Soul-warming yet sassy with texture and flavor contrasts, chicken tortilla soup can be healthful—hold the cheese—pile on extra tortilla strips, mucho avocado and lots of Monterey Jack. Which Texas eatery ladles up the best bowl? Let the battle begin!
State capital-born Chuy’s, known for large portions in a kitschy setting, has been a long-standing tortilla soup champion. Its beautiful golden-hued bowl reverberates with the fragrance and flavor of smoked Hatch chiles, something the chain is famous for and many others cannot emulate. It’s not fiery-hot like cayenne but smoky spicy with intriguing fresh green chile nuances in clean homemade broth with large chunks of house-roasted white chicken meat. You won’t find globs of chicken fat, bones or even dark meat in this pristine bowl. You will find other layers of goodness like chopped fresh tomatoes, celery, tons of cilantro, pops of sweet roasted corn kernels, and those smoked, diced, green Hatch chiles, which make the dish. It’s topped with big hunks of almost a whole ripe avocado and tangy Monterey Jack, as desired. What more could you ask for?
Since opening 35 years ago, The Mansion Restaurant has been famous for offering immaculate service and exceptional cuisine and one special dish has remained on the menu from day one. Savory and perfectly flavorful, the tortilla soup is beloved by sophisticated travelers from all over the world, including presidents, celebrities, prominent entertainers and global leaders. Inspired by a traditional dish popular in the Southwest region and made famous by former chef Dean Fearing, The Mansion’s full-bodied and deep russet-red tortilla soup features a unique, piquant blend of smoked and dried red chiles and spices topped with ripe avocado, a gilding of queso blanco, and delicately fried tortilla strips. For decades, the savory recipe remained a heavily guarded secret; however, guests can buy “The Mansion on Turtle Creek Cookbook” for insight into the restaurant’s vibrant culinary heritage. A visit to The Mansion Restaurant is truly incomplete without a bowl of tortilla soup.
Much of Backstreet Cafe’s success lies in the pioneering seasonal menu featuring a little something for everyone helmed by executive chef Hugo Ortega and his wife, native Houstonian Tracy Vaught. This includes a Houston favorite, homemade chicken tortilla soup. A hands-down winner with guests for over 30 years, it’s on the lunch, brunch and dinner menus with occasional breaks for other more seasonal vegetable soup selections. The secret to the magical mélange starts with smoking the chicken in-house, which adds a deep layer of flavor to the already fresh homemade chicken broth. Then comes the roasted tomatoes, bringing a rich almost sweet note. Cilantro, Mexican spices, and a topping of thin strips of homemade fried tortillas, chunks of avocado, and shavings of Monterey Jack cheese keep it snappy and satisfying to the very end.