Saul’s Does Chicken Soup Right

Saul’s chicken soup with matzo balls may be just what the doctor ordered.


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Photo by Lori Eanes

 

There’s always room at the table for steaming bowls of comfort food. While the health benefits of chicken soup have long been debunked as a clever marketing campaign by Campbell’s Chicken & Stars, chicken soup’s status as a go-to comfort food remains intact. At Saul’s in Berkeley, matzo elevates the iconic dish to legendary status. Here a cup ($4.95) or bowl ($7.95) of chicken soup with matzo balls can satisfy your soul.

Though Saul’s opened in 1986, the space has housed a delicatessen since the 1950s. In the service, dishes, and regular customers, Saul’s rightfully claims more than half a century of deli spirit. Casual without becoming lax, straightforward though never boring, Saul’s is a neighborhood joint where a bowl of pickles arrives at the table before a glass of water because, well, priorities.

Conversations as varied as the diners bounce between tables and get caught in cramped booths as the bowl of soup arrives. Two juicy matzo balls—made in the traditional manner with chicken fat (schmaltz)—rise out of the bowl like mountains in the middle of an amber lake. Pools of oily fat float atop the broth, gathering around the edge of the bowl like sea foam on a shore. The subtle broth ticks off the simple flavors of the bowl—chicken, carrots, celery, parsnips, dill, and parsley. Al dente vegetables offer a nice crunch to go along with the soft, spongy matzo balls cut through with a spoon as easy as wet cake. Shredded dark and white meat chicken lingers on the bottom of the bowl as flecks of matzo drift down. Each bite carries with it a literal and proverbial warmth.

Saul’s chicken soup with matzo balls is bare and basic though not one ingredient is lost in the simplicity. A steaming bowl is low in calories and cost, so it’s the perfect precursor for a guilt-free cookie plucked from the deli counter. Goodbye, Chicken & Stars.

Saul’s, 1475 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-848-3354, www.SaulsDeli.com

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