1. Vegan ice cream ($6–9 per cup) from Awan
Chef-driven, fully vegan and newly featured in the New York Times and our best ice creams list, Zen Ong’s coconut-based ice cream might be the trendiest frozen treat of the summer. Each of the tiny West Hollywood takeaway window’s rotating flavors are made with gourmet ingredients, including Valrhona chocolate, arava melon and even ripe summer mango. Unlike other plant-based ice creams, Awan’s scoops completely disguise the taste of coconut for an ultra-smooth, creamy base—the perfect blank canvas for Ong’s Indonesian-inspired flavors, seasonal produce and everything else in between.
2. Godmother ($9–$12) from Bay Cities
The Godmother is a quintessential Westside dish—meaning a takeout stop at this Santa Monica deli is perfect before a long beach day (since Bay Cities closes at 6pm). Piled high with salami, mortadella, prosciutto, coppa, ham, provolone cheese, mild or spicy peppers and served on freshly baked, housemade bread, it’s a sandwich that draws lines almost every hour of the day. If you’d like to save time, order from Bay Cities’ website and pick up your fully stacked sandwich instead. You’ll find similar delivery-friendly versions ($13.50) at Uncle Paulie’s (Mid-City, Downtown, Studio City) and East Hollywood’s Ggiata ($16)—though these more centrally located, pricier options lack Bay Cities’ legacy and proximity to the Pacific Ocean.
3. Malai rigatoni ($19) from Pijja Palace
This brand-new Silver Lake pizza parlor offers South Asian-inspired takes on red sauce Italian classics, and the malai rigatoni has already become its most popular pasta dish to date. Though we personally prefer the tandoori spaghetti ($17), the rigatoni captures the hearts of most diners thanks to the tubular pasta shape generously covered in a spice-laden cream sauce that tastes like the “spicy” fusilli at Jon & Vinny’s—with the absolute flavor level turned up to 11.
4. Any crudo ($19–23) from Crudo e Nudo, plus a few other places
Though tinned fish might get all the glory, new-school crudo is this year’s unsung seafood craze, and much of the trend can be traced back locally to this breezy no-frills eatery on Santa Monica’s Main Street. Pops of acid, spice and color brighten the typically humdrum Italian raw dish for the most unforgettable non-sushi seafood meal you’ll have in L.A. Elsewhere around town, you’ll also find a standout kampachi crudo ($16) at Cobi’s, located a few blocks down from Crudo e Nudo, and the hamachi tiradito ($21) at Downtown’s Cabra—a similar Peruvian raw fish showered in avocado, tomato and a pleasant smattering of chili crunch.
5. Any hot dog ($5.95–$13.95) from Pink’s Hot Dogs
This bright pink hot dog stand at the corner of Melrose and La Brea might be the city’s most iconic frankfurter—other than the Dodger Dog, of course. The history, the simple chili dog and the wonderfully casual open-air digs make Pink’s the ideal Central L.A. pit stop for a timeless summertime snack. Make sure to peruse their paper menu full of specials named after celebrities from over the years, including Emeril Lagasse, Giada de Laurentiis and the late, great Betty White (apparently, she preferred no toppings whatsoever).
6. Skewers ($18–22 each) from Saffy’s on Fountain
Saffy's is the newest restaurant from the folks behind Bavel and Bestia. Open as of June 1, the (relatively) casual eatery is already perpetually packed with stylish Angelenos hoping to sample Ori and Genevieve Menashe’s Middle Eastern shish kebabs and small plates. Served right on the skewer, each juicy cut of meat slides right off with the aid of a fluffy ledge of laffa—and you can’t go wrong with any of them. Elsewhere on the menu, there’s also a playful bright red cherry limeade ($16)—a dreamy adult ice cream float that’ll leave you feeling like it’s the last day of school.
7. Buffalo milk soft serve ($6.75) from Yangban Society
Katianna and John Hong’s gourmet deli in the Arts District offers numerous delights, but the most summery among them is their ultra-creamy soft serve, made with water buffalo milk from NorCal’s Double 8 Dairy—a fattier, sweeter alternative to cow’s milk. Korean-ish toppings ($1 each) like doenjang-infused caramel, puffed rice and chocolate injeolmi add texture and flavor to the sweet dessert—a great end to a larger meal or a refreshing treat for area locals and weekend visitors. For more straightforward Asian soft serve, head to Honeymee (Koreatown, Sawtelle, Little Tokyo, Gardena, Cerritos) to enjoy swirls of milky ice cream topped with high-quality honey ($5.25) or brown sugar boba ($5.75).
8. Fish & chips ($9.95) from Malibu Seafood
Where else can you eat some of L.A.’s freshest seafood with a view of the ocean for under $10? Since 1972, this no-frills seafood shack has kept Malibu locals and visitors alike well-fed with crispy battered-and-fried rectangles of white fish on a bed of thick fries. At $9.95 for a one-piece meal and $14.95 for two pieces, it’s on our year-round best cheap eats list, but fish and chips feel particularly apt when summer’s in the air. For excellent, slightly pricier options closer to the city, there’s a lunch-only version ($23.70) at West L.A.’s John O’ Groats—since the beloved 40-year-old daytime spot closes at 3pm—and Joanne’s Fish and Chips ($26) at Connie and Ted’s in West Hollywood.
9. Naengmyeon ($14.99) from Ham Hung
Ice-cold buckwheat noodles can be found all over Koreatown, but the freshly made version at Ham Hung offers a no-frills strip mall version designed for diners on the go. The noodles, made almost entirely of potato and sweet potato starch, are thin, chewy and light—the kind of refreshing summer meal that’ll help beat the heat as temperatures citywide rise well into the 90s. For another equally delicious cold noodle dish, old-school Korean barbecue joint the Corner Place offers a refreshing bowl made with wheat-based somyeon ($14.50), but it’s better enjoyed alongside a larger meal of grilled meat and banchan.
10. Lobster roll ($25) from Broad Street Oyster
Lobster rolls might not be native to Los Angeles, but this luxurious New England treat from the city’s best new-school seafood shack is the perfect excuse to take a drive down PCH. Add on caviar or uni ($15 each) for one of the most expensive—but delicious—beachside snacks you’ll ever have. Broad Street also pops up at Smorgasburg every Sunday, if a trip to ROW DTLA is more your thing. For an even fancier version in Los Feliz, head to the equally popular (read: always crowded) Found Oyster for their lobster bisque roll ($29), which comes topped with serrano chiles for a slight kick.