Celebrate Tomato Season Before It Ends With These 11 Dishes

Nothing says late summer bliss like the sweet juiciness of a plump tomato. Here are the best tomato dishes in Philly right now.

blt tomato season

A BLT from Maria’s Bread Sandwiches capitalizes on tomato season before it ends. / Photograph by Kae Lani Palmisano

We’re in the Sunday afternoon of summer. This is the time of year when things feel slow and luxurious, and any time I get to a farmers’ market, I come home with piles of produce so large you’d think I was trying to feed a family of six, not just myself. We’re in the thick of peak produce season, the time of year when restaurants are so spoiled for choice with peaches, tomatoes, corn and melon that specials menus start to rival real menus. The crowning glory here is, of course, tomatoes, which come in so many shapes and sizes. They’re good at home, sprinkled with salt and eaten on toast, but they’re even more special in restaurants, where they can be fully realized into their juicy, delicious selves. Here are the 11 tomato dishes we’re most excited to eat before the season ends.

The Tomato Specials at Middle Child and Middle Child Clubhouse, Center City and Fishtown
We can’t kick off this list without acknowledging the elephant-size BLT in the room. Stacked with three thick slices of multicolored heirloom tomatoes and fistfuls of bacon, Middle Child’s BLT — and the exclusive BLT caviar service, limited to 10 lucky patrons a night — is the talk of the town. But both Middle Child and the Middle Child Clubhouse are experimenting with the tomato’s versatility in other exciting ways through their tomato season specials. In Center City, the BBL-T adds burrata to the mix as well as a little sneaky heat with a slather of tomato-chili jam, while their classic Italian hoagie gets a little tomato treatment in the form of the So Long Sully. In Fishtown, the B.I.G Greek Salad gets some tomato love, as does the Triple Decker Turkey Club with more of that tomato-chili jam.

Fried Oysters at Illata, Grad Hospital
The fried oysters at Illata are a study in textures: tender, lightly breaded fried oyster sits atop a smear of aioli, finished off with thinly sliced heirloom tomatoes. The juices from the tomatoes lightly absorb into the oysters, leaving behind a slick of aioli and tomato juice that you’ll sop up with their house-made sourdough.

Tomato Pie at Irwin’s, East Passyunk
Do not let the title of tomato pie fool you: Irwin’s special summer version is more like a tart, with a delicate shell holding a filling of pecorino, puréed bagna cauda and tomato caramel, topped with raw and roasted tomatoes.

Picnic Martini at Art in the Age, Old City
While it might be true that martini variations have jumped the shark, the picnic martini at Art in the Age is an aptly named drink made with tomato-infused vermouth, plus peach syrup and a grape tomato garnish. Rather than skewing overly salty like so many dirty martini variations, this one leans fruity, with a backbone of herbaceous gin.

The Picnic Martini at Art in the Age / Photograph by Quaker City Mercantile

Add a Jersey Tomato to Every Sandwich at Maria’s Bread Sandwiches, Collingswood, New Jersey
There are numerous ways to celebrate tomato season at Maria’s Bread Sandwiches. Of course, there are the tomato mayo and the classic BLT sandwiches — both simple in structure but high quality in terms of sourced ingredients, from the sourdough bread to the fresh tomatoes from Viereck Farms. But then there are their other intentionally crafted sandwiches, most of which you can (and should) enhance with a slice of certified Jersey Fresh tomato. I highly recommend adding it to the Down the Shore Chicken Salad Sandwich, where the juicy sweetness is amplified by the saltiness of the Old Bay seasoning. It’s worth the PATCO trip to Collingswood.

Maltagliati at Pietramala, Northern Liberties
Maltagliati translates from Italian to mean “badly cut,” which is charmingly casual for a restaurant like Pietramala where nothing is done badly, or even casually. Still, this style of torn squares of pasta, coated in roasted tomatoes and topped with chanterelles, is richly comforting in a way you’d never expect from a vegan restaurant. Such is the magic of Pietramala.

Sungold Focaccia at Mighty Bread, East Passyunk
BLTs get a lot of shine, but everyone knows the real star of a great BLT is the tomato, not the bacon. What if, and stay with me here, you made a BLT on Mighty Bread’s sungold-studded focaccia? This tender, oily bread would be the perfect way to double down on tomatoes.

Tomato Toast at Wim Cafe, Queen Village
Tomato toast should be your breakfast basically every day of the month of August, and Wim Cafe’s version should be at least one of those meals. It’s the kind of indulgent but simple dish you’d never make for yourself: a thick slather of ricotta topped with chunks of tomato, fresh basil and olive oil.

Tomato Sandwich at Honeysuckle Provisions, University City
You might not realize quite how special Honeysuckle’s tomato sandwich is unless you eat it, so I’d like to explain it to you. It’s got their signature Yam bread (hello, tender) epis mayonnaise, fresh tarragon, lacto-fermented cucumbers from Sankofa Farms, and heirloom tomatoes. This is not the tomato sandwich you grew up eating, but you should be eating it.

Chickpea Panisse With Sungolds at a.kitchen, Rittenhouse
Chickpea panisse, a chickpea fritter common in the South of France, is the counterweight to sweet sungolds in this dish from a.kitchen. It’s a classic example of chef Eli Collins’s deftness, highlighting peak season ingredients in a way that is surprising without overwhelming the inherent greatness of the vegetable in question.

Tomato Hullabaloo at River Twice, East Passyunk
If one tomato dish doesn’t seem like enough, consider buying tickets to River Twice’s tomato hullabaloo, a blowout evening of all tomato dishes, including their beloved tomato sandwich topped with caviar. Tickets are still available for the August 22nd event via Resy.