Check out these dishes spotlighting all the coveted in-season produce summer brings.
From the perspective of many chefs, food writers, foodies and anyone who lives to eat more than they eat to live, summer is the best season for food. The produce is vibrant and abundant, allowing for the development of culinary creations that are bursting with flavor, color and texture.
We scoured the city to find the most exciting, fun, delicious and creative dishes showcasing summer flavors. Keep reading to find out where you can sample plates of the best of the summer’s bounty in our region, from vegetables like asparagus and zucchini to herbs like basil and tarragon to fruits like watermelon.
Caprese at Alfresco Grille
The caprese salad at Alfresco Grill comes on skewers; bright red cherry tomatoes sit alongside small spheres of mozzarella and fresh basil, all of it drizzled in olive oil and a sweet and acidic balsamic vinegar reduction. These tasty bites serve as a prime example of how tomatoes, arguably summer’s best ingredient, can be so flavorful at this time of the year that they only need the simplest of preparations. Enjoy the skewers on Alfresco Grill’s spacious patio with a frozen negroni, a blackberry gin and tonic or a draft hazy IPA.
Closest Metro: Woodley Park or Dupont Circle.
Mushroom Flatbread at Ambar
Leeks — a milder, sweeter cousin of the common white onion — are never better than in late spring and summer. At Ambar, D.C.’s only Balkan restaurant, their summer menu includes a doughy flatbread with meaty cremini mushrooms, sautéed leeks and loads of fresh arugula. Wonderfully seasoned and super hearty, this summer flatbread has your name all over it.
Closest Metro: Eastern Market.
Pomodoro at Centrolina
Chef Amy Brandwein loves to work with local produce, and her pomodoro creation is one of her most popular dishes every summer. It is quite the stunner, with tart discs of green tomatoes fried until golden and perfectly crispy, stacked high in a rich puddle of a buttermilk burrata, crowned with gorgeous emerald-hued basil leaves and pickled ramps “for a punch” as Brandwein says. It is a feast for the eyes and the palate.
Closest Metro: Gallery Place.
Lemon Rice at The Duck and the Peach
A rice dish you say? I assure you this is no ordinary preparation of the humble grain of rice. The team at The Duck and the Peach painstakingly cook arborio rice with lemon and butter, and then, when it reaches just the right level of creaminess and richness, crown the rice with woodsy asparagus and a sprinkling of chervil and tarragon, for just the slightest note of anise and spice.
Closest Metro: Eastern Market.
Tacos at DC Corazon Fonda & Tequileria
DC Corazon (unlike many Mexican restaurants in the area) offers a bevy of veggie tacos, and each one offer an opportunity to sample different summer ingredients. First, there is the cactus and peppers taco, where the slightly sour and lemony cactus paddles are marinated in a vinegar and herb sauce with bell peppers and onions and served in a warm tortilla with queso fresco. Then, there is the decadent fried avocado taco. With avocados at their height of creaminess in the summer they offer the perfect contrast to the crunchy breadcrumbs that enrobe the crescents of avocado. Next up is the huitlacoche taco, which is a sweet summer corn truffle oozing with richness. And finally, the squash blossom taco, where delicate summer flowers are sautéed with onions, tomatoes and jalapeños for a hint of heat.
Closest Metro: Columbia Heights.
Quesadilla at Destino
This open-faced quesadilla is what your summer dreams are made of. A tortilla comes smeared with creamy, salty requeson cheese, dotted with sweet and smoky corn kernels, festooned with buttery chanterelle mushrooms and showered with salsa macha, a spicy, nutty salsa from Veracruz, Mexico. It is a breathtaking compilation of summer ingredients.
Closest Metro: NoMa.
“Carrot” Cake at Jiwa Singapura
Nope, this item is not a dessert. This is a savory Singaporean rice cake dish that is uniquely made by Chef Pepe Moncayo with carrot, rice and daikon radish, an underrated summer vegetable. The rice cakes are griddled and covered in a dark soy sauce glaze. It is crunchy and tender at the same time, with cubes of fresh radishes and green onion adding an extra level of crunch as the toppings.
Closest Metro: Tysons.
Tossed Paneer at Karma Modern Indian
This eye-catching plate features hunks of chewy paneer cheese cooked over high heat with strips of colorful red and green bell peppers; sweet, half-moons of cherry tomatoes; and heaps of spices like cumin and coriander. Whimsically served on a waxy banana leaf, you will not be able to stop until you finish every last bite. Enjoy it with an order of their fragrant garlic naan.
Closest Metro: Gallery Place.
Panzanella at L’Ardente
Nothing says summer like a cool, refreshing order of panzanella. Chef Deshaies puts his own twist on this classic Italian salad, adding watermelon and charred avocado to mix with plenty of wedges of heirloom tomatoes and crispy cucumber. Adorned with basil and drizzled with olive oil and vinegar, it’s just what you need to cool off this summer.
Closest Metro: Union Station.
Mi Xao Chay Noodles at Little Vietnam
These heavenly noodles are swirled in a scallion ginger purée, and blended with delicate, wok-kissed enoki mushrooms, tender pea leaves, leafy bok choy and bean sprouts. A handful of fried onions add just the right bite. The springy noodles are the quintessential vehicle for the bold vegetables and the dish at large is scrumptious.
Closest Metro: Georgia Ave-Petworth.
828 Upshur St. NW, DC; @littlevietnamdc
Snap Peas at Lutèce
Sweet and delectable, the sugar snap peas at Lutèce come on a bed of stracciatella, which is mozzarella cheese soaked in cream. The rich, velvety cheese is the ideal complement to the snappy snap peas, and shards of basil add even more flavor. A savory, garlicky, pool of ramp vinegar completes the dish. Pair it with a glass of bubbles from the venue’s lengthy wine list.
Closest Metro: Foggy Bottom.
Za’atar Roasted Eggplant at Maydan
Eggplant, which technically is a fruit, is another popular summer item, and for good reason. Cooked well, it is meaty and a little bitter, with a tender texture that can absorb the flavors of whatever it is cooked with. At Maydan, the eggplant is roasted, giving it a smoky flavor profile, and then coated in sumac, cumin and za’atar, which give the dish layers of flavor – tangy, citrusy and nutty. Dollops of tahini round out the plate.
Closest Metro: U Street/Cardozo.
Ricotta Dumplings at Opal
These fluffy, melt-in-your mouth pillows arrive swimming in a sinfully creamy nettle-infused sauce with gorgeous verdant green fiddleheads, one of summer’s most coveted and limited-time-only items. A little sweet, earthy and nutty, fiddleheads are the prefect contrast to the delicate, chewy ricotta dumplings. This vegetarian concoction is one you won’t forget anytime soon.
Closest Metro: Friendship Heights.
Marinated Zucchini at Reveler’s Hour
This charming Adams Morgan Italian restaurant changes its menus regularly to showcase the best of the season’s bounty. Right now, there are squash blossom arancini, beautiful, pillowy ravioli, submerged in a bright lemon and butter sauce and accompanied by broccoli rabe and spicy chili breadcrumbs for a touch of heat, spring peas smothered in a tomato sauce, and finally, marinated zucchini. The zucchini are roasted to bring out their natural sweetness and then tossed with garlic, basil shards of salty pecorino cheese for best contrast in flavor. It is summer simplicity at its best.
Closest Metro: Woodley Park.
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