Soup Countdown #2: Menudo at Taqueria Durango

January is National Soup Month, which makes sense, considering the first month of the year is typically marked with below-freezing temperatures, snow and slush. What's better than a delicious, hot bowl of soup on a chilly day? A delicious, hot bowl of soup that you don't have to make -- that's what. This January Gut Check will revisit some of our favorite hot soups to help guide your belly through this month-long soup celebration.

Soup Countdown #2: Menudo at Taqueria Durango
Stephanie Tolle

When you need a soup that will put hair on your chest, you need menudo. The traditional Mexican tripe soup is hearty, earthy and, to many Americans, kinda scary. Tripe is cow's stomach -- in menudo's case, the fatty lining of the second stomach. (A cow has four!) The flavor of tripe is difficult to describe, but it has a very subtle earthiness to it, and a bit of a tang. The texture is what frightens people: that chewy, slightly rubbery, slimy texture that Americans don't want in their meat. In Mexico, however, menudo is a breakfast favorite, said to do wonders for hangovers.

Gut Check wasn't hung over when we visited Taqueria Durango (10238 Page Avenue, Overland; 314-429-1113) on a chilly winter Sunday, but a bowl of hot hearty soup was still needed. They only have soups (they also have pork Posole) on the weekends. The menudo has a red broth, dotted with shimmery fat, that looks like it will melt you eyebrows off. But fear not, the broth is pretty subtle -- rich and satisfying, but not overwhelming in any flavor (don't worry, heat-seekers, you can add hot sauce to your heart's content).

Accompaniments to the soup include chopped onions, cilantro, lime wedges, dried chiles, warm corn tortillas and dried oregano. You can use the tortillas for dipping, or, if you struggle with the tripe's texture, you can make tacos. Durango is generous with the tripe in its Menudo... a small bowl was more than enough for a filling lunch.

While menudo may be intimidating, it's worth those first cautious bites. And Taqueria Durango is a great place to take the leap.

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