Home Food Dish Local Chefs Share Their Go-To Drinks and Dishes for Summer Cookouts

Local Chefs Share Their Go-To Drinks and Dishes for Summer Cookouts

We asked some of our area’s best chefs, “You’re invited to a neighborhood cookout. What dish or beverage do you bring?”

Photo by James Stefiuk

“Creamy limeade is a cool, refreshing drink on a hot summer day and something that will leave the neighbors talking!”

Erik Monroe-Thompson Pittsboro Roadhouse

4 juicy limes (add more or fewer depending on your preferred strength)
4 cups cold water
1 can condensed milk Ice

Wash limes, cut into wedges and remove the white pith. Combine water and limes in a blender, blend until smooth. Strain with a fine mesh strainer. Return liquid to blender, add condensed milk and blend briefly. Serve over ice and garnish with limes.

Also try Erik’s favorite summertime dish:

1 pint strawberries, hulled and finely diced
1 small jalapeño, seeds removed and finely diced
¼ red onion, finely diced
½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Juice of 1 fresh lime
Pinch of salt and pepper
½ tsp. garlic clove, chopped

¼ cup rice vinegarMix all ingredients in a bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

Use the best ahi tuna you can buy at a fish market. Season the tuna with salt, pepper and garlic.

Heat your cast iron skillet until smoking. Sear the tuna on both sides until brown without cooking, about 30 seconds on each side.

Let the tuna rest for 5 minutes.

Slice the tuna thinly on an angle.

Arrange on a plate and top with the strawberry salsa. Garnish with fresh cilantro.


“Elote de la calle – Mexican-style street corn. We can grill the freshest, most flavorful local corn, never have to turn on an oven or boil water and serve it on the cob. But the corn is finished in a way that is new to a lot of us who grew up eating it with just butter and salt.”

Brandon Sharp The Carolina Inn

4 ears ripe white or yellow corn, unshucked
½ cup mayonnaise
8 oz. queso cotija, grated on the fine side of a box grater
1 Tbsp. Piment d’Espelette (or ancho chile powder)
½ cup finely sliced scallions

Preheat your grill to 400 F. Roast the corn on the grill with the lid closed. Turn the corn occasionally, for about 45 minutes or until the corn is done (a kernel pops juicily under your fingertip if you peel back  the husk and test the kernels). Let the corn cool for five minutes.

Spread the queso cotija in an even layer on a large dinner plate or in a shallow casserole.

Using a sharp, heavy knife, cut off the stalk end – not the flower end – of the cob (you will lose 3-4 rows of kernels). Holding the husk and silk at the flower end, slowly but forcefully squeeze the corn out of the husk. It may take a minute, and you may have to slit the husk a bit up the side, but don’t give up. Once you have removed the corn this way, it will be completely silk-free and you’ll be holding a handful of blackened corn husk and silk.  

With a butter knife, small rubber spatula or the back of a spoon, slather the warm corn with the mayonnaise.  Roll each cob – one by one – in the queso cotija, evening out the grated cheese between turns.  Once the corn is coated with mayo and cheese, arrange them close to each other on a serving platter. Garnish with Piment d’Espelette and scallions.  Serve right away.


“I would bring a chilled glass noodle salad with lots of fresh herbs, radishes, carrots and scallions. I marinate it in a soy- and oyster sauce-based dressing. It’s really refreshing and light in the summer and a nice change from the cliche pasta salad.”

Robert Warren Flair Restaurant and Wine Bar



“We’ll either bring wine or if we’re going to make something, we might make sangria. It’s fruity so you can put any kind of fruit in it and it’s good with ice. It’s a little bit sweet so everybody likes it.”

Matt Neal Neal’s Deli



“On a hot afternoon if we are headed to a cookout, why not a cool watermelon salad?”

Melody Bowers Mel’s Commissary & Catering
Juice of two limes or 3 Tbsp. of lime juice
1 cup of red onion, sliced lengthwise
15 cups of cubed watermelon
3 cups of cubed cucumber
1-8 oz. container of crumbled feta cheese
½ cup of chopped cilantro or chopped mint (I use whatever I have in the garden)
Cracked black pepper
Sea salt
Marinate the red onions in lime juice while preparing the salad. Combine watermelon, cucumber, feta cheese and cilantro or mint in a bowl. Toss the watermelon salad with the marinated red onions and season to taste with black pepper and sea salt. Chill in fridge while getting ready and then head over to your neighbors deck.