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Chicken Noodle Goodness

Something to warm you when the weather doesn't oblige.
Tuesday Apr 26, 2005.     By Misty Tosh
Centerstage Chicago Nightlife City Guide Arts

Right when you think the warmth of spring has shown face, good ol' Chicago pulls a fast one on ya and rips off a few more weeks of brutally windy winter days; nothing but a bunch of baloney, if you ask me. So instead of ripping into the icy margaritas and summery mimosas I'm always dreaming about, I just head straight back to my old stalwart, El Tinajon, for a big, steaming hot bowl of homemade chicken soup.

Chicken soup has been a major favorite since childhood. When I was just a babe in Tennessee, my most wanted meal was a bowl of chicken noodle soup, straight from the red and white Campbell's soup can. My Mom would line the cabinets with row after row of bright cans so my dad and I could pick and choose which one we wanted for dinner. Always the house favorite, we'd select the chicken noodle, crank open the tin can, heat it up, make sure it was really good and hot, dump it into a bowl and crush at least one entire sleeve of saltine crackers into the soupy mess of noodles. This would create more of a mushy gruel than a silky soup, but with a few twists off the pepper mill and an ice-cold glass of chocolate milk to wash it down with, this poor-man's meal was pure heaven.

Not to be compared, but certainly a beloved, I'm-not-in-the-mountains-anymore favorite, the soup at my favorite Guatemalan restaurant, El Tinajon, is one of the most worthy replacements I've found. The overflowing urn of a serving that the sweet waitresses dish up ($5.95) is just as delicious, but in a different, slightly-ethnic way. (Campbell's is really a straight up, ain't-got-no-cash sort of deal).

Imagine a gigantic bone white bowl, filled to the brim with bits and tears of moist chicken (dark and white meat), chunks of salty, broth-infused potatoes and carrots, all nestled into a warm bath of homemade chicken broth. The crowning star is an entire half of a shiny, yellow corncob tucked delicately on top of the soup. Due to its just-crunchy-enough firmness, it must be positioned at the very last minute, because I know the soup is made fresh every morning and sits simmering all day long.

Along with a side of veggie peppered rice and some chips and salsa, this soup trumps Campbell's in all the right ways. The pitcher of margarita helps me remember that spring is indeed around the corner and sometimes (and, only sometimes) I've got more than a dollar in my pocket. That's always a good thing.

The Final Rave: Bottom line? My shelves are still stocked full of the red and whites.


Read It: Simply Soup Co.
The menu changes daily and the soup is always delicious. Rounded off with a toasted panini, this is a city version of divine intervention of the Soup God's.

Drink It: Frontera Grill
Hell, just pretend it's full-blown summer and have a bowl of Frontera's the-waiter-pours-on-the-broth chicken tortilla soup, washed down with ass-kickin' margaritas; ain't nobody gonna stop ya!

Eat It: Cafe Selmarie
Another sort of pollo heaven, the chicken pot pie at this bakery-cum-restaurant is topped with flaky phyllo dough and literally to die for. Order your own though, because once you see the steaming bowl on your neighbors' table, you might get a little crazy and rip it away from them.

Get Crazy With It: Soupbox
Not necessarily the best, but always warm and hearty, this spot doles out 12 new soups a day, all made fresh and in-house. The best way to partake is by skipping the real bowl and going with the chubby round bread bowl; once the soup is gone, the bread is soaked through with all the flavors and a delicious little capper.

The Raving Dish lovely. Fatcake Misty Tosh explores back-alley eateries, holes-in-the-wall and seedy ethnic joints as she treks the city in search of the next raving dish. Join her in the quest.


Explore More

Bars & Clubs

Brand-New Bars

Brand-New Bars

Get divey on Grace; go downstairs at River North's Curio.

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New Restaurants

Go Dutch at Vincent and satisfy a familiar sweet tooth at BomBon.

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