It’s soup season! One of the advantages of living in Central Illinois and experiencing all four seasons is that craving for soup in the winter. There is something wonderful about coming home to soup that has been warming in a crock pot all day at home. You smell the comforting aroma once you enter your home.

My wife asked me if chili was a soup, to which I replied, “Absolutely not!” So, my community service to you, dear reader, was to help find great soups to enjoy here in C-U. I tried five local soups, and here's what I think about them. 

On a table, there is a plastic bowl of egg drop soup beside hot tea in a white styrofoam cup. Photo by Carl Busch.Photo by Carl Busch.

Egg Drop Soup | I-Wok

I tried the egg drop soup ($2.75 small, $3.95 large) at the Savoy Chinese restaurant. Don’t let the modest building fool you, I-Wok has some of the best Chinese food in the area, and their soups are no exception. If you choose to dine in, you can help yourself to complimentary hot tea. It is a nice treat on a cold day.

Their egg drop soup was rich, buttery, eggy, and served with a generous portion of fried won ton skins for a wonderful crunch. It was simple and amazing. And it was made to order! How do I know? I watched them make it. This isn’t some soup sitting on a warmer all day — and that makes a world of difference. 

113 Calvin St
T-Sa 10:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Su 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.

On a white table, there is a plate of crab rangoons and a white bowl of hot and sour soup. Photo by Carl Busch.Photo by Carl Busch.

Hot and Sour Soup | Rainbow Garden Urbana

There is something magical to me about mushrooms, tofu, and eggs in a spicy broth. I adore hot and sour soup, and Urbana Rainbow Garden's hot and sour soup ($2.95) is one of my favorites.

The broth was rich, dark, and thick. The balance of flavors was perfect, and it had generous portions of eggs and tofu. The spice level was right where I like it to be: a slow mild heat that will get my nose running right as I finish. This soup was an excellent way to kick off a nice Chinese meal in a restaurant with delightful interior design. Don’t be fooled that it is in a strip mall; it is a wonderful and warm place to enjoy dining in.

Rainbow Garden
202 E University Ave
T-Sa 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Su noon to 9 p.m.

On a white plate, there, is a black bowl of a white tom kha chicken soup. Photo by Carl Busch.Photo by Carl Busch.

Tom Kha Chicken | Siam Terrace 

Unique is the word that comes to mind with this soup ($5.99). It was amazingly unique. The flavors were wonderfully powerful, and a lot went into this soup: coconut milk, fish sauce, lime juice, ginger, enoki mushrooms, chicken, lemongrass, cilantro, green onions, and lime leaves. That is a crazy number of ingredients, and I’m sure I've left some out. They all worked together.

The broth was silky smooth, and the coconut milk’s sweetness was balanced by the acidity of the lime juice. I added chicken to my soup, which added a nice heartiness, but this soup would still be outstanding without the chicken. A small bowl was a generous serving. They also offer medium ($9.99) and large ($12.99) portions in addition to the small I had.

Siam Terrace
212 W Main St
M-F 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. + 5 to 10 p.m.
Su 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

On a beige plate with a white paper napkin, there is a beige bowl with red soup and a few cracker hexagons on top. Photo by Carl Busch.Photo by Carl Busch.

Roasted Red Pepper Gouda | Seven Saints 

I had every intention of getting Seven Saints tomato bisque, which is offered every day, and it is fantastic. I highly recommend it, but when our server uttered the words “our soup of the day is roasted red pepper Gouda,” ($5.99 bowl, $3.99 cup), I was hooked. It did not disappoint.

The broth was a deep red and very inviting. My wife disagreed, but I thought the soup tasted like a pizza. Whether you agree with me or not, if you like tomato, roasted red pepper, and Gouda cheese, you will love this soup. If you think Gouda is too strong of a cheese for you, I still recommend trying a cup of this as the other flavors really mellow out the Gouda which makes it the perfect cheese for this soup. 

Seven Saints
32 E Chester St
Su-Th 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
F+Sa 11 a.m. to midnight

On an orange plate, there is a bowl of chicken tortilla soup, a silver spoon, and toppings to add to the soup. Photo by Carl Busch.Photo by Carl Busch.

Chicken Tortilla Soup | Tres Nopales 

One of my favorite newer spots, Tres Nopales is a wonderful place with nice roomy booths and an extremely relaxing atmosphere. What better to help the relaxation than some warm chicken tortilla soup ($5.99)? I love that they serve onions, radishes, cilantro, and tomatoes on the side so you can add what you want. I love it all, so I dumped all those goodies right in.

The broth had a great taste, and the chicken and crispy tortilla chips added some heartiness and crunch to this large bowl. The bowl was so generous that my wife and I shared it since we were both also getting an entrée, but this soup could be your meal and you would be satisfied.

Tres Nopales
114 S Race St
11 a.m. to 3 p.m. + 5 to 9:30 p.m.

Top image by Carl Busch.