Flip-flops. Drunken watermelons. Sandy shoes. The scent of suntan lotion. Fresh lemonade. Windows down, top 40 on the radio. The signs of summer are in full swing, along with humanity’s other favorite hot weather pastime: eating. Hunting the freshest menus that scream summer is as festive as it gets until September rolls around. All across America, summertime offerings shine in OpenTable restaurants on plates that make us all pile into convertibles, mini-vans, Jitneys, trains, and planes, searching for the best seasonal bites. Here are the hottest summer menus to try before straw hats and blue skies give way to fall colors.
Canteen, Toronto, Canada
One of Toronto’s best hangouts, Canteen’s new summer menu offers a bevy of veggie-forward comfort dishes. It’s part of the restaurant’s “eat to live, live to eat” section highlighting contrasts — think beet burgers and beef burgers, steak salad and steak frites. Between a list of smoothies and dishes like squash pad Thai, calamari, or sweet potato tacos and salmon poke, this is where to find a few favorite summer goodies and fuel up for all its diversions. Make a reservation at Canteen.
Tii Gavo, Sedona, Arizona
Dining at Enchantment Resort’s Tii Gavo is more like a mini-vacation than just a meal. Located in Sedona’s most picturesque hideaway spa resort, looking out at the red rocks of Boynton Canyon, the positive energy that goes into the cuisine here adds an uplifting element to dishes like aji-grilled churrasco with smashed potatoes, calabacitas, and corn puree, while heart-healthy summer specials like fresh apricots, cotija cheese, crunchy quinoa, and a lime-tajin vinaigrette atop a baby kale salad are the perfect starter for Tii Gavo’s grilled salmon with tomato and peach salad and a cilantro-epazote pistou. Make a reservation at Enchantment’s Tii Gavo.
Bocce USQ, New York, New York
Brand new to the Union Square crowd, Bocce USQ Italian restaurant is already turning heads for a refreshing take on old favorites. Chief among them, and perhaps the best thing to happen to Caesar salad since Caesar, is the Bocce Caesar, prepared with snap peas, Parmesan cheese, mint, and black pepper. The pizzas are works of art here, in particular, the farm pizza topped with fresh mozzarella, green garlic, market greens, and fresh herbs. Make a reservation at Bocce USQ.
Eden, Chicago, Illinois
In perhaps the finest reason to challenge Chicago’s July and August heat wave, Eden’s onsite greenhouse is where to find English peas, green asparagus, lovage, mustards, nasturtium, cherry tomatoes, and arugula. Chef-partner Devon Quinn and his father built the 1800-square-foot greenhouse and, of course, the best place to enjoy this bounty is on Eden’s renovated patio. Swoon-worthy dishes include umami doughnut with pork confit and black cherry or roasted mushroom miso served with warm raclette sauce, or roasted sunchokes with pine nuts, sage, preserved lemon and piperade. Don’t miss entrées like crispy chicken Ballotine with ricotta gnocchi and summer squash. Make a reservation at Eden.
Halifax, Hoboken, New Jersey
If the outdoor patio with Manhattan skyline and Hudson River views don’t catch your eye at this Hoboken gem, the summer menu at Halifax should. As temperatures soar, it’s Halifax’s housemade sorbet to the rescue. Bring friends to share the clam flatbread with roasted garlic, chives, Parmesan, and lemon with a bowl of summer gazpacho with poached Gulf shrimp. Diners are crazy about the summer panzanella salad with cucumber, fennel, tomato confit, and feta-dill vinaigrette, but for a hungry crowd opt for the seafood risotto or lobster roll on toasted brioche with scallions and celery. Make a reservation at Halifax.
Auberge du Pommier, Toronto, Canada
On the floral terraces of this iconic Canadian dining destination, guests find classic French fare with that ever-so-slightly modern touch for which this country’s vibrant cuisine is known. Scrumptious dishes include smoked sablefish with bacon linguine, egg yolk custard, and black radish, and the impossible to resist black truffle risotto. Diners have had Auberge du Pommier on their list of summer favorites since 1987 when the doors of this rustic-chic eatery opened within the restored remnants of two 1860’s woodcutters’ cottages. Make a reservation at Auberge du Pommier.
Chianti–Mission Point Resort, Mackinac Island, Michigan
On Michigan’s legendary Mackinac Island, diners find a fresh take on Italian food at Chianti, where the bruschetta is prepared with roasted tomato and summer diners can dig into a chopped salad, housemade pastas, and Michigan-sourced fish, like seared wild-caught Lake Superior whitefish with lemon risotto, seared kale, and puttanesca sauce. Outdoor dining and live piano entertainment add to the lakeside atmosphere against the backdrop of Lake Huron. Make a reservation at Chianti.
Crossroads Kitchen, Los Angeles, California
As Crossroads approaches its five-year anniversary, this plant-based, Mediterranean cuisine restaurant is only gaining in popularity. The flavors of summer are on fire here in watermelon, corn, tomatoes, stone fruit, peppers, and green beans. Expect to find dishes like peach salad with blistered shishito peppers, Marcona almonds, and sumac mint yogurt dressing. Squash blossoms with almond ricotta are another delight, and, for dessert, tuck into the Key lime pie with kaffir lime-infused tequila. Make a reservation at Crossroads Kitchen.
Boulud Sud, Miami, Florida
The fireworks in July are on the menu at Boulud Sud Miami as the new summer dishes spice things up. This three-course menu at an affordable $39 includes chilled melon soup, summer chicken tagine, and lemon lavender cake – but several of the classics meld with summer munching, including octopus a la plancha, seared Mediterranean branzino, and summer cocktails like the lemonade imposter, a gin-centric ‘Lavandula’ with Mezcal, grapefruit, and lime. Make a reservation at Boulud Sud.
River Cafe, Calgary, Canada
In the middle of one of Alberta’s most picturesque locales, this Prince’s Island Park restaurant draws summer lovers to one of the most romantic places to dine in the province. The views from River Cafe include a quaint fishing hub from what was once the Park’s aging concession stand. This is the pace with which to spend a lazy afternoon, over plates of freshly shucked oysters, chicken liver terrine guanciale, and English pea flatbread or a fish and game board of smoked trout lox and bresaola. Make a reservation at River Cafe .
Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse, New York, New York
‘Tis the summer season to indulge at Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse. Summer is all about juicy proteins on the grill, but better to beat the heat at a swanky steakhouse than sweltering in the backyard. Del Frisco’s has added a few tempting summer specials to the menu like their 14-ounce long bone veal chop served with that foodie-friendliest of all garnishes — crispy fried capers. On the veggie side, add a serving of butter-poached peas in a lemon-basil butter topped with grilled scallions and fresh basil. When available, Del Frisco’s offers a trio of Maryland soft shell crabs with summer strawberry tabbouleh with cucumbers, fresh mint, lemon, and a drizzle of black pepper butter. Make a reservation at Del Frisco’s.
Sally’s Fish House & Bar-Manchester Grand Hyatt, San Diego, California
The new lunch menu has timeclock punchers ducking out to Sally’s Fish House & Bar. It’s an easy way to try a few different dishes and still have the energy to return to the daily grind. Notables include the ahi tuna and brown pearl rice poke bowl, wood-fire-grilled octopus and pan-roasted buffalo cauliflower, with satisfiers like the open-faced blackened swordfish and SoCal crab club. The basil-lime Greek yogurt laced quinoa-farro medley is a must for vegetarians, while the chilled scallop crudo with Meyer lemon oil and apple cider vinaigrette wins the prize for most flavor in a single bite. The chipotle fish tacos dish is a grand way to infuse some spice in an otherwise dull day along with a savory sushi menu. Make a reservation at Sally’s Fish House & Bar.
The White Bull, Decatur, Georgia
Literally inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s reference to the blank page as “the white bull,” this White Bull’s claim to fame is farm-forward fare. Georgia is home to some of America’s finest agricultural purveyors, the likes of which include Finch Creek Farm, Tucker Farms, Riverview Farms, Aluma Farm, Stone Mountain Cattle Co., Levity Farm, and others. More than a dozen summer dishes change daily at The White Bull based on farmers’ bounty, but a few to tempt include duck egg, polenta, chanterelles, blackberries, and green tomato. We’re loving the elotes with chili-espresso aioli, feta, lime, and peanuts. And potato gnocchi with Sea Island red peas, bacon, and tomato is a standout. The pastas here are unique to The White Bull, prepared with single-ingredient whole wheat flour stoneground in-house every day. Make a reservation at The White Bull.
City Winery, Nashville, Tennessee
When a restaurant pays homage to regional sources, the plate is always better. City Winery Nashville is highlighting their favorite seasonal ingredients with a nod to flavors influenced by several places where they source this urban winery’s grapes. The utterly fresh spring farro risotto with zucchini, summer squash, pea leaves, and tomato is like a cool breeze on a hot day, a great start to the heartier porchetta with chevré-smashed potatoes, frisée herb vinaigrette, and cherry and grape jelly. Here the mussels and beer dish stars a crisp pilsner with Gifford’s bacon, chow-chow, and grilled bread. Make a reservation at City Winery Nashville.
Salt Wood Kitchen & Oysterette, Marina, California
Sparks fly at this wood-fire kitchen where California’s Central Coast is in full bloom. At Salt Wood Kitchen & Oysterette, order the namesake seafood boil with Monterey Bay mussels, clams, shrimp, lamb sausage, potatoes, grilled corn, and summer squash. Also featured this summer, a helping of Diver scallops and strawberry salad – designate a driver so you can get tipsy on the restaurant’s signature and ultimate California cocktail, the summer fog with Belvedere, ginger-zest, ginger syrup, lemon, and soda water. Make a reservation at Salt Wood Kitchen & Oysterette.
Yves, New York, New York
The food at Tribeca’s Yves during July and August is like summer on a plate, as lovely as it is tasty. Remarkable starters here include roasted beets, prepared with fromage blanc, endive, citrus vinaigrette, and pistachio, and braised coq au vin chicken meatballs with parsnip and mirepoix. Seasonal entrees include grilled whole fish, Steelhead trout, and pasta Niçoise. Make a reservation at Yves.
Cinco at Thompson, Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Gastronomes playing in the sand at Playa del Carmen love the views at Thompson’s Cinco. The simplest ingredients here become superstars, like grilled pineapple with cucumber, cilantro, radish, jicama, and Yucatan lime vinaigrette, while the bluefin tiradito gets a flavor boost from cascabel chile mayo and habanero ponzu. The best choice for sharing is the octopus tostada with charred avocado, onion, cucumber, cilantro, and chile mayo. New Yorkers should venture next door to Thompson’s Beach House and C-Grill from the NYC-based CATCH. Here diners order yummy coastal favorites like black seafood aguachile and veggie potato tacos topped with jicama ceviche, red cabbage, serrano, and avocado. Make a reservation at Cinco at Thompson Playa del Carmen.
The Golden Hour, New York, New York
Right down to the French Riviera-inspired uniforms in the courtyard of the High Line Hotel, The Golden Hour is for diners who can’t escape to a tropical atoll. In addition to a rotating raw bar menu and seasonal summer fare, the cocktails bring in the crowds with the Brazilian cachaça-based El Draque that pre-dates the mojito and summer tradition Pimm’s Golden Cup with London gin, ginger, and borage. The returning favorite is a frozen Negroni with Spanish vermouth from Jerez and seasonal citrus. Channel putting your feet in the sand with the lobster roll or beer-battered fish and chips dusted with summer spices. Make a reservation at The Golden Hour.
Teatro, Calgary, Canada
The menu at Calgary’s Teatro reads like a foodie’s fever dream in dishes like Brant Lake wagyu beef bavette, and duck with smoked cauliflower, dumpling, hazelnut, coffee and banana mustard. And that’s after relishing helpings of tortellini in parmesan brodo with tuna katsuobushi, or arancini with raclette, pea, prosciutto, and mint. Described as Mediterranean anchored by Italian culinary traditions, Teatro’s fresh take on presentation and flavor makes it seem brand new, but indeed it has been a Calgary staple since 1993. Make a reservation at Teatro.
One Market, San Francisco, California
For 25 years this San Francisco staple has drawn diners to its open exhibition kitchen and bar. This summer take advantage of One Market’s “Back Porch BBQ” pop-up series, chef Mark Dommen’s weekly barbecue menu. Available through August 31, fill up on St. Louis-style spare ribs, spit-roasted Mary’s chicken, 12-hour beef brisket, and pulled chicken sandwiches. The side dishes make these meals, so don’t forget to add a few helpings of Parker House rolls, potato salad, and slaw. Make a reservation at One Market.
The Gwen, Chicago, Illinois
Upstairs at The Gwen Hotel, a combination of street food-inspired cuisine and outdoor terrace dining creates a euphoric version of an urban summer. The new summer menu includes dishes like Island Creek oysters with rosé granita and chili elote with togarashi crema and cotija cheese, kanpachi crudo, and pork belly sliders, but order at least two of the toast options to share, such as the rabbit or avocado grilled cheese toasts. Get your cocktail groove on with the Mezcal margarita oscuro with Casamigos Respado, lime juice, muddled jalapeño, and activated charcoal. Make a reservation at The Gwen.
Omni Grove Park Inn, Asheville, North Carolina
It’s ‘tea’ time in the President’s Lounge at the Omni Grove Park Inn all summer long. As health and wellness reign supreme with active diners, this stone lady of hospitality has found a gracious way to combine cocktail hour with tea. Hikers are loving the jasmine green tea pisco sour with Capel pisco, lemon juice, jasmine tea, egg white, and Angostura bitters after a walk through the Blue Ridge Mountains, as well as the chai tea-Ni with Tanqueray, domaine de canton, masai black chai tea, honey, and star anise, along with the harmonic mint julep made with Maker’s Mark, harmony tea, and mint. Make a reservation at the Omni Grove Park Inn.
Splashes at Surf & Sand Resort, Laguna Beach, California
The new menu at Splashes is a summery blend of fun and serious food. Chilling out over a plate of crudo is still all the rage in Cali, and here the hamachi crudo arrives at the table with charred avocado, compressed strawberries, coconut crisps, Thai chili, and coconut water. Other tasty choices include pork belly with cauliflower puree, purslane, pickled Fresno chili, and peach jam and lamb with tarragon gnocchi, sheep’s milk turmeric yogurt, pickled cauliflower florets, pistachio dust, and mint salsa verde. Make a reservation at Splashes at Surf & Sand Resort.
Brasserie T!, Montreal, Canada
On the heels of the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, this culinary destination thrives during the summer months. Highlighting ingredients from the finest purveyors in town and throughout the Canadian countryside, Brasserie T’s chilled tartares and charcuteries are a savory match for hot weather dining. It’s also the quintessential hangout in full view of the area’s dancing fountains and this historic city’s chicest passersby. Make a reservation at Brasserie T!.
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