Angelenos are blessed with a pretty mild interpretation of seasonal changes: It rarely if ever snows, rains only sometimes, and stays about 70 degrees almost year-round. Still, there’s something magical about the full bloom of summer. The nights get warmer, beach days more frequent and a whole menu of summer meals becomes all the more delicious. Here are five foods that epitomize the taste of an L.A. summer.
Time for a bold proclamation: The holy union of roasted corn, chili, cheese and mayo that is elote should be the official food of L.A. summers. True, the streetside snack is available year-round, but the overall experience peaks when warm weather hits. It’s like a culinary planetary alignment: The ears of corn come into season, the street fairs' elote vendors come into full swing and everything is perfect. It’s a messy snack, but unquestionably worth it.
Dodger Stadium garlic fries
Any Dodgers fan who’s ever walked into the stadium knows the feeling of being enveloped in the incredibly pungent scent of garlic fries. These fries are not for the faint of heart (or nose), but they’re a garlic fan’s Holy Grail. Eating these babies were the highlight of attending Dodger games as a child —there’s something magical about clutching a warm box of fries at a nighttime game. Successful seasons come and go, but garlic fries are forever.
Ceviche is an obvious addition to this list: Seafood is undeniably summery, and ceviche’s roots in Latin American cuisine automatically endear it to the hearts of Angelenos. The mix of bright citric acid and cool raw fish is light enough to eat while strolling along the beach, where the salt air mixes in nicely. L.A. is blessed with many excellent ceviche spots, but I’m partial to the following routine: Head to La Isla Bonita taco truck on the corner of Lincoln Boulevard and Rose Avenue in Venice and order whatever ceviche is on hand. From there it’s only a short trek to the beach — but I won’t tell if you just eat your meal curbside. Sometimes good food can’t wait.
Roast chicken is not a seasonal food, and Zankou Chicken has been a mainstay of the L.A. food scene for decades. Still, I’ve yet to find a more perfect place to grab picnic food. Screw sandwiches — sometimes an evening at Hollywood Forever Cemetery or a concert at the Santa Monica Pier requires a more substantial meal. In that case, go for a golden spit-roasted chicken and a solid helping of the blindingly garlicky sauce. Grab some bites while it’s still warm, but don’t fret if it’s cooled down by the time you’ve found parking at your destination. It’ll still be amazing.
Lightly battered, grilled, sautéed — however they’re prepared, fish tacos will always be the ultimate summer food. It seems every restaurant, farmers market and taco stand is serving up fish tacos come June, and for good reason. Besides the obvious fish/beach connection, they’re compulsively delicious and light enough to serve as an afternoon snack without requiring a midday nap. And when tacos are practically L.A.’s spirit food, we’d be wrong not to have them round out the list. Summer, meet your match.