Summertime in Texas means local watermelons, lemonade, crisp salads and ice cream. It’s also the season for simple, all-American grilled foods like hot dogs and hamburgers. When it hits 100 degrees with 100% humidity in Houston, reach for these 15 dishes and drinks to chill out fast.
Backyard tomato salad at Coltivare Pizza & Garden
Catch our short-lived tomato season at this Heights shrine to seasonal and local (so local, it has a patio garden blooming with produce). Chef Ryan Pera's beautiful salad stars yellow, green and red gems served with a pool of creamy cucumber “gazpacho” dressing and crumbled feta.
3320 White Oak Dr.; 713-637-4095
Hot dogs at Good Dog
Choose from dozens of creative variations prepared with local all-beef wieners, homemade condiments and artisan buns. The Guac-A-Dog is a classic but consider one of the newer combos like Curryous Frank with cilantro chutney, sweet potato crisps and garlic aïoli. Pair that with lavender lemonade, craft beer or a frosty milkshake.
903 Studewood St.; 832-800-3647
Tex-Mex at The Hay Merchant
Late-night Montrose revelers are digging the new summer menu at this craft beer emporium, which features silver platter nachos and crispy, old-school tacos crowned with chilled pico de gallo, shredded iceberg and a blizzard of grated cheddar.
1100 Westheimer Rd.; 713-528-9805
Coupe Epicée cocktail at La Table
Perfect for leisurely lunches and the steamy days ahead, the new Coupe Epicée cocktail at this Uptown destination is a spicy, Southern take on the Pimm’s Cup. Traditional gin is replaced with Ancho Reyes chile liqueur along with jalapeños, red peppers, lemon juice, cucumbers and sparkling wine over ice. Just looking at it makes you feel cooler.
1800 Post Oak Blvd.; 713-439-1000
Sashimi at MF Sushi
By August, you’ll want to live at this cool, serene and beautiful Museum District sushi bar serving intricately garnished bites of exotic raw seafood. Start with sushi master Chris Kinjo’s thinly sliced shima-aji (white trevally), served with ponzu and yuzukosho, a salty citrus-and-chile garnish. Then consider indulging in the remarkable multicourse omakase.
1401 Binz St., #100; 713-637-4587
Brisket nachos at Killen’s Steakhouse
While waiting for your table at this popular Pearland steak palace, cool your heels in the lounge with a nosh from the new bar menu. Expect Texas treats including a massive platter of brisket nachos crowned with fresh jalapeños and rich quesadillas stuffed with succulent lobster.
6426 W. Broadway St.; 281-485-0844
Frosty cocktails at The Pastry War
This lively Downtown cantina recently rolled out a new Mexican-inspired cocktail menu. For something tongue tingling, try the grilled spice beet margarita, a gorgeous purple frozen libation with fresh lime and a rim of sal de gusano (a traditional Oaxacan spicy salt). For bar bites, look for tamales, chile con queso and Mexican salted peanuts.
310 Main St.; 713.225.3310
Salads at Little Liberty
At this breezy newcomer with a big shaded patio, bounteous salads are the way to go. Tuck into the beet and avocado salad with arugula, smoked almonds and goat cheese crema, or the new kale Caesar with spicy anchovy dressing, croutons and Reggiano.
2365 Rice Blvd.; 713-807-7224
Seafood tower at State of Grace
Entertaining out-of-towners this summer? Take the crew to chef Ford Fry’s River Oaks hot spot for the impressive seafood tower. Expect a spectacular mountain of chilled seafood artfully displayed on ice including oysters on the half shell, lobster, Gulf shrimp, crab and clams.
3258 Westheimer Rd.; 832-942-5080
Chef boards at North Italia
Duck out of the scorching heat (or rain) while shopping at BLVD Place for the happy hour chef boards (Sunday–Friday, 3–6 PM). For 10 bucks, the generous boards include several ever-changing choices of thinly sliced chilled charcuterie and cheeses, plus almonds, olives, dried fruit, mustards and bread. To drink, wine is $4 per glass.
1700 Post Oak Blvd., #190; 281-605-4030
Strawberry buttermilk milkshake at Hopdoddy Burger Bar
Every summer weekend deserves a milkshake from the new, perpetually packed burger bar in the River Oaks District. This month, Hopdoddy’s thick and creamy cinnamon ice cream base comes flavored with macerated fresh strawberries, buttermilk, mint, and signature towering head of whipped cream. That should shake you out of the summer doldrums.
4444 Westheimer Rd.; 713-227-2337
Grilled steak salad at Revival Market
This cozy neighborhood favorite tosses backyard tomatoes, local 44 Farms grilled hangar steak, sweet corn, shaved fennel, pole beans and queso fresco for a rib-sticking summer salad. Juicy and delicious, you’ll wish this special was on the menu year round.
550 Heights Blvd.; 713-880-8463
Ice cream at Sprinkles Cupcakes
Our Highland Village cupcake haven now serves ice cream. Follow Sprinkles on Twitter (@sprinkleshoustn) for can’t-miss flavors served via cup, cone, or in giant ice cream sandwiches custom made with fresh baked cookies. June’s special ice cream flavor is Orange Blossom Negroni.
4014 Westheimer Rd., 713-871-9929
Poke at Liberty Kitchens
The rage in H-town, refreshing Hawaiian poke is probably best represented at Houston Liberty Kitchen restaurants (Little Liberty, Liberty Kitchen, Liberty Kitchen & Oysterette). Customize fresh raw tuna or salmon to taste: choose tamari soy or spicy mayo served over white rice, cucumbers or kale salad. Top it with a choice of mango, jalapeño, avocado, ginger, macadamia nuts and more.
Summer Fruit Cobbler at Olivette, The Houstonian Hotel, Club and Spa
At this Memorial mainstay, start with light, flavorful summer bites like red chile-spiced bison tartare or the sweet pea ravioli with rock shrimp. That will leave just enough room for pastry chef Catherine Rodriguez’s biscuit-topped blueberry or peach cobbler with housemade lemon ice cream. The bomb!
111 N. Post Oak Ln.; 713-680-2626