Spagio by Tommy Feisel

Bowl Game

What is it about a steaming bowl full of rich, spicy chili that just melts away the winter chill? Why does a that salty broth in an old fashioned chicken soup seem to have magical, virus-destroying powers? Where does pho get so much flavor?

Uh … who cares?

All we really want to do is get these things in our belly.

Maybe it’s a Midwestern thing; the land where every grandmother had a giant cauldron she used to steep the flavor out of kitchen odds and ends, the stuff too many of us throw away today.

These guys don’t.

This winter, check into these joints and see what they’re cooking up for ya:

Gallo’s Tap Room (5019 Olentangy River Rd.) is tucked away in the sprawling Olentangy plaza, but the people who know how to find it will tell you that it is home to some of the best pub grub in town. Gallo’s was rocking the “gastropub” concept before some tool coined the term, and the fact that we’re mocking that term today hasn’t changed the way they approach the menu. If you’ve never been, let’s just say that you’d be a fool not to try the soup. It doesn’t matter which—the  selection changes regularly. Chili is always on the menu, and this is the classic tomato-based, easy on the spice version most Ohioans grew up on. Beans, meat, onions, and just enough heat to warm your soul. But the rotating soup of the day is where the magic happens. A frequent selection is the ribolita, which an old-school Tuscan recipe based on creating a new soup out of some leftover minestroni (which is another soup you’ll find from time to time). It’s a complex soup, with robust flavor.

India Oak Grill (590 Oakland Park Ave.) is also tucked away from the beaten track, nestled in a non-descript space off of Indianola where Oakland Park dead ends. They also keep a northern Ohio chili on hand, and allow for a rotating selection. Again, it’s impossible to go wrong, but if they happen to have beer cheese soup available, you gotta get and put it in you. It will move fast, and you’ll miss out on this silky miracle of culinary witchery.

Creamy soups are great, and that brings to mind bisques and chowders, of which there probably aren’t enough in Columbus, but Spagio (1295 Grandview Ave.) offers up a decadent lobster bisque that has a proper amount of lobster meat and flavor steeped into the a cream and butter base you’d best not mention to your cardiologist.

You can’t talk soups without pho, and Buckeye Pho (761 Bethel Rd.) is not only a favorite of some of our readers, but also comes highly recommended by Vietnamese people living in town. Another great pho can be found across Morse Road from Saraga Market at Huong (1270 Morse Rd.), which has been vouched for as the best Vietnamese restaurant in town by the same Vietnamese friends who think Buckeye Pho is the bomb. An honorable mention has to go out to Luc’s Asian Market (3275 Sullivant Ave.) on Sullivant for rocking a killer pho out of a kitchen in the back.

Of course, just about anybody from Ohio has a place in their heart for a simple bowl of tomato soup. La Chatelaine (multiple locations) comes to the rescue with a delicious version of everybody’s first experience with comfort food. Rich, sweet, and slightly acidic, with an herbaceous tweak from fresh basil  this simple soup touches all the bases, add perfectly seasoned croutons and some grated cheese to take you back to a childhood lunch after a grueling morning of sled riding and snowball fights.

If you’re really more of a classic New England clam chowder, hit up the Fish Guys at the North Market (59 Spruce St.). A cup of chowdah, and lobstah roll is, frankly, one of the most underrated dining experiences in town.