Caldo de queso is one of the best foods ever to come out of Sonora, according to Mexican food historian Gustavo Arellano. Perhaps he's eaten the bowl at El Indio ...

Mexican cuisine has more soups than you can shake a spoon at. (Which I definitely had to do several times during the course of this comprehensive article, to make the soup photos look active.) From the spicy sting ray cahuamanta of the Sonoran coast down to the simple limey sopa of the Yucatan, every state has a different sabor

But how do the caldos of Tucson compare to those of, say Cozumel? The most obvious answer has to do with that four-stomached animal we call "the cow." Burrowing my way through Tucson's Mexican menus, I spotted half a dozen manifestations of its juicy carne. The most popular is of course, menudo, or cow tripe soup. 

We all got up at 7 a.m. to make this menudo video for you. So watch it, por favor! 

But of course, our beloved menudo is actually found in several countries throughout Latin America, and also goes by the names guatita and mondongo. The kind we eat here, is from Jalisco ... 

Menudo, at Birrieria Guadalajara

304 E. 22nd St.

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Birrieria Guadalajara prepares both the white menudo popular in Sonora, $7.50, as well as the spicy red menudo with pureed chiles.  

Guadalajara-native Mónica González makes six different soups at her little orange restaurant on the cusp of Tucson's southside. Birrieria Guadalajara takes its name from the earthy shredded beef birria, a specialty of Jalisco, but the joint also has what I believe to be the best red and white menudo in town. It takes employees close to an hour to clean and cut the fat from each batch of tripe, which makes the final product clear and relatively odorless. (The sign of a good menudo.) The tripe isn't gummy, but slurpy and pleasant to eat, even first thing in the morning. You can get it with tortillas, but we preferred the crispy birote bread that soaked up the vibrant chile broth. And unlike in Central Mexico, here they give you those puffy little bulbs of nixtamalized corn we call hominy. 

You can also find menudo at: 

— Tortilleria Jalisco Y Restaurante, 425 W. Irvington Road

— Teresa's Mosaic Cafe, 2456 N. Silver Mosaic Drive

— Tanias 33 Dos Mundos, 614 N. Grande Ave

Pozole, at Birrieria Guadalajara

304 E. 22nd St.

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Oof. Birrieria Guadalajara makes up a fantastic bowl of pork pozole, $6.50. 

Pozole/posole is usually my first choice when I go the soup route, because there's just something about the pork that renders a perfect, succulent broth. But the Central Mexican soup is actually named after the Nahuatl word for hominy. Birrieria Guadalajara throws lots of the hearty corn in its intensely savory pozole colorado, brightened with bitter radish and a squeeze of lime. The silken red broth is typical of this region, but down in the coastal state of Guerrero you'll see green pozole that's packed with cilantro and tomatillos. 

You can also find pozole at: 

— Tanias 33 Dos Mundos, 614 N. Grande Ave

Calle Tepa, 6151 E. Broadway

Penca, 50 E. Broadway

Albóndigas, at Los Nopales Restaurant

3051 S. Kinney Road

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Albondigas often gets fancied up in the food blogs, but the stuff at Los Nopales is legit homestyle. 

You can get this homey Mexican meatball soup all over town, but I went with a Facebook recommendation and drove way out to a tiny restaurant Los Nopales near Saguaro National Park West. (Everyone else seemed to have arrived by golf cart, judging by the parking lot.) The humble spot does a workman's albóndigas, with a mild broth made simply by boiling the beef meatballs in water and garlic. This commonplace treatment obscures the ancient origins of the soup, from sixth-century Islamic Spain. The word albondigas actually draws from the Arabic word for hazelnut, which was the relative size of the meatballs back then. At Los Nopales they're big and burly, delightful when wrapped in a flour tortilla with some of that oregano-flecked salsa. Spicier than I'd thought it would be, considering.  

You can also find albóndigas at: 

— Micha's Restaurant, 2908 S. Fourth Ave.

— Teresa's Mosaic Cafe, 2456 N. Silver Mosaic Drive

— Tanias 33 Dos Mundos, 614 N. Grande Ave

Caldo de Queso, at El Indio

3355 S. Sixth Ave.

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"Sonora is the place where civilization ends and carne asada begins." Are you freaking kidding me? 

The Sonoran word for comfort might as well be caldo de queso. This cheesy potato soup is said to have been invented in Hermosillo, and is found on traditional Mexican menus throughout Tucson. Some do it brothy but the best arrive thick, with a molten layer of cheese cream obscuring some green chiles and seriously cooked potato chunks. The soup can be made with a variety of cheeses like casero or Chihuahua, but El Indio actually uses mozzarella, which glumps together in spoonfuls of gooey cheese bulbs that string onto your tortilla. Caldo de queso > broccoli cheese soup, any freaking day of the week. 

You can also find caldo de queso at: 

Micha's Restaurant, 2908 S. Fourth Ave.

— Teresa's Mosaic Cafe, 2456 N. Silver Mosaic Drive

— Tanias 33 Dos Mundos, 614 N. Grande Ave

Cocido, at El Indio

3355 S. Sixth Ave.

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El Indio's "famous vegetable soup" cocido, $8.95, is the perfect remedy for a head cold. Look at all the nutrients in there! 

The Spanish word cocido means "cooked," which seems a little vague for the soup genre. But it's actually a shortened version of the famous Spanish stew Cocido Madrileño, a hearty winter meal of sausage and garbanzo beans. The Mexican version still has the beans, but is significantly lighter and loaded with giant vegetable chunks. El Indio's cocido has a half a corn cob, thick slabs of cabbage and a full cylinder of fully-cooked zucchini. It's kind of like Sunday dinner in a bowl, especially when you rip into the succulent roast, which demands use of your fingers. Lots of splatters here, but that's part of the fun.  

You can also find cocido at: 

Perfecto's, 5404 S. 12th Ave.

El Sur, 5602 E. 22nd St.

Crossroads Restaurant, 2602 S. Fourth Ave.

Cazuela, at El Minuto Cafe

354 S. Main Ave.

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I dipped this quesadilla into my beef soup and it was heavenly.

I admit I'd never heard of this Sonoran beef soup until I spotted it on the menu at downtown's El Minuto Cafe. Perhaps because it's so simple, it flies under the radar. Also called caldillo, the soup can be made with shredded beef machaca or in this case, its drier cousin, carne seca. Just some tomatoes, onions, peppers and potato, and you've got it. I'm not sure I'd suggest eating El Minuto's version as a full meal (the broth is so mild and unassuming), but luckily it comes as a lunch special with a quesadilla for $7.59. 

You can also find cazuela at: 

— Teresa's Mosaic Cafe, 2456 N. Silver Mosaic Drive

— Tanias 33 Dos Mundos, 614 N. Grande Ave

— Crossroads Restaurant, 2602 S. Fourth Ave.

Tortilla soup, at Benny's Restaurant

2702 E. Grant Road

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This little cup of tortilla soup was one of the best things I've eaten at Benny's Restaurant on Grant Road. 

The last time I ate one of these it was at a Chili's in Chandler, Arizona. (Around age 12.) But I'm surprised to find out that the Southwestern staple actually has prehispanic origins and is eaten throughout Mexico, often speckled with leaves of fragrant epazote. Tucsonans can get the soup at Benny's Restaurant, where the fried tortilla thickens the viscous chile-laden broth. Cups of the soup were offered complimentary during our last visit, and boy were they delicious. (The menu says they're available on Wednesday, but I was assured you can get it any day of the week.) I do suggest seeking it out, and slurping it up. 

You can also find tortilla soup at: 

— Teresa's Mosaic Cafe, 2456 N. Silver Mosaic Drive

— Tanias 33 Dos Mundos, 614 N. Grande Ave

— Calle Tepa, 6151 E. Broadway

You can find the Star's digital food writer Andi Berlin at a taqueria near you, taking tiny bites and furiously scribbling into an old notepad.