10 Perfect Recipes for Labor Day Weekend

Summer salads, boozy melons, and the best of the grill.
Marinated mozzarella and tomato salad makes an addictive alternative to caprese. Photograph by Anna Spiegel.

Whether you’re at the beach or on a staycation, Labor Day weekend is one of the best times to cook. The tomatoes are sweet, the berries ripe, the grill well-seasoned, and you’ll find plenty of friends ready to drink and eat away the last days of August. 

Here are ten of our favorite summertime recipes, including dishes from hot new restaurants, old standbys, and top food trucks. 

Marinated mozzarella and local tomato salad from Duke’s Grocery

We’re addicted to this twist on the caprese. Buffalo mozzarella is marinated in a bright, citrusy blend of herbs and chilies that’s also used to dress the salad. You’ll never go back to balsamic again. 

Molokai Mule cocktails from Bar Charley 

These deceptively potent tiki cocktails are simple to make and even easier to drink. Garnish them with little umbrellas and fruit for a beachy look.

The Burger Américain from Le Diplomate

Sure, these patties are griddled instead of grilled, but you can always tweak the cooking style if you’re set on live flames. Just don’t miss the American cheese, pickles, and “special sauce.”

Gazpacho from the Pepe Food Truck

One of the best gazpachos in Washington can be found aboard José Andrés’s food truck. The silky soup gets its kick from sherry vinegar and its richness from quality Spanish olive oil.

Fried chicken tacos from Tico 

Tacos? Good. Fried chicken? Gooood. Combine the two and you have the ultimate crowd-pleaser. Fennel slaw and spicy buttermilk dressing make for tasty toppings. 

Vodka-infused watermelon from Bourbon Steak

Channel your inner college kid and prepare to get tipsy off of this booze-infused melon. The main difference between now and the frat party days: quality vodka such as Belvedere—this is from a Four Seasons restaurant, after all. 

Avocado bruschetta from Cork 

An oldie but a great-y. This vegetarian/vegan appetizer requires little effort, but scores big in the flavor department. 

Spice-grilled chicken with yogurt and herbed slaw from Estadio

Consider chef Haidar Karoum‘s dish perfect party food: Marinated chicken thighs can feed a crowd without breaking the bank, and most of the components can be made ahead. More important, it’s delicious. 

Lamb burgers from Brandon’s Little Truck

Skip the beef and try these juicy, rich patties kicked up with garlic, fresh mint, and cilantro. Feta takes the place of cheddar, and a topping of spinach, fennel, and more herbs brightens the burger. 

Berry cobbler from Red Truck Bakery

Farm stands are overflowing with blueberries and blackberries, so it’s prime time to whip up this divine cobbler. Serve vanilla ice cream alongside for the perfect summer dessert. 

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Anna Spiegel
Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.