No matter what the cheese—gooey and chewy Swiss, provolone, gruyere or emmental—French onion soup is elemental for an autumn day. These cozy crocks are universally appealing with steamy soul that will make anyone grateful for one thing—that they don’t have to wash the dishes after!
Max’s on Broad, Richmond, Virginia
Soupe à l’Oignon is a labor of love for executive Chef Gary Clegg, who likes to put two twists on the classic. He starts by caramelizing onions, deglazing with sherry, and then adding a bouquet garni. It’s then cooked for a few hours on low heat, and finished with a demi glace made from beef stock. He finishes it with tamari to “give it more of an umami flavor,” then serves it with a miniature grilled cheese in place of the croutons. The traditional soup bowl is topped with two slices of gruyere and torched to perfection.
Aquitaine, Boston, Massachusetts
The crusty cheese topping at Aquitaine is twice as nice, with creamy gruyere and parmesan, but the surprising broth is really the star of the show here. The onion soup is made with a classic technique of caramelizing onions, deglazing with sherry and using a rich veal stock, and then jazzed up with a broth that includes aromatics like tangerine, star anise, ginger, bonito, kombu, tamari and Mirin. It’s finished with emulsified beef fat and butter—not exactly waist-line friendly, but certainly good to conquer Boston’s blustery winters.
Le Rivage, New York City, New York
Sure, you can get a traditional French onion soup at this Theater District fave, but why not try the star of the show—the French onion soup burger, the only two-time judge’s choice winner at the NYC Wine and Food Festival Burger Bash? A crusty English muffin holds all the drippings together from a prime meat patty cooked in butter, topped with both sliced and melted bechamel and emmental cheeses, along with soft, sweet caramelized onions (but, of course!).
Vera Mae’s Bistro, Muncie, Indiana
The soup comes with a side of scissors—and love at Vera Mae’s, where owner Kent Shuff says it’s been a favorite since the start. Patrons cut the stringy provolone on top of a dish that’s been carefully crafted with 20 years of experience: onions are caramelized in butter, deglazed with rich beef stock, and loaded with sweet sherry and a saché of herbs and aromatics. Chef Cameron Bevan then flambés off the alcohol and more beef stock is added.
Marche Bacchus, Las Vegas, Nevada
Good things come in threes at Marche Bacchus, says owner Rhonda Wyatt, of the richness of flavor that comes from three stocks—chicken, veal, and beef—and the three liquors, sherry, brandy, and red wine. The soup with caramelized onions, gruyere, parmesan, and croutons has been on the brunch, lunch, and dinner menus since 2000, and has just one tweak over the years: the change from pan de mie to a brioche crouton in 2010.
Le Voltaire, Omaha, Nebraska
Nebraska may not be where you think you’d find France’s finest, but chef Cedric Fichepain has made a niche for himself in the Cornhusker State with an extensive European wine list, crispy baguettes, creamy cheese plates, and South-of-France recipes from his grandmother’s kitchen. The French onion soup—available by the cup or heartier bowl—is not the least of these.
Le Politique, Austin, Texas
Not only a traditional brasserie but a patisserie with a coffee shop, Le Politique pulls out all of the stops—along with its perfectly pulled espresso. Besides classic French fare like including trout amandine, escargot, and steak frites, Le Politique specializes in the most elemental of classics: caramelized onions, veal broth, a garlic croûton, and melted gruyere.
Brasserie by Niche, St. Louis, Missouri
Slow and low is how executive chef Alex Feldmeier gets his soup on at Brasserie by Niche, where the onions are caramelized for hours. The house recipe uses chicken instead of beef stock, and the customer favorite has been on the menu for ten years. A mouthwatering combo of provolone and gruyere are both baked on top.
Café Claude, San Francisco, California
Thousands have chased San Fran’s fog away with a steaming bowl of soup at Café Claude, where the French onion with emmental cheese and baguette croutons is one of the most-shared meals on social media in addition to classics like croque monsieur, salade niçoise, and steak tartare. Free jazz music Thursday through Sunday ups the ante on a traditional Parisian atmosphere.
Bistro 82, Royal Oak, Michigan
Chef Derik Watson and crew pride themselves on putting out creative twists on classics at Bistro 82, including French onion soup dumplings with white cheddar, caramelized onions, and local Poet stout from New Holland Brewery, for a rich and earthy comfort dish.
Red Onion Café, Boone, North Carolina
It’s only fitting that the Red Onion’s signature soup is French onion, where a baked crock is filled with beef broth and French bread, then topped with toasted bubbly parmesan and mozzarella cheeses. Right across the street from a college, it’s safe to say that the $4.99 cup here and $5.99 bowl have safely subbed in for many a night’s university pizza splurge.
The French Gourmet, San Diego, California
Farm-to-table style cooking from Normandy native and chef-owner Michel Malecot comes to life at French Gourmet, where the soupe á l’oignon gratinée may be one of the best deals in town, at less than $10 for either a cup or a bowl. Tuck into a hearty broth topped and broiled with a toasted baguette and Swiss cheese.
In the mood for some french onion delicousness? Book your table at these awesome restaurants or find a spot in your neck of the woods and share your thoughts with us here in the comments or over on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter. Also, remember to snap + share your pics with us on Instagram using #MyOpenTable for a chance to win in our monthly giveaway.