25 Best Things to Eat and Drink This Summer in LA

By Lesley Balla  |  June 6, 2016

Summer in LA, when June gloom turns to hotter days, busier beaches and the constant search for anything to keep us cool. Before the season truly kicks into overdrive, we scoured the restaurant scene to find the 25 best, new essential eats and drinks that scream summer in the Southland. Coupled with last year's list, consider this your back-pocket guide for the season. 

  • Credit: Lesley Balla

    Soft-Shell Crab Sandwich on a Black Bun at Sawyer

    The new Silver Lake hot spot has one of the best patios for balmy nights, along with dishes like Maine lobster rolls, rock shrimp salad and this soft-shell crab sandwich. Topped with red cabbage and scallion mayo, it’s served on a homemade black bun with squid ink, a fun twist on a summer classic. You’ll want something like the St. Augustin (vodka, Aperol, watermelon and lemon) to go along with that.

    3709 W. Sunset Blvd.; 323-641-3709

  • Credit: Upstairs

    Transit-Themed Cocktails at Upstairs

    One of the hottest things to do this summer is to take in the new extended Expo Line from Downtown LA to Santa Monica. But first, sip a few transit-themed cocktails at the rooftop bar at the Ace hotel, all inspired by some of the world’s greatest public transportation systems. The Astor Place is a good one to start with, an especially refreshing drink made with Japanese whiskey, yuzu, peche de vigne, lemon and basil. P.S. There’s also a new happy hour from 12–5:30 PM, Monday–Friday with $1 oysters.

    929 S. Broadway; 213-623-3233

  • Credit: Lesley Balla

    Banh Mi Salad at Simbal

    Chef Shawn Pham’s fun twist on the traditional Vietnamese sandwich is the perfect antidote to ridiculously hot days. Slip into the Little Tokyo gem for light bites like this, a kind of panzanella salad with torn bread, housemade Vietnamese sausage, head cheese, cucumber and pickled vegetables.

    120 S. San Pedro St.; 213-626-0244

  • Credit: Lesley Balla

    Lobster Rolls at Cape Seafood & Provisions

    This should be your one-stop shop for all summer barbecue needs, especially when it comes to grilling whole fish, fresh wild-caught halibut, oysters, live lobsters and even steaks. It’s hard not to leave without getting an extra lobster roll for the ride home — it’s Michael Cimarusti (Providence, Connie & Ted’s) approved.

    801 N. Fairfax Ave.; 323-556-2525

  • Credit: Viviane

    Piña Colada at Viviane

    Barman Ryan Wainwright recently launched new poolside summer cocktails at the Avalon Hotel restaurant in Beverly Hills, many of which are only available during the Sunday pool parties. The Piña Colada is based on the classic 1954 Caribe Hilton Hotel recipe, made with various rums, pineapple juice, coconut cream and lime. Blended, of course.

    9400 W. Olympic Blvd.; 310-407-7791

  • Credit: Lesley Balla

    Burgers and Bocce at Everson Royce Bar

    Find any reason you can to dip into this Arts District bar for what might be one of the best patios in the neighborhood, mostly because it has a bocce court. The burger, created by Mozza vet Matt Molina, is a simplified classic — it’s even tastier during happy hour when it comes with a side of fries for only $10.

    1936 E. 7th St.; 213-335-6166

  • Credit: American Tea Room

    Downtown Sunset at American Tea Room

    The new summer drink menu at the Arts District tea lounge includes this colorful concoction layered with Martinique rooibos tea, grenadine, lemon and orange juice. Paper umbrellas aren’t just for boozy drinks, you know.

    909 S. Santa Fe Ave.; 213-239-9100

  • Credit: Lesley Balla

    Smoked Fish Plate at Wexler’s Deli

    Now that Wexler’s is accessible to both Downtown and Santa Monica, thanks to the new Westside deli that recently opened, there is even more smoked fish to enjoy in one sitting. In addition to the smoked salmon and sturgeon chef Micah Wexler and his team makes daily, there’s also trout, pastrami lox and an excellent whitefish salad, all exclusive to the new location, along with various other accoutrements like cream cheese, onions and capers.

    626 Santa Monica Blvd.; 424-744-8671

  • Credit: Chicas Tacos

    Aguas Frescas at Chica Tacos

    One of the highlights of this new little taqueria is the turf-covered makeshift parking lot patio, complete with strings of lights, picnic tables and an Airstream as the backdrop. This is exactly where you want to be sipping cool lavender-cantaloupe and watermelon-cinnamon agua frescas. With a couple of tacos, of course.

    728 S. Olive St.; 213-896-0373

  • Credit: Rose Cafe-Restaurant

    Lavender Chicken at Rose Cafe-Restaurant

    Grab a friend (or two), sit on any one of the several patios at the Venice hot spot, order some rosé — there are at least eight offered by the glass — a few appetizers and the lavender-honey glazed chicken to share. There are enough Parker House rolls to go around. Your summer night is complete.

    220 Rose Ave.; 310-399-0711

  • Credit: Paley

    Cherry Almond Cake at Paley

    There’s no denying that stone fruit is one of the best parts of summer. At the super-stylish Hollywood newcomer, cherries are celebrated in their most concentrated glory with this seasonal dessert. Along with almond cake and white chocolate mousse, there are pickled cherries plus a rich cherry sauce to pull it all together.

    6115 Sunset Blvd.; 323-544-9430

  • Credit: Shake Shack

    Bacon CheddarShack at Shake Shack 

    The roadside burger stand, albeit a city-slicked New York version backed by Danny Meyer, has had lines out the door since it opened in March. This summer-only special burger, made with an Angus beef patty, smoked Niman Ranch bacon and aged cheddar cheese sauce, is yet another reason to wait with the crowds. Get a blueberry pie concrete to go along with it.

    8520 Santa Monica Blvd.; 323-488-3010

  • Credit: Kali

    Pad Thai Cocktail at Kali

    Kevin Meehan and Drew Langley’s California-centric restaurant near Larchmont is a good spot to cool off this season. Not only are there things like charred avocado salads and beet tartare, but there are also wonderful cocktails at the bar, including this refreshing libation, made with chili vodka, aqua perfecta, lime and frozen coconut water. It takes inspiration from the iconic Thai dish and is even topped with carrots and bean sprouts.

    5722 Melrose Ave.; 323-871-4160

  • Credit: Howlin' Ray's/Jacob Layman

    Hot Chicken Sandwich at Howlin’ Ray’s

    Why it’s better to eat spicy food when it’s broiling outside: Hot food makes you sweat, which in turn cools you off. And right now there’s nothing spicier than the howlin’ hot fried chicken at this new Chinatown spot. The sandwich has the heat but also coleslaw and housemade pickles for hot-cool balance.

    727 N. Broadway

  • Credit: Lesley Balla

    Kale Salad at Wolf

    Kale is as ubiquitous as sunshine in LA. And while we never thought we would sing its praises, no matter how good and good-for-you it is, the kale salad at Marcel Vigneron's new Melrose eatery is a delicious interpretation with crisp baby kale, crunchy little crosnes, crisped quinoa, amaranth, dried apricots and a creamy but completely dairy- and egg-free, almond-based vinaigrette. Add in a few crispy potatoes — they’re like french fries but so much better — and you have a full meal.

    7661 Melrose Ave.; 323-424-7735

  • Credit: McConnell's

    Summer Fruit Cobbler Ice Cream at McConnell’s

    One of the best things about peach season is the return of this flavor, made with peach-infused sweet cream, homemade raspberry preserves and bits of pie crust. It’s a whole dessert you can eat by the scoop, cone or pint. And now that the Studio City location is open, it’s more accessible than ever.

    12075 Ventura Place; 818-308-7789

  • Credit: Lesley Bala

    Korean-Fried Tofu Salad at Eko Eats

    At her new Downtown cafe, chef Judy Han does Korean-fried tofu the way she does chicken — with an utterly crispy outer coating glazed with a sweet, tangy sauce that has just enough kick to make it addictive. Get it on top of a mound of lettuces and organic rice for a filling yet not-too-heavy meal.

    630 W. 6th St.; 213-622-1616

  • Credit: The Briks

    The Discada at The Briks

    On Thursday nights throughout the summer, chef Mario Christerna rolls out a traditional discada, a sort of disc-shaped stove, to cook up a stew of various meats and chilies on the sidewalk in front of his Downtown bistro and bar. The slow-cooked chorizo, bacon, carne asada, hot dogs, ham and more gets scooped into tortillas for tacos, a treat you might see more at a backyard barbecue than on the streets of the South Park neighborhood Downtown.

    1111 S. Hope St.; 213-746-7766

  • Credit: Lesley Balla

    Moruno Cobbler at Moruno

    Because there's so little bar space at the Original Farmer's Market restaurant, barman Dave Kupchinsky's drink menu is full of easy pouring draft and bottled cocktails. This cobbler might look sweet, but it's a perfectly balanced concoction made with Palo Cortado sherry, Amaro Montenegro and grapefruit. It’s so icy and delicious, a perfect complement to chef Chris Feldmeier’s menu of grilled and spiced dishes, like whole fish a la plancha and lamb skewers.

    6333 W. 3rd St.; 323-372-1251

  • Credit: Estrella

    Lobster "Chowder" Salad at Estrella

    Who said chowder has to be hot? At the Sunset Strip restaurant, chef Dakota Weiss transforms the seaside classic into a layered salad with peewee potato salad, bacon whipped ricotta, brioche croutons and lobster meat. It’s a perfect bite on the Laurel Canyon-inspired patio.

    8800 Sunset Blvd.; 310-652-6613

  • Credit: Hanjip

    Watermelon Soju at Hanjip Korean BBQ

    Nothing screams summer more than watermelon, and at Chris Oh’s Culver City restaurant, the fruit is taken to new boozy levels. For the dish, a watermelon is halved, the rind acting like a bowl for watermelon balls topped with Fruity Pebbles and Pop Rocks. The whole thing is then doused with a bottle of soju. Now that's a party.

    3829 Main St.; 323-720-8804

  • Credit: Lesley Balla

    Pork Spare Ribs at Maple Block Meat Co.

    When you have barbecue on your mind but don’t feel like dealing with all the butchering, smoking and grilling, stop at the Culver City joint for a slab of giant pork spare ribs and a side of greens and mac 'n' cheese. There's also brisket, sausage, chicken — the works — all available by the pound, which is great if you're planning a party and need to feed a group.

    3973 Sepulveda Blvd.; 310-313-6328

  • Credit: Sweet Rose Creamery

    Summer Flavors at Sweet Rose Creamery

    The collection of ultra-seasonal ice cream shops, from Beverly Boulevard to the Valley to Pacific Palisades, means fun flavors all summer long, like dairy-free horchata, candied cherry with chocolate swirl in June, the sweet corn ice cream in July, and peaches n' cream and brown butter with lemon wafer in August.

    Multiple Locations

  • Credit: Valerie Confections

    Summer Desserts at Valerie at Grand Central Market

    Valerie Gordon will soon be expanding her menu at the Grand Central Market stand, which will also get a new look in mid-July. For now, she's serving some of the new dishes as specials, including this sweet and savory dessert — fresh apricots tossed in a honey and olive oil vinaigrette, basil ribbons and a sprinkle of fleur de sel, topped with cake "croutons" and sweetened crème fraîche​.  

    317 S. Broadway

  • Credit: Roku

    Chichime at ROKU

    Check out the modern teppanyaki experience at the West Hollywood restaurant and lounge (think: a sexier Benihana). While the grill tables heat up, cool down with this spicy cocktail made with tequila, jalapeño and yellow chartreuse. The salty rim packs a punch.

    9201 Sunset Blvd.; 310-278-2060