The upside of cool, rainy summers is French onion soup season never really ends. Although a few restaurants with admirable French onion know-how pull the preparation off their menus after Memorial Day, it's never impossible to find the cheese-laden soup in Seattle.
Here, our picks for the city's best renditions of broth with carmelized onions and croutons, annotated with commentary from Voracious contributors, compiled by Erin Thompson. (Why only nine? Consider it a Gallic flourish.) As always, the soups are in no particular order up until the end: The soup in the number one position is the very best French onion soup in all of Seattle. You think otherwise? Make your case in the comments section.
9. Jak's Grill
Jak's isn't as regal or doting as the Met, but its more laid-back approach better suits Seattle. And not only does Jak's offer the best bang for one's carnivorous buck in town, it offers the best carne, period. The steaks come with an array of delicious sides, too--fresh green salads, crispy onion rings, and best of all, a crock of melty, salty-sweet French onion soup with a beefy base that'll get you ready for the steak that's to come.
8. Le Pichet
Devotees of Le Pichet insist that it is, dollar for dollar, the biggest restaurant bargain in Seattle. The popular gratin Lyonnais is the same delicious soupe a l'oignon gratinee served at Cafe Presse, masquerading under a fancier name.
Place Pigalle's onion soup gratinée, available by the cup or bowl, has the standard rich beef broth and savory oniony flavor, with a topper of hot Gruyere, but they also add an interesting alcoholic depth to the soup by including a pour of Hidalgo cream sherry.
The French onion soup at Toulouse Petit is boastfully titled "True French Onion Soup Lyonnaise": The classic Lyon version of the dish is thicker and heartier than the usual variety, and packed with aged Gruyere, fat croutons, and lots of caramelly onion confit.
5. Cafe Campagne
Cafe Campagne's French onion soup is a dairy-lover's delight--heavy on the gooey cheese and a little less so on the onions. A small appetizer portion is $5, but if you're craving that rich cheesy flavor, get a big bowl for $12.
Count on a steakhouse to take a classic dish and make it meatier. The Met's French onion soup has two stocks as its base--beef broth and veal stock. The mixed broths, plus a little vermouth, give the caramelized onions and soaking crostinis an even richer, more complex flavor, and for further innovation they swap the standard Gruyere for a creamy Swiss Emmentaler.
3. The Hi-Life
The Hi-Life's brick oven pumps out wood-fired pizzas and is also responsible for baking the French onion soup. The hot-as-hell fire heats up and flavors the beef broth and browns the Gruyere on top into bubbly perfection.
Dinner here is served as prix fixe tastings, or dégustations; hopefully your sampling will include the soupe à l'oignon gratinée. Rover's meal-sized baked onion soup is overflowing with cheese and dunked with crispy baguette slices.
1. Cafe Presse
Playing Frenchie while on a budget usually means you're limited to picking up a cheap baguette from a bakery and maybe throwing it in your bike basket for a little extra je ne sais quois. At Cafe Presse, you can sit at the bustling bar with a magazine and a glass of wine while enjoying any number of affordable dishes. A hearty bowl of the soupe a l'oignon gratinee--a tasty variety that uses chicken instead of beef stock, thickened with comté cheese and sourdough from Ballard's Tall Grass Bakery--is just $11.
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