is a lesser-known local Philadelphia delicacy popularized by the now-defunct Old Original Bookbinder's. While Bookbinder's famed version is now sold, sadly, only in a can, you can still find a stellar rendition at The Oyster House. The rich, deeply flavorful soup is loaded with turtle, chopped carrots and celery, and hard-boiled egg, and a little sherry on the side kicks up the classiness factor.
Yelp/ Michael M.
Rhode Island: Scallop Chowder, The Mooring (Newport)
Clam chowder may get all the fame, but scallop chowder, especially the one served by The Mooring in tony Newport, definitely shouldn't be overlooked. This creamy soup, loaded with scallops and kicked up with white wine, plenty of fresh dill, and corn, this creamy soup has kept the crowds coming back since debuting in 1981.
Yelp/ Nadia B.
South Carolina: She-Crab Soup, Hominy Grill (Charleston)
Chef Robert Stehling's low-key Hominy Grill is a Charleston legend, a must-visit for locals and visitors alike. His menu of down-home country staples is essentially flawless, and every item on the menu, be it biscuits and gravy or fried chicken, is nothing short of a definitive version. The same goes for his version of she-crab soup, a Lowcountry staple: It's thick and creamy, loaded with local blue crab, fish stock, cream, and just enough dry sherry to tie it all together.
Yelp/ Mike C.
South Dakota: Chicken Pot Pie, Bobkat's Purple Pie Place (Custer)
Purple Pie Place is a Custer institution in the shadow of Mount Rushmore, and its homemade pies are the stuff of legend (and yes, the whole restaurant is purple). If you're in the mood for something savory before your piece of bumbleberry pie, go for the chicken pot pie, which can certainly be considered a soup in this case because it isn't in a pie crust. It's rich and hearty with bug chunks of chicken, peas, and carrots, and you've gotta love the chicken-shaped pastry on top.
Yelp/ Lisa H.
Tennessee: Corn Chowder, Old Mill (Pigeon Forge)
Pigeon Forge is a Tennessee tourist mecca, and countless tourists and locals alike stop by the Old Mill every year for its flawless scratch-made country cooking. Look around and you'll notice that just about everyone is starting his or her meal with its famous corn chowder, and you should too. The thick and creamy soup is loaded with corn, potatoes, and bell peppers, and its seasoned with a secret spice blend that's heavy on the onion and garlic powder.
This local hangout has been slowly establishing a great reputation since it opened in 2011, largely thanks to its comfortable vibe and scratchmade dishes. Its soups are made in-house daily, and the must-order is the broccoli beer cheese soup, with chunks of fresh broccoli, several types of cheese, and Shiner Bock, served I a bread bowl.
Yelp/ Chris P.
Utah: Soup Kitchen (Salt Lake City)
The Soup Kitchen has been serving the best soup in Utah since 1976, all scratchmade daily using tried-and-true recipes. Favorites include chicken noodle (with thick dumpling-style noodles), cream of tomato, cheddar cheese and broccoli, and vegetable beef (pictured). You'll be glad they also sell soups by the gallon.
Yelp/ Gavin H.
Vermont: Zabby & Elf's Stone Soup (Burlington)
Stone Soup prides itself on making everything from scratch, and along with great soups, salads, burgers, and sandwiches, it's also a haven for vegetarians. Ingredients are sourced locally and soups change according to what's fresh and in-season, but you can always depend on there being a wide variety of meat-based, vegetarian, and vegan options. Favorites include chicken soup, beef stew, curried yellow split pea, tomato, and Tuscan red lentil.
Virginia is renowned for its peanuts, but not many people outside of the region think to make them the main ingredient in a soup. Plenty of restaurants in Virginia make a mean peanut soup, but you'll find the best version at the King's Arms Tavern in Colonial Williamsburg, which first opened for business in 1772. The soup starts with a basic roux, to which onion, celery, and chicken stock are added. The thickened mixture is strained before smooth peanut butter and cream are added, and it's garnished with fresh peanuts.
Yelp/ Todd P.
Washington, D.C.: Chicken Noodle, Ted's Bulletin
This D.C. favorite boasts that it serves the "world's best chicken noodle soup," and while that may be an exaggeration, it's definitely the best bowl of soup in town. This is chicken noodle soup the way it should be: a light but flavorful broth bursting with huge chunks of shredded chicken breast and tender celery and carrot, brightened with fresh herbs.
Yelp/ Sarah G.
Washington: Pike Place Chowder (Seattle)
Pike Place Market is a Seattle institution, and one of its most popular eateries is Pike Place Chowder, which was opened by Larry Mellum in 2003. Mellum sources all of his ingredients from the market itself, and the best showcase of the local bounty is in his seafood bisque, a creamy tomato-based broth that's loaded with Pacific cod, Northwest salmon, Oregon bay shrimp, and a little fresh basil. It's the Northwest in a bowl.
Pike Place Chowder
West Virginia: Roasted Cauliflower Soup with Cashews, The Block (Charleston)
Located in charming downtown Charleston, The Block is a popular gastropub specializing in scratchmade modern American cuisine. Regulars rave about the handmade pastas and creative flatbreads, but make sure you go when the real draw is on the specials board: roasted cauliflower soup with cashews. It's a smooth and creamy concoction with plenty of roasty cauliflower flavor, crunchy roasted cashews for texture, and a sprinkling of herbs for freshness.
Yelp/ Laura C.
Wisconsin: Beer & Cheese Soup, The Horse & Plow (Kohler)
The Horse & Plow is located inside Destination Kohler's The American Club, a luxurious retreat that was previously the compound where Kohler's famous fixtures were made and its employees lived. This comfortable pub was once the taproom for Kohler's employees, and it's the best place in the state for a bowl of beer and cheese soup. Wisconsin is all about the cheese, and three local cheeses go into this soup - Wisconsin Cheddar, Wisconsin Swiss, and Wisconsin jalapeno Jack - along with a hefty dose of good local beer.
Yelp/ Fred K.
Wyoming: Cheese Barrel (Casper)
The Cheese Barrel is a Casper gem, serving top-notch biscuits and gravy, soups, sandwiches, and salads made from scratch with fresh ingredients. New England chowder and green chili are always available, but daily specials include potato soup, cheesy cauliflower, and cheese potato broccoli (pictured). Make sure you get some of their famous cheese bread on the side, and come back for its breakfast, which is among the best in the state.