10 Things to Eat and Drink in L.A. Before the Summer Ends

Make the season last just a little bit longer with boozy slushies, poke, and a food festival or two
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Summer is almost over. Okay, well in Southern California it’s never really over until at least Halloween, but even if the temps are still hot and sultry, facts are facts: School is starting, and vacation season is closing like a beach umbrella. To help you (and us) deal, here are 10 edible, imbibable ways to eek out just a bit more summer fun.

Poke:
L.A.’s recent poke explosion means you can find this Hawaiian raw fish dish all year ’round, but it’s just better in August. Chef Eric Park’s Ohano Poke Co. just opened this week in Silver Lake (there’s also one in Downtown) in the same space Park ran his popular Black Hogg. Here, you can get poke bowls done up with everything from chili mango to sweet unagi sauce. There’s also Carson’s Poke Etc., Mainland Poke Shop on West 3rd Street, Sweetfin Poké in Santa Monica, Poke N Roll in Glendale, etc. etc. It’s really all over the place right now.

Gazpacho:
Plump red tomatoes rule the end-of-summer season, and cool gazpacho is a choice way to get your fill. Tres by Jose Andres is famous for their California Gazpacho with fresh prawns. At the new Dudley Market in Venice, chef Jesse Barber adds avocado to his. Brussels-based chain Le Pain Quotidien features a really good one as their soup of the day during the summer months. And over at B.S. Taqueria, they mix it up with their Barracho Gazpacho, a mezcal cocktail loaded with cherry tomatoes, cilantro, celery, strawberries, and beet escabeche.

The Dude Abides from Gracias Madre
The Dude Abides from Gracias Madre

Boozy, slushy drinks:
A slushy cocktail on a hot, sunny day is pure luxury, and frosty vacation-in-a-glass concoctions are all over town this summer. At Gracias Madre, they’re doing the La Quinceanera with tequila, kiwi, mint, and lemon as well as The Dude Abides, a mezcal and almond milk horchata drink sweetened with vanilla-cinnamon agave. You can caffeinate at Sassafras with their cold brew-fueled Ode to Erin Rose Irish Coffee. Cassia, the new Santa Monica spot from Bryant Ng, has an icy Lava Flow with strawberry-basil syrup while in Hollywood, Good Times at Davy Wayne’s serves spiked snow cones in legit paper cones. If you’re Downtown, stop by Preux & Proper—they have a row of machines churning out frozen mint juleps, piña coladas, and more.

Food festival fare:
Though your arteries might protest (tell them to shush), food festival season is not yet over. The L.A. Food & Wine Festival is a four-day event that takes place all over the city with seminars, demos, chef collaborations, and more. This year’s highlights include the Love & Salt lunch with Michael Fiorelli and Zach Pollack, a boozy brunch with Michelle Bernstein and music by Quest Love, and a beer and food pairing seminar. The Taste hosted by the L.A. Times is also back with food-filled demos, panels, and parties hosted by writers Russ Parsons, Jonathan Gold, Amy Scattergood, and others. Featured chefs include Ari Taymor, Akasha Richmond, Wes Avila, and Ludo Lefebvre.

Strawberry Shortcake Biscuit from The Arthur J
Strawberry Shortcake Biscuit from The Arthur J

Photograph courtesy of the Arthur J

Strawberry shortcake:
There are fewer pleasures more complete than in-season strawberry shortcake. We’re currently enamored with the one that David Lefevre is serving over at his new Manhattan Beach steakhouse The Arthur J. A big, beautiful sugar-encrusted biscuit is split in two and filled with macerated strawberries and fresh whipped cream. If you want more of a grab-and-go option, the strawberry shortcake cupcake at Lark Cake Shop in Silver Lake and Pasadena is a great choice.

Fresh cut fruit from a street vendor:
Fresh-cut fruit conveniently sold on street corners is one of L.A.’s greatest perks. There’s no sweeter sight on a sweltering day. If you already frequent these umbrella-clad fruit carts, then you know what to do, but if you’ve never had the pleasure, now is the time. Pick from cucumbers, pineapple, guava, jicama, coconut, and mango, or mix them all up. When asked if you want lemon, say yes, same goes for chile and even some salt if you want. Many vendors sell fresh coconuts, too—they’ll break one open for you and hand you a straw on the spot.

Chicken and Waffles from Mabel's in Downtown L.A.
Chicken and Waffles from Mabel’s in Downtown L.A.

Photograph by Valentina Silva

Fried chicken:
Nothing says lazy summer day like fried chicken, and right now L.A.’s got some fine examples. At Downtown L.A. newcomer Mabel’s, the crispy, crunchy skin is the perfect match for fluffy waffles. Plus, they have a Jalapeno Vanilla Bean syrup. You can never go wrong with Honey’s Kettle in Culver City—don’t miss the Sweet n’ Fresh Corn on the Cob. Howlin’ Ray’s spicy version will probably make you sweat more, but it’s worth it. If you like to keep it old school, try a juicy two-piece at Jim Dandy in South Central.

A veggie sandwich:
We love a good pastrami any time of year, but there’s something to be said for keeping it a little lighter with a veggie sandwich in the summer. One of the best kept secrets in Highland Park is Good Girl Dinette’s banh mi with Persian cucumbers, juicy Cherokee tomatoes, pickled daikon and carrots, and cilantro-maggi mayo. It’s only available while the produce is in season, and owner Diep Tran tells us they’ll be offered starting August 23. Alternately, there’s always the towering avocado sandwich at The Trails in Griffith Park and the Salad Sandwich at Ink.Sack, stacked with veggies galore and a splash of sherry vinaigrette.

from Terrine
Côte de Porc with mission figs from Terrine

Photograph courtesy of Terrine

Figs:
Fig season comes and goes so quickly that you have to act fast. We say head over to your local farmers’ market and sample until you find the sweetest ones and just eat ’em au naturale or with a little goat cheese. However, there are some fantastic restaurant dishes featuring the lush, little fruit that we can’t ignore. Right now at Terrine, chef Kris Morningstar has a Côte de Porc with mission figs, roasted shallots, white polenta, and jus aux lardons. Fittingly, Fig & Olive has a crostini with figs, prosciutto, ricotta, olives, and walnuts.

Aguas frescas:
Hot summer days are made for big, icy cups of aguas frescas, the fresh Mexican fruit juices ladled out of giant tubs. While there are so many to choose from in L.A, some of our favorites come from Delmy’s Pupusas. Their popular stall (there’s always a long line), which you’ll find at the Silver Lake, Echo Park, and Atwater farmers’ markets, has an eye candy display of seasonal, daily made drinks, from traditional horchata to cucumber lemonade to pineapple mango. You’ll also find fantastically refreshing aguas frescas at Loteria Grill, Guisados, Huarache Azteca, and Ricky’s Fish Tacos.