At the height of summer’s blazing heat, we spend our leisure hours in a state of sun-soaked repose. We subsist on drinks packed with ice through much of the day until the sun begins its lazy descent and our appetites, tame and sleepy, begin to awaken. So we rinse the sand from our feet and set off in search sustenance. We settle where the A.C. is blasting or the breeze is just right, and we pass over the entrées in favor of something that will satisfy but not sate. For the evening is long, and we want to leave room for more.
Fresh Thai Spring Rolls
The cool, palate-cleansing cousins of the deep-fried egg roll, spring rolls are aptly named. At Thai Table, a bursting garden of crisp lettuce, crunchy carrots and clean, bold cilantro roll up with rice noodles in a translucent rice paper package. Paired with a hit of salty peanut vinaigrette or peanut brown sauce, these Fresh Thai Spring Rolls are a mouth-pleaser that whets the appetite for more. $5.49 (2 rolls), $6.49 with roasted pork and shrimp.
Ceviche de Camarón
La Cocina de Ana
On those sweltering nights when the oven is off limits, La Cocina de Ana will cool your palate with its grab-and-go ceviche de camarón. The dish traditionally features raw fish, but for safety, owner Ana Rayas soaks cooked shrimp in a marinade of lime juice, cilantro and spices. Blended with fresh avocado, this coastal classic never fails to awaken the taste buds, even to the woman who makes it every day. “It’s so fresh,” Rayas says. “After so many years, I’m not tired of it.” $13.99–$58.99, depending on portion size.
Jake’s City Grille
Perhaps the most quintessential summer evening antipasto, bruschetta is the perfect complement to a glass of white wine and a long, slow sunset. At Jake’s City Grille, this warm, light appetizer is a common sight on the open-air patio. Four ciabatta slices are brushed with garlic oil and trademark spice, then grilled to crostini perfection. The relish mix of balsamic tomatoes, Kalamata olives, red onion and fresh basil boasts creamy hits of goat cheese and mozzarella, and a generous drizzle of sweet balsamic reduction sends the plate home. $10.50.
Think of tabouli as a pico de gallo of Mediterranean persuasion. No one ingredient outshines the others; rather, they all form a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. Dino’s makes fresh daily this harmonious interplay of taste and texture in its generations-old tabouli recipe. The finely chopped tomato, cucumber and onion strike a balance with the slightly nutty bulgar wheat, while parsley and lemon brighten the merging flavors. It’s a high-protein salad that won’t weigh you down; if you’re going to snack on anything before your late afternoon dip in the lake, here’s the ticket. $3.
Japanese cuisine is reliably light, but the sheer number of menu items can have a bewildering effect on the casual sushi dabbler. Allow us to direct you to a seat at Kobe Restaurant’s sushi bar, where you can watch your chef turn precision cuts of raw fish into plated works of art. Order the yellowtail jalapeño appetizer, buttery yellowtail belly and jalapeño heat served with a sweet-sour yuzu sauce. Throw in a cold, clean lager and watch the night unfold. $15.95 (5 pieces).
Rock Elm Tavern
No, it’s not some rare and obscure riff on the beloved Middle Eastern chickpea dip. Mummus is simply a misprint of hummus, according to Rock Elm Tavern manager Mary Schoeb. But the name stuck, and now it’s how the restaurant staff describes their creamy hummus topped with nutty pistachio pesto and sweet roasted tomatoes. With broccoli, cucumbers and other fresh vegetables for dipping, here’s a dish that’s both light and light-hearted. $9.
Buffalo Wild Wings
Purists may say a taco isn’t “street” unless it’s bought and consumed on the side of the road while the sun beats down and trucks kick up dirt. But street tacos can also be defined by their small size fit for easy snacking; their messy, open-faced beauty; or their very simple, quality fixings. Buffalo Wild Wings offers its own take on street tacos, filling a trio of soft flour tortillas with grilled garlic chicken and adorning them with housemade pico de gallo, southwestern ranch and fresh cilantro. They may not hail from a curbside stand, but these tacos deserve some serious street cred. $5.29 (3 tacos).