If we lived in LA, we’d get used to things like a Mediterranean climate and bountiful produce all the time. But the fact is, we’ve chosen a different path, devoid of traffic and houses in hills. So when Jersey and Hudson Valley tomatoes reach their peak in August, we have a tendency to search for them like Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks’ characters in You’ve Got Mail search for their online lovers. Yes, in this case, tomatoes are our AOL lovers.
Welcome to the ephemeral late-summer window where the Mid-Atlantic tomato is supreme. They’re waxy and plump on the outside, and bursting with pulpy umami juice in the middle. Here are 10 restaurants making the most of fresh, glorious tomato dishes.
There’s something about a BLT that always makes us want to ditch our lunch plans immediately. If you relate to this, Leo’s special weekend-only BLT is worth planning your Saturday around. Theirs comes on pillowy sourdough sesame-seed focaccia with crisped guanciale instead of bacon. We can only describe the union of fleshy heirloom tomato centers, tangy aioli, crunchy little gems, and guanciale as a threat to sandwiches everywhere. It will haunt your lunches for the rest of the month. Stop by the bakery side of their Williamsburg restaurant on Saturday and Sunday starting at noon.
Tomato Stew With Burrata
Part stew, part summer salad, this dish tastes like a bountiful summer harvest in a bowl. And it’ll make you forget everything you thought you knew about burrata. The creamy, soft cheese mixes in with the bright red tomato purée, fresh basil, and crunchy sesame garlic croutons to create a refreshing chilled summer soup. We like to use the croutons to sop up as much of the thick and chunky tomato sauce as possible.
Tomato Watermelon Frozen Margarita
Even for those who seldom drink tomato in liquid form, Yellow Rose’s margarita will broaden your horizons. This Central Texan restaurant in the East Village has been serving a special frozen margarita with juiced watermelons and tomatoes from Bodhitree Farm. It tastes like a slushie went WOOFing for a summer, and is certainly more balanced than any other frozen cocktail we’ve had of late. There’s clearly a lot of work that goes into making these chili-rimmed drinks, so it’s possible you might not see them on the menu any given evening. You can call ahead if you’re extra curious, or simply cross your fingers.
No shade to Skittles, but we could actually taste the rainbow at Guevara’s. Every one of the fresh vegetables (like avocado, red cabbage, tomato, and jalapeno) packed into their Cuban torta tastes like its life’s purpose is to express its individuality. The real MVP of this dish, however, is its juicy tomatoes. They’ve got the perfect balance of acidity and sweetness, and memorable flavor you can still taste even with everything happening on this loaded torta. Eating it on a Saturday morning has become one of the only true constants of summer for us.
Heirloom Tomatoes with Cantabrian Anchovies
This English seafood restaurant in Greenwich Village conceptualizes their menu based on whatever exciting seasonal produce they can score at Union Square Greenmarket. And, for anyone who can get a reservation right now, that menu includes a decadent tomato dish with skinny umami-punching anchovies from northern Spain and crunchy bread crumbs. The beefy summer tomatoes sit on top of a light anchovy cream that tastes like Caesar dressing without any of the bullsh*t. The cumulative effect is light, refreshing, and proof that high-quality olive oil and anchovies can elevate just about anything.
Tomato Salad With Corn, Basil, And Whipped Garlic
How do you feel about giant slices of tomatoes after 9pm? Chances are that’s the earliest you’ll be able to try this dish from Shukette in Chelsea, where it’s tough to get a reservation and even tougher to walk in. If you persist, however, you’ll get to sweep heirloom tomatoes through potent whipped garlic and into your mouth. Add on lots of grilled kernels of corn, basil, and a shower of sesame seeds, and this caprese-adjacent dish will have your breath stinking and your produce-loving heart fluttering.
Heirloom Tomato With Blackberry Vinaigrette & Feta
This pop-up project is currently serving their produce-forward, Middle Eastern dishes out of the kitchen at Peoples Wine Bar on the Lower East Side. One of the standouts from a recent dinner (among dishes like burrata with grated tomato and Yemeni shug, and a red snapper poached in a luscious vat of Egyptian molokhia) was a cold starter with three different kinds of heirloom tomatoes served with crumbly feta and a light blackberry vinaigrette. You can’t go three bites without running into a sweet, popping husk cherry, and the whole plate looks like a painter’s palette or an abstract traffic light. Eat this if you like the idea of the taste of summer on a sunny porch.
Chilled Udon With Tomato
Seeing a pop-up we love finally get a brick-and-mortar location is like when a close friend realizes that they actually love tomatoes. It’s a big deal, makes us incredibly happy, and was a long time coming. This sums up our feelings about Evil Katsu, a former pop-up that now has a full-time location in the East Village. Their new seasonal special is perfect this time of year - udon noodles slick with olive oil, chunks of heirloom tomatoes, and sliced shiso. The udon is extra slippery with lots of freshly ground black pepper cracked in, and the heirlooms are pure farmer’s market bliss - simply dressed, meaty, and bursting with tangy sweetness.
This pastry is equal parts disorienting and fantastic. The fresh ingredients burst with an undeniable flavor you wouldn’t typically find in a breakfast pastry. From thick slices of caramelized tomatoes that are sweet enough to be dessert to creamy goat cheese that’s rich enough to own a few Teslas, this galette might just knock you off your feet. Not to mention, the flaky golden-brown crust which is perfectly flaky all the way around. As for the second descriptor, it all tasted fantastic.
Sushi of Gari
Salmon Yaki Tomato Sushi
This Upper East Side omakase sushi restaurant was first opened by a man named Masatoshi “Gari” Sugio in 1997. While Gari is no longer handing you glorious pieces of fish today, a lot of his original ideas are still incorporated into the omakase experience. The best and most legendary of which consists of a sautéed tomato with sweet onion sauce over perfectly chilled, buttery salmon. It’s the definition of umami in one bite, and the sautéed tomato turns the whole thing into an acidic, hot-cold experience.