If a box of Kleenex sounds more appealing than a box of chocolates, you've probably got a cold or the flu. Hot soup should put you on the road to recovery. You don't have to brave the weather in search of the perfect bowl. We've done it for you. Eight hassle-free spots that serve it up quick and delicious.
1 Black Sheep Coffee Shop (705 Southview Blvd., S. St. Paul; 651–554–0155) The atmosphere is social, prices are reasonable, and the house–made soups are excellent at this comfortable neighborhood hangout. Besides creamy broccoli enriched with gorgonzola cheese, the rotating list of soups includes tomato coconut, chicken wild rice, black bean and chunky baked potato - all only $3.95 a bowl.
2 Turtle Bread (3421 W. 44th St., Minneapolis; 612–924–6013) Changing daily, the soup menu at this neighborhood bakery cafe may rove from light and creamy corn chowder to heavy mushroom barley. But the soupe de resistance is good old Minnesota chicken wild rice. It's rich and filling but not too thick – and it's always available by the quart ($8.29) in the handy refrigerator section.
3 iPao by Saigon (704 W. University Ave., St. Paul; 651–225–8751) This Vietnamese dive is famous for its pho. There are 18 varieties, 17 made with beef and another with chicken (my favorite) called pho ga. What you get is a basin-size bowl of broth brimming with white meat and slippery rice noodles. On the side are bean sprouts, fresh basil, wedges of lime and sinus-clearing chile slices to toss in as you like. Swirl in a sauce or two, such as hiracha or hoisin. Then, with chopsticks in one hand and a spoon in the other, go to work while the soup's steaming hot.
4 Duc's (783 Radio Dr., Suite:100B, Woodbury; 651–735–1044) The Century exit off Interstate 94 is the path to Duc's (aka soup nirvana). The modest mom-and-pop Chinese-Vietnamese restaurant has the best wonton soup in the Cities. It's all made from scratch – the rich broth as well as the chicken–stuffed wontons. Clean, uncomplicated and completely satisfying – what more could you ask for?
5 Swede Hollow (725 E. Seventh St., St. Paul; 651–776–8810) If you're looking for home–style soups a la Betty Crocker, you won't be disappointed by the offerings at this tiny neighborhood gathering spot. There are usually two choices (one vegetarian), and the price is $5.25 a bowl. The roster changes from day to day, but one of the best is the vegetable with barley. Oh, and the house-made pecan caramel rolls are still as good as ever.
6 Mississippi Market Deli (622 Selby Ave.; 651–310–9499) Most places serve tomato soup that tastes like spaghetti sauce. Here, it's creamy with a tomato flavor brightened by a hint of dill. (Think of it as a gourmet version of Campbell's.) Sadly, the soup roster changes every few days, so the creamy tomato dill is not always available. But the others are good, too, and there are always samples to try before you buy.
7 Birchwood Café (3311 E. 25th St., Minneapolis; 612–722–4474) This Berkeley–meets–Minneapolis neighborhood spot is a souperstar! Which explains the eclectic crowd that has been flocking to this slightly-out-of-the-way spot for a decade. The menu varies, but there are always two types of soup – creamy and chunky. Southwest black bean with andouille sausage is a spicy treat. The roasted parsnip soup with celery root and apples, thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, is even tastier. It costs $4.50 a bowl and includes two slices of organic house-made bread.
8 Costal Seafoods It looks like a fish market, and that's just what it is. But there's soup in the freezer – fresh, house–made with the best seafood money can buy. The only problem is choosing between the bouillabaisse and the lobster bisque. At $5.99 a bowl, why not stock up. Who knows how long that darned cold will linger.