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Grilled swordfish at Flint by Baltaire. Courtesy Flint by Baltaire

Featured Article

Savoring the Summer

Dishes That Are Light, Yet Still Delight, All Season Long

Every summer, local chefs lighten up—well, with their dishes, at least.

Warmer temperatures give restaurants the chance to take a break from decadent creams and heavy proteins and instead showcase seasonal, bright, and light dishes across their menus.

Among the most popular summer dishes is ceviche, which is of South American origin (so a similar hot climate to the Valley). It is typically made from fresh raw fish that has been cured in citrus juices. CRUjiente Tacos has a spectacular take on the summer staple, which is as popular in Mexico as it is in its native Peru. The dish ($15) features fresh white fish that are cubed and then paired with shrimp. They are then marinated together in a tart mixture of citrus juices, and then tossed with spicy jalapeños, Fresno peppers, cilantro, and olive oil.

Both Joyride Taco House and The Canal Club at The Scott Resort also feature sensational ceviche options. Currently, Joyride offers a Sea Bass Ceviche ($13) with Aguachile rojo, pineapple, pickled Fresno chiles, red onions, cilantro, and scallions. At The Canal Club, shrimp is the star of the dish ($16) and are complemented by lime, cucumber, and fresh-cut pico de gallo.;

Finally, Diego Pops adds a pop of island and Asian flare to the dish. Its ceviche ($14) also starts with shrimp, cucumber, Fresno chili, red onions, tomatoes, and cucumber like those above. But it also features lemongrass, which provides a ramped-up citrus flavor with a hint of mint, as well as cilantro and coconut. It is even served in a hollowed-out coconut for added visual appeal. (They also offer two other variations on ceviche all summer long.)

Certainly, beyond what is served in ceviche, seafood and shellfish in general are popular during the summer months.

Twin Peaks offers Blackened Fish Tacos ($12.49). It features wild-caught, ultra-mild grilled cod with pico de gallo, sweet pineapple, a guacamole-like avocado smash, chopped slaw, and fiery jalapeño honey vinaigrette. The contents are wrapped in flour tortillas, with sour cream and cilantro to cool the tastebuds.

El Chorro also offers a delectable-but-light seafood dish with its Crab & Tuna Tower ($24). It boasts blue crab meat, as well as Ahi tuna. Both are layered perfectly with avocado, pico de gallo, and gluten-free corn tortilla chips.

Though Bourbon & Bones is known for its high-end cuts of aged beef, don’t sleep on the shellfish at this Old Town favorite, especially the imported Alaskan king crab legs (MP), which are flown in weekly and cooked simply—just long enough for the iconic sweetness to emerge before they are chilled and plated with lemon, cocktail sauce, and a touch of melted butter.

Similarly, though almost every dish at FLINT by Baltaire bursts with flavors, during the summer months its Grilled Swordfish ($39) is a showstopper. The center-cut swordfish loin is grilled over almond wood and paired with toasted Israeli couscous that has been tossed with an aromatic mix of finely diced fennel, radish, and sherry vinaigrette. Bonus: it is topped with tomato caper relish and lemon-infused olive oil for an added kick.

T. Cook’s at Royal Palms Resort & Spa is also among the best places for summer seafood, especially if a fan of Mediterranean and Southwest flavors. Right now, the halibut ($52)—bathed in a garlic broth versus heavy sauces or creams and paired with a touch of Spanish chorizo for bite, as well as an herbaceous salad, beluga lentils, and preserved lemon—is a can’t-miss item.

Italian eateries are also getting in on lighter bites. Of course, pasta and pizza are still available, but hotspots like EVO, NOOK Kitchen, and Marcellino Ristorante take special care to curate antipasto dishes and their own twists on starters, as well as mains that marvel. Currently, EVO offers Grilled Octopus ($17) paired with spicy dried salami, as well as a garnishment of roasted potatoes. NOOK has a wide variety of summer offerings, including the surprisingly shareable Wood Fired Olives ($18), a mix of Castelvetrano and Cerignola olives with an oregano- and basil-infused butter, zesty soppressata, and a sprinkle of parmesan, as well as toasted crostini. Of the many seasonal options on Marcellino’s menu, the Carpaccio di Tonno ($18) stands out with its thinly sliced, raw Ahi tuna served over arugula salad and perfectly dressed with chef Marcellino Verzino’s special lemon-mint dressing.;;

Speaking of salad, summer menus are bursting with big, bountiful options. J&G Steakhouse at The Phoenician has a Chopped Salad ($16) piled high with farm-fresh frisée and arugula from McClendon's Select organic farm in Peoria, plus hearty chunks of avocado, premium blue cheese, and extra-large pecans.

Postino WineCafé has a full menu of salad options for both lunch and dinner. Hannah’s Field ($12.25) is particularly lovely this time of year, with its combination of kale, heritage grains, apple, apricot, toasted almonds, pecorino stagionato, pickled red onion, and apple cider-mustard vinaigrette.

And for those still looking for some summer menu satisfaction, consider The Macintosh’s Creamy Burrata with charred focaccia, dressed arugula, and spicy tomato jam ($13); The Montauk’s Buddha Bowl ($15) with brown rice, roasted broccoli, cucumbers, spinach, avocado, edamame, pepitas, grilled onions, chipotle tahini, and a soft-boiled egg; or Pita Jungle’s Moroccan Gazpacho ($4.69 for a cup and $5.99 for a bowl), a chilled tomato-based soup with cucumbers, onion, cilantro, celery, jalapeños, garbanzo beans, lemon juice, pine nuts, and your choice of cucumbers or pita chips for dipping.;;

  • Grilled swordfish at Flint by Baltaire. Courtesy Flint by Baltaire
  • Crab & Tuna Tower at El Chorro
  • Chopped Salad at J&G Steakhouse. Photo by Debby Wolvos
  • Moroccan Gazpacho at Pita Jungle
  • Buddha Bowl at The Montauk
  • Ceviche at CRUjiente Tacos. Courtesy CRUjiente Tacos