Chicken Soup for the Soul

It’s all about the broth, baby.
harry's cafe chicken soup
Harry’s “Cold or Flu” Chicken and Vegetable Soup

A friend of mine, sick in bed for almost two weeks, recently asked me to bring her some chicken soup. It was a busy Sunday during the holidays, and I didn’t have time to make the soup myself. So I decided to outsource the task to a local restaurant. But where, I wondered, would I find the tastiest, richest, most nourishing chicken soup in town? I did what any smart person would do: I went on Facebook and asked the hive mind for recommendations. Here’s a look at some of their suggestions.

Harry’s Cafe

I’m embarrassed to admit that I’d never been to Harry’s on 16th Street. This humble little cafe is a Sacramento institution. The atmosphere is no frills, to put it kindly: just a few tables and a small counter where you place your order and pay for your food. The menu is old-school Chinese/Vietnamese, with dishes like chow mein and fried rice. But Harry’s also serves something it immodestly calls Harry’s “Cold or Flu” Chicken and Vegetable Soup. It’s a thick, almost gelatinous chicken broth filled with scads of mostly green vegetables. I counted celery, broccoli, zucchini, carrot, scallion, peas and cauliflower in my large container of soup, along with sizable chunks of white chicken meat. The broth itself was scented with ginger and five-spice—a nice Asian twist on an otherwise classic American soup.

Harry’s Café
2026 16th St.;
(916) 448-0088

Solomon’s Delicatessen

If chicken noodle soup is Jewish penicillin, what’s matzo ball soup? It turns out it also is Jewish penicillin, with matzo balls subbing for the noodles. Solomon’s Delicatessen, on downtown’s K Street, makes a bangin’ version of this old-world soup. The chicken broth is savory and soothing, with a flavor that’s subtle rather than palate punching. Carrots and celery are sliced very thin, and the chicken (white meat, of course) is finely shredded. The matzo balls—round white dumplings the size of golf balls—are soft and flecked green with chopped dill. Light as a feather, they float rather than sink into the depths of the takeout container. If you’re smart, you’ll also pick up a pastrami sandwich to savor when your cold is gone.

Solomon’s Delicatessen
730 K St.; (916) 857-8200;

Matzo Ball Soup
Matzo ball soup–Solomon’s Delicatessen

Shanghai Garden

When she’s fighting a cold, my neighbor swears by the egg drop soup at East Sac’s Shanghai Garden. It is delicious, I’ll grant her that, with a lovely sea of broth populated by a thick flotilla of scrambled egg bits. Dip your spoon into the egg and you’ll find carrot, scallion and sliced mushrooms underneath. But really, it’s all about the egg. If you’re really not that into egg, try the wonton soup, which features the same nicely seasoned broth along with cabbage, green onion, shredded chicken, sliced barbecue pork and several wontons stuffed with ground pork. It’s like the greatest hits of Chinese food, all in one bowl.

Wonton Soup
Wonton soup—Shanghai Garden

Shanghai Garden
800 Alhambra Blvd.;
(916) 446-6358;

egg drop soup
Egg drop soup—Shanghai Garden