Summer Fun

Summer Dining—For a Limited Time Only

Editor Jess Bender takes a closer look at some of the pop-up restaurants and dining experiences you’ll be talking about until Labor Day.

Photo by Charles Roussel

Despite the scorching streets, my awkward tan lines, and the small fortune I spend on bottled water, summer is one of my favorite times to stick around New York City. What better season to enjoy one-night-only barbecues, lobster on a boat, and experimental ramen than when everyone else seeks solace at their vacation homes? The Hamptons may have the beaches (and Eleven Madison Park this summer), but we’ve got the brisket, ramen, and Detroit-style pizza. 

Here are the hot spots where you should be eating before wearing white becomes a social faux pas.

BrisketLab, locations TBD
Five years ago, former barbecue novice Daniel Delaney set out on a quest to learn how to make the best Texas-style brisket in NYC. Infusing lessons he learned from various trips to Austin into his beef, he hosted more than 30 pop-up events around the city as a means to perfect his recipe. Being a sucker for good barbecue, I went to a few of those meat fests throughout the summer of 2012. Not only did I get to hoedown along to bluegrass tunes in unusual settings (seriously, when was the last time you could brag about attending a BBQ at a cemetery?), I also sank my teeth into some of the best brisket I’ve ever had in my life.

Flash-forward to the present, where Delaney has mastered the art of smoked meats (RIP to his beloved eatery, BrisketTown) and fried chicken (his Delaney Chicken feeds hungry midtowners on their lunch breaks). And for five days only, the brisket master is going back to his roots with this summer’s BrisketLab series. Sign up for its newsletter for the full lineup; you’re going to want to do so immediately.

Photo by Shutterstock

E.M.P. Summer House, 341 Pantigo Road, East Hampton
Like most of us, the world’s best restaurant needs a vacation. Chefs Daniel Humm and Will Giudara, along with the rest of the Eleven Madison Park gang, are escaping the cruel concrete jungle of Manhattan and heading to the Hamptons for the summer to open up the most hyped pop-up of the year while their Flatiron home undergoes renovations. The New American bombshell is swapping out its lavish tasting menu and white tablecloth service for more seasonally appropriate (and affordable!) casual eats, like wood-fired ears of corn with bonito butter, and picnic tables in an expansive backyard. Humm and Giudara are partnering with local farmers and producers to show off the best of the Hamptons.

Photo by David Williams

North Shore Lobster Company, Pier 81, West 41st Street (at Twelfth Avenue), Hell’s Kitchen
The flavors of New England travel down the Hudson River to Pier 81 for a second season. This triple-decker lobster shack has everything you could want in a floating restaurant: social media–friendly cocktails like the Pop-Sea-Cle (Prosecco, cordial, and your choice of summertime Popsicle), served in a mason jar; buttery lobster rolls elevated with yuzu aioli; a rowboat raw bar filled to the brim with ice—don’t worry, it’s sanitized from mast to stern—and a scenic trip overlooking the West Side and Jersey City skylines. Feeling the sea breeze with a drink in hand is the only way you should be spending a proper summer Friday. Clock out a little bit early to catch the first sail of the day.

Photo courtesy of North Shore Lobster Company

Sunday Asados at Colonia Verde, 219 Dekalb Avenue, Fort Greene
Colonia Verde, the Latin-American eatery with a bucolic garden, opens its grills to guest chefs from Mexico City, London, Monterrey, and Dallas for one Sunday each month, from now until November, for barbecue feasts complete with wine and drink pairings based on the chef’s vision. Every asado ultimately has the same purpose: to bring the Brooklyn community together by way of hearty meats and a global menu. Based on how pleased I’ve been with its thoughtfully marinated steaks, grilled octopus, and roasted poblanos tucked inside quesadillas de rajas in the past, you’re guaranteed a similarly delectable time.

Photo by Laura Barisonzi

Ramen Lab, 70 Kenmare Street (between Mott and Mulberry Streets), Lower East Side
Hot soup doesn’t come to mind when you think of quintessential summer eats, but now is actually the best time to enjoy some homemade noodles. Neuroscientists have discovered that receptors in your mouth send messages to cool down your body when eating hot food. Most of your friends (and mine) haven’t received the 411, so head to this Nolita ramen pop-up before everyone else catches on. The lineup changes on a monthly basis, but you can at least look forward to slurping noodles from funky Bostonian standby Yume Wo Katare in June. Its name translates to “talk about your dreams” in Japanese, but I’m sure your dreams will be flowing with broth and pork for a long while. 

Photo by Yume Wo Katare

Sofia Pizza Shoppe’s DoughDici Experience, 989 First Avenue (between East 54th and 55th Streets), Midtown
By now you’ve probably heard about the $38 Detroit-style pie selling out at this Sutton Place hole-in-the-wall; as I personally predicted, The New York Times is on itBut how can you resist an intimate—we’re talking “four people max before it’s considered a fire hazard” intimate—pizza party with the star being a two-inch-high, four-cheese square pizza that rises like the finest of soufflés and has a crust that could only be likened to a Parmesan crisp? I’ve paid more for pizza in my lifetime, so I certainly can’t. You’ll probably find me practicing my cheese pull with a few fellow pizza connoisseurs this summer at one of Sofia’s dinners if I manage to secure a stool; these experiences tend to sell out pretty quickly.

Photo by Matthew Porter

Seaport Food Lab, 19 Fulton Street (between Water and Front Streets), Financial District
The Seaport District has never really been known for its dining scene…but that’s all changing this summer. In collaboration with Red Hook’s Sixpoint Brewery, some of the nation’s most-sought-after chefs are swimming to the neighborhood to host two-week-only residencies. While I’ve eaten plenty of Dale Talde’s sophisticated mash-ups at his flagship location in Park Slope—I dare you to tear me away from his bacon Pad Thai—I’m anticipating what he’ll pull out of his sleeve for this residency (he’ll be there September 9–23). My predictions have my money on dinners from six-time James Beard nominee Hugh Acheson (July 8–21) and Los Angeles chef Jessica Koslow of Sqirl (August 19–September 2) selling out almost instantaneously. Like my fictional fave Katniss Everdeen once said, the odds are ever in your favor.