Soup isn't just a good way to warm up: It's an occasion for culinary artistry, and these are local masterpieces.
Selections by Newsday's food staff.
White "Long Island" clam chowder, not too creamy and showered with edible flowers, is an instant local classic at Wildfeast in Long Beach. Even better is the Manhattan clam chowder, which has an appealing crumbly texture, deep clam savor and unexpected garnish of black and white sesame seeds.
Sopa de res is a beef soup served with hearty chunks of potato, carrot, corn and cabbage at Cafe Bethel in Freeport.
Casa di Fratelli
Flecks of escarole give the hearty lentil soup at Casa di Fratelli in Westbury a pleasant touch of bitterness.
St. James Public House
French onion soup is topped with a crouton and melted Gruyere cheese at St. James Public House.
Antonette’s of East Hills
Pasta fagioli, soup with cannellini beans and macaroni, is full of flavor at Antonette's of East Hills in Roslyn Heights.
Ajiaco de pollo, smothered garlic chicken soup, gets its creaminess from thin-sliced avocado at The Cuban in Garden City.
Roast duck noodle soup with an extra helping of greens is excellent at Splendid Noodle in Stony Brook.
JR El Rodeo
Pozole, a spicy soup thick with exploded hominy kernels and large pieces of braised pork, is served at JR El Rodeo in East Moriches. Chopped raw onion and cilantro sprinkled on just before serving added bright, fresh flavor and cut the richness of the pork.
Main Road Biscuit Co.
French onion soup arrives with a biscuit crouton topped with gruyere cheese at Main Road Biscuit Co. in Jamesport.
Fish on Main
Fish on Main in Port Washington prepares a savory Manhattan seafood chowder, generous, well-seasoned and amply but not overly tomatoed.
Lobster bisque is rich, but not so rich that the lobster flavor is eclipsed by cream, at Polo Steakhouse in the Garden City Hotel in Garden City.
The Rolling Spring Roll
At The Rolling Spring Roll in Farmingdale, the Vietnamese noodle soup called pho (pronounced "fuh") commands center stage. Both the beef and chicken versions start with deeply savory house-made broths. Add-ins -- fresh bean sprouts, basil leaves and lime wedges -- boost the soup further. Surprisingly, pho made with a vegetable base and laced with pieces of fried tofu, works well -- a boon for vegetarians.
Taqueria Cielito Lindo
On a chilly day, get a bowl of savory, soul-warming pozole rojo at at Taqueria Cielito Lindo in Riverhead. The crimson broth is rife with hominy (dried soaked field corn) and pieces of pork that may have bones clinging to them.
The "all-in-one house special" hand-pulled noodle soup at China Station in Stony Brook contains beef stomach and tendon, pork bones, boiled egg and vegetables.
Maria's Mexican & Latin Cuisine
The chicken and green chili soup at Maria's Mexican & Latin Cuisine in Nesconset is rife with tender poultry and vegetables. Also on the menu is a deep coral lobster bisque, with heaps of snowy lobster meat crisscrossed by fresh asparagus spears.
Red Ginger Asian Diner
Red Ginger in East Northport serves a Westlake wonton soup, an egg-drop broth that also floats vegetables and shrimp, that's more of a meal than a side dish.
Los Andes Restaurant
Aguadito de Mariscos, a Peruvian green seafood soup with a cilantro base, is a knockout specialty at Los Andes Restaurant in Patchogue.
Red Tomato in East Norwich makes an Italian wedding soup that's a happy union of robust chicken broth, al dente pasta and loads of plush, cleverly seasoned mini meatballs.
Campagnola is made with white and black beans, lentils and chickpeas, with chicken stock as a base. At Stresa in Manhasset, it's a rustic and refined production finished under a pastry lid; it looks a little like a homey, humble version of Paul Bocuse's classic black-truffle soup.
Chef-owner Veerawat Satsri, of Phayathai in Lake Ronkonkoma, makes a tom kha gai (chicken coconut soup) that has a sly electric undercurrent all its own. Also good: tom yum goong, the classic Thai shrimp hot and sour soup, that is both ringing hot and rife with subtleties.
Southern chef Leisa Dent of LL Dent in Carle Place is justifiably proud of her late father's specialty, Toby's Georgia hash. It's a spicy, pork-laced gumbo that falls somewhere between a soup and stew; a bowlful is all you need to banish the winter blues.
Tang Asian Fusion
At Tang Asian Fusion, a Chinese-Japanese-Thai eatery in Copiague, entree noodle soups are a main attraction. One features roast pork, shrimp dumplings and al dente Chinese egg noodles; another, with shrimp and toothsome, fat udon noodles, makes for happy slurping.
Pine Aire Fish & Deli
Is soup a meal? That overriding question is answered with a resounding "yes" at Bay Shore's Pine Aire Fish & Deli, a colorful El Salvadoran seafood restaurant adjacent to a fish market. A big bowl of sopa de pescado yields a haul of shrimp, clams and at least one fat slab of red snapper, all swimming in a fragrant, heady brew laced with chopped fresh cilantro. What more do you need?
At Wild Rice in Lake Grove, a heaping bowl of roast pork mei fun noodle soup, with a peppery broth, includes lots of baby bok choy, a tangle of thin rice noodles and plenty of juicy, delicious hunks of pork.
The broth of the soothing tofu-spinach-pork soup at The Orient in Bethpage is a soothing elixir. Based on chicken but augmented with a little ginger and perhaps dried scallop, it is light but rich, a perfect foil for the melting cubes of tofu, just-wilted spinach and still-tender pork. It's not on the menu, but is always available by request. Also available at Orient Odyssey in Jericho.
New Chilli & Curry
Despite its extreme spice, the Malaysian coriander soup served at New Chilli & Curry in Hicksville is nuanced. Other excellent soup options at the eatery include intriguingly complex Thai tom kha chicken-coconut soup and an extraordinary wonton soup, al dente dumplings filled with chicken floating in a peppery broth.