Our Ultimate Summer Food Series

by  Amanda Black | Aug 19, 2013
Hotdog in NYC
Hotdog in NYC / Travel Wild/iStock

Fact: Food tastes better during the summer. (Okay, maybe that's just our opinion.) Whether it's a hot dog piled high with chili, a cold scoop of your favorite flavor of ice cream, or a juicy lobster roll, there's something so delicious about summer food. The key, though, is knowing where to get the best of the best. That's where we come in. For Our Ultimate Summer Food Series, we're showing you exactly where to go AND what to get there. We know you're already hungry, so let's get started.

5 Best Hot Dog Cities

There’s something so American about enjoying a hot dog on a hot summer day – with all the right fixings, of course. Here are the five best cities to satisfy your frankfurter fix, and exactly what to get when you’re there.

1. Chicago, Illinois

Renowned for its dogs, Chicago is the number one destination for world-famous franks: Other cities and hot dog makers around the world try to replicate the Chicago-style hot dog for its flavorful all-beef frankfurter and soft poppy seed bun. You can find delicious dogs all over the city, but if you want the very best, go to Fat Johnnie’s Famous Red Hots for its Mighty Dog (a hot dog, a tamale, chili, and cheese, all on a steamed bun) or Hot Doug’s for its special foie gras and Sauternes duck sausage with truffle aioli, foie gras mousse, and fleur de sel.

2. Honolulu, Hawaii

Escape the mainland and you’ll find that Honolulu serves up some of the nation’s finest hot dogs. An unlikely place for traditional American fare, Honolulu puts a tropical twist on their weenies. Hank’s Haute Dogs is well known on the island for its Hawaiian haute dog. This juicy Portuguese sausage with mango mustard and pineapple relish is a local favorite. And if you’re down to get fruity, Hula Dog lets you build your own dog, with mango, coconut, pineapple, papaya, banana, or starfruit relish.

3. New York City

Bringing us back to the basics, New York is where you’ll find the greatest traditional hot dogs. Though the streets are filled with vendors at every corner, make your way past those mediocre dogs and opt for a Morning Jersey at Crif Dogs. A Taylor ham-wrapped house dog with melted cheese and a fried egg is far superior to hot dogs you can buy on the street. If you want a true traditional frank, Katz’s Delicatessen offers the best one in town. To enjoy one of their jumbo all-beef hot dogs, all you need is some mustard and sauerkraut .

4. Los Angeles

Take me out to the ball game...so I can get a Dodger Dog. As exciting as Los Angeles Dodgers games may be, millions of locals and visitors alike head to the stadium just to savor the $5, 10-inch ballpark frankfurter. For those who aren’t so baseball inclined, Pink’s is the spot for the top dogs. You can’t leave without getting their famous chili on your dog, so choose the classic Chili Dog, or go big with a Three Dog Night: three hot dogs, wrapped in a giant tortilla, three slices of cheese, three slices of bacon, chili, and cheese.

5. Cincinnati, Ohio

Here’s a twist. Not a shack, dive, or diner, but a top restaurant offers this Midwest city’s finest hot dog. With an assortment of eight gourmet dogs gracing their menu (and changing up daily), Senate makes a high class hot dog. Which to choose? The Croque Madame is to die for: It’s a beef hot dog with béchamel sauce, black forest ham, and poached egg on a brioche bun. Head to Blue Ash Chili if you’re looking for a more casual setting. The Cheese Coney is heaping with chili and a mound of cheddar cheese. Yum!

5 Best Ice Cream Cities

There's nothing like a cold, creamy cone to complement a hot summer afternoon. But we're not talking old fashioned vanilla or boring strawberry. Delight in one of these uniquely delicious scoops in America's five best cities for ice cream, and vow to never settle for plain chocolate again.

1. San Francisco, California

If you're in the Bay Area for the America's Cup, or just to visit Northern California, you'll probably want to cool off with a scoop of some of the country's best ice cream. At Bi-Rite Creamery everything is made from scratch. And with two prime locations (one on 18th Street and the other on Divisadero Street), a scoop of their famous salted caramel ice cream is never too far away. For adventurous ice cream eaters, Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream is your spot. Jake Godby, pastry chef and owner of the shop, offers up the most inventive flavors from Boccalone Prosciutto to Peanut Butter Curry. Hint: Try Secret Breakfast (bourbon ice cream with corn flakes). It's scream worthy.

2. Cambridge, Massachusetts

College students, native New Englanders, and visitors alike rave about the ice cream shops in this community just west of Boston. A big part of the community, Toscanini's Ice Cream is a local favorite. Its Burnt Caramel is heavenly, but you can't go wrong with any of their 60 rotating flavors. Christina's Homemade Ice Cream is also a great choice for a scoop, where you'll find flavors like Butter Almond and Coffee Oreo.

3. Scottsdale, Arizona

Beat the intense Arizona heat this summer with a cone at Sweet Republic, one of the country's most celebrated ice cream parlors. In just five years of being open, they've garnered an intense following of ice cream lovers, due to their super fresh ingredients: They use milk and cream from local dairy farms, in addition to other fresh and locally grown elements to make their delicious treats. You must try its famous Honey Blue Cheese, a perfect blend of savory and sweet.

4. Denver, Colorado

Leave it to Colorado to make their ice cream environmentally friendly. Going green, Sweet Action Ice Cream is 100 percent wind-powered, but that isn't all they're known for. The shop's Strawberry Balsamic ice cream and Baklava ice cream are both to die for. If you're in Capitol Hill, head over to Lik's Ice Cream for a scoop of its Jack Daniel's Chocolate Chip. This neighborhood spot has been serving up traditional and creative flavors for over 30 years.

5. Minneapolis, Minnesota

Everyone knows the Midwest does dairy right. So it's no surprise that Minneapolis offers Americans some of the best ice cream in the nation. At Pumphouse Creamery, owner Barb Zapzalka invents, churns and scoops the ice cream herself, using organic ingredients from local farmers. Go for her Sea Salt, Homemade Caramel and Praline Pecans ice cream (that's all one flavor, people!). Check out Izzy's Ice Cream, too, for a great cone. Try the Buttermilk ice cream and you won't be disappointed.

5 Best Food Truck Cities

If you're looking for unique, inventive food, don't head to a restaurant. Head to the streets. For a fraction of what you'd spend at a five-star eatery, food carts serve up more creative, delicious meals. You can find everything from Korean tacos to gourmet grilled cheese to schnitzel (yes, schnitzel) and more, conveniently on the go, right in your city. Here's our take on the cities best for food trucks.

1. Los Angeles

While many cities claim to have started the food truck trend, Los Angeles seems to be the true mother. The city lit the spark in the late 2000s with now-famous trucks like Kogi BBQ and The Grilled Cheese Truck, and today hundreds of multi-colored trucks serve fresh, tasty bites around the city. It's easy to spot a truck or two on any given street downtown – specific trucks post their schedules and locations on their websites and Twitters. For food truck heaven, check out these events to find multiple trucks in one place: On The Lot happens every Monday 5:30pm–9pm 2060 on N Vermont Ave, Los Felix; Street Food Tuesday is every Tuesday 5pm–9pm at Home Depot on 5800 Lincoln Ave, Cypress; Santa Monica Food Truck Lot is every Tuesday 5pm–10pm on 2612 Main St, Santa Monica; Wilmington DinDinAGoGo happens every Tuesday 5:30pm–8:30pm at 24910 South Avalon Blvd, Wilmington; and Southbay DinDinAGoGo is every Thursday 5:30pm–9pm on 243000 Western Ave, Harbor City.

2. Austin, Texas

If Los Angeles is the mother of the food truck scene, then Austin is her hot younger sister. After the city gained street cred for its indie music scene with SouthxSouthwest, Austin was able to showcase its real gem: the food. Though the famed South Congress Ave food truck spot has recently been retired, the trucks have relocated and continue to serve scrumptious Austinite bites. Some of Austin's best include the peached tortilla, for its flavorful Southern-Asian fusion, and Torchy's Tacos, for its breakfast tacos. You can track down these two trucks with their schedules posted on their websites, but head to these food truck parks if you're looking for some stellar options, all in one place. Round Rock Food Trailer Park: Tuesday–Sunday 11am–9pm, 500 N. Mays, Round Rock; Austin Food Park: Monday–Sunday 6am–2am, 30 North IH-35; Rancho Rio Eatery: Monday–Sunday 8am–2am, 2512 Rio Grande St; Trailer Food Tuesday: Last Tuesday of every month, The Long Center 701 W. Riverside Dr.

3. New York City

With its own association dedicated to the innovation, hospitality, and quality of food trucks (New York City Food Truck Association), New York is really on top of its stuff. Though there are laws and regulations for street vendors, that doesn't stop these trucks from dishing out truly unique and delicious cuisine. Schnitzel & Thingsselling authentic, freshly made schnitzel, is a must-try. Vegans and non-vegans alike form lines around the block for The Cinnamon Snail's vegan, organic breakfasts and sandwiches. Here are some awesome food truck lots, where you'll find it's impossible to leave hungry. World Financial Center Truck Court: Monday–Friday 11am–3pm, North End Ave at Vesey St; Hudson Square Food Truck: Tuesday–Thursday 11am–3pm, 70 Varick Street at Grand Street; Long Island City Food Truck Lot: Thursdays and Fridays 11am–3pm, 43-29 Crescent Street, Long Island City; Prospect Park Food Truck Rally: First and Third Sundays 11am–5pm, Grand Army Plaza.

4. Portland, Oregon

As food trucks go, Portland can roll with the best of them. "Pods," as they call their food truck hubs and lots, pop up all over the city and provide this Pacific Northwest city with some awesome eats. For a mix of Korean BBQ and Mexican food, go for KOi Fusion, one of the city's most acclaimed trucks, or try Tabor for authentic Czech fare. For a taste of a bit of everything, the best pods to explore are: Alder Street Food Cart Pod (the city's largest pod with up to 40 carts): Between Southwest 9th and 10th Avenues on Alder and Washington Streets; Mississippi Marketplace: 4233 N. Mississippi Ave; Cartopia (the city's most popular late night pod): Southeast 12th Ave and Hawthorne Blvd.

5. Washington D.C.

Though our nation's capitol is known for politicians and monuments, it boasts a good amount of food trucks. Like New York City, D.C. has its own association, the DC Food Truck Association, to promote the food truck community. Some of the city's best trucks are fojol brothers, known for their carnival experience complete with food from made-up lands (it sounds strange, we know, but they've got an extreme following), Jose Andres' Pepe Food Truck serves his famous Spanish flauta sandwiches, and Basil Thyme!, a homemade pasta truck. Find such trucks and many more in downtown D.C. on K Street or in Foggy Bottom.

5 Best Lobster Roll States

If you want to avoid the hassle and mess of cracking and dipping a whole lobster in butter, but still want to enjoy this summer seafood delicacy, choose a lobster roll. Not only is the sandwich a flawless combination of fresh lobster meat on a toasted roll, it's also the cheaper choice when compared to a full lobster dinner. Whether you like them Connecticut-style (warm with butter) or Maine-style (cold and mixed with mayonnaise), these five states do lobster rolls right.

1. Maine

The obvious choice, but worthy nonetheless, Maine offers the best lobster rolls in the country. It's well known that their lobsters are delicious on their own, but they also know exactly how to dress and prepare them to perfection. A renowned spot, The Clam Shack in Kennebunkport allows lobster lovers to choose how they want it, with butter or mayonnaise, and boasts a prime location for waterside eating, overlooking the Kennebunkport River. If you prefer oceanside dining, enjoy a roll by the rocky shores of Cape Elizabeth at The Lobster Shack at Two Lights. Or, head to Bob's Clam Hut in Kittery for a lobster roll that's been keeping people salivating for over 50 years.

2. Massachusetts

The waters off Massachusetts are home to some of the best lobsters. In Boston's North End, Neptune Oyster is a fine dining spot known for its lobster rolls. But, if you're in Boston and a fan of Maine-style rolls, head to B&G Oysters, which serves fresh Maine lobster in a mix of mayonnaise, celery, and chives. At The Bayside Restaurant in Westport, get five pounds of lobster meat, your bun, and all the ingredients to dress your roll how you'd like. A bonus: This spot has a beautiful waterfront location.[FIVE POUNDS? POSSIBLY FIVE OUNCES?]

3. New York

Since New York is one of the food capitals of the world, it's only natural that this state can roll with the best of them (sorry, we had to). Luke's Lobster, which has multiple locations, including the Upper East Side, Upper West Side, and East Village in Manhattan, has one of the city's best lobster rolls. They serve it up Maine-style and with their own secret spices. Luke's also has its own "Nauti Mobile" food truck, so you can satiate your lobster cravings on the go. You can find Red Hook Lobster Pound while out and about, too, with their lobster truck serving lobster straight from Maine, all over the city. You'll need to make your way to Brooklyn, though, to visit the pound itself. In one of New York's most authentic places for seafood, City Island (an island off the coast of the Bronx), Lobster Box Restaurant creates a lobster roll that's heavenly, according to fans.

4. California

Just because it's on the West Coast doesn't mean that California can't serve East Coast-quality lobster rolls. In fact, Cousins Maine Lobster in Pasadena does just that. Their restaurant (and their food truck) combines "East Coast vibes" and incredible lobster rolls (they have both Maine and Connecticut-style), bringing the New England lobster experience to L.A. Flying in their lobster from the East Coast, Woodhouse Fish Co. is San Francisco's lobster roll haven. Their trick? They make their mayonnaise in-house. For waterfront dining, on the Pacific this time, Sam's Chowder House in Half Moon Bay prepares its roll with Atlantic Ocean lobster meat in just a bit of butter. 

5. Rhode Island

Also a prime New England state, Rhode Island's lobstermen trap countless lobsters daily. Not only does Newport's Brick Alley Pub & Restaurant have a great location on Thames Street, right by the shore, but they also dish out a juicy lobster roll, plump with pieces of meat. In Narragansett, go to Champlin's Seafood Restaurant to find out why their lobster roll has been served for 69 years. 

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