Heirloom Tomato Smorrebrod at Vandaag ($12)
Tomatoes on toast: classic. But Vandaag would never just leave it at that, of course. Atop a toasted-up piece of their honey wheat bread, tomatoes join the creamy-middled, gently funky sheep's milk Shushan Snow from Three Corner Field Farm, along with amarillo pepper (more fruity than spicy) and basil seeds steeped in sherry. It's the sort of dish that changes with every bite—salty then sweet, spicy then rich—but none of that distracts from the juicy chunks of tomato.
Heirloom tomato salad with fried bread and salt cod at The John Dory Oyster Bar ($15)
We love how restaurants can combine similar ingredients in such different ways. The John Dory Oyster Bar also uses a soft, funky sheep's cheese and basil seeds, but here it's the spreadably smooth Spanish miticrema, whose tartness perks up a bed of tomatoes (of at least 5 different colors), greens, herbs (parsley, marjoram, dill, and Thai basil), and fried bread. (Other places might euphemize that as a "crouton." John Dory tells it like it is.) Salt cod grated over the top adds an elusive salty, fishy note.
Heirloom Tomato & Chiang Mai Sausage Salad at Kin Shop ($15)
Fragrant and spicy coriander nam prik lays on a base layer of heat that supports the rest of the dish here, while toasted pine nuts and fried egg thread cakes add some crunch. Bite into one of the kaffir lime-scented house-made chiang mai sausages and you're convinced it's the best part of the dish, but nah, it's the tomatoes. They're chunky and juicy, dressed in a sweet and sour black vinegar dressing.
P.L.T. at Maialino ($14 sandwich alone, $17 with soup)
Is there any better way to eat a summer tomato than in a classic B.L.T.? Maybe. When the bread is replaced with crisp/chewy pizza bianca (Ed has a theory that any sandwich is better on pizza bianca), the tomatoes are amazing heirlooms from Pennsylvania, the lettuce is stays-crisp-even-when-dressed-with-mayo escarole, and the bacon is house-made, house-smoked, black pepper and rosemary-rubbed pancetta cooked until crisp.
The best part of this lunch special at Maialino is that for an extra $3, you get a bowl of soup to go along with it (soup rotates daily—it's worth holding out for their awesome stracciatella).
Rustic Greek Salad at Kefi ($9.50)
When was the last time you were blown away by a Greek salad? Tomatoes, onions, peppers, cucumber, some olives, a bit of grilled bread, all tossed together with vinegar and olive oil and sprinkled with feta cheese. Simple, even pedestrian, right? Kefi's version may not be the most innovative of dishes, but awesome tomatoes show you what a great Greek salad should really taste like, transforming salad bar-fare into a full-blown summer celebration.
Heirloom Tomato Tart at Joseph Leonard ($13)
Caramelized onion puree coats the underside of a puff pastry base (baked to order, expect to wait at least 15 minutes), while the top gets a spread of intense heirloom tomato jam—followed by a whole boatload of heirloom cherry tomatoes tossed with a vinaigrette and drizzled with olive oil, reduced balsamic, feta cheese, and crisply fried onions. There's an awful lot going on in this dish but it comes together in a surprisingly straightforward and delicious way.
Fried Green Heirloom Tomatoes at The Vanderbilt ($12)
Plenty of fried green tomatoes are more fry than tomato. Not so at The Vanderbilt, where the cornmeal crust is just a crisp, hot shell over chunky wedges of ripe green heirloom tomatoes, the heat rendering them gushingly sweet. It's served with a ranch-like dressing that's not at all goopy, but satisfyingly creamy, and refreshing against the crust—well-spiced, perfectly salty with a mild, lingering cayenne heat.
Heirloom Tomato Salad at Back Forty ($12)
Heirloom Tomato Toast at ABC Kitchen ($12)
Proof that simple dishes can be amazing when done well. Sure, it looks like just tomatoes on toast. But the little accents make all the difference: a thin layer of Parmesan, just a little sharp, salty bite; a thorough dousing of olive oil; salt and pepper judiciously distributed. Then there are the tomatoes themselves, of course, as vibrant in flavor as in color. On bread that's crunchy but not tough to bite, it feels deliciously indulgent, drippingly sweet and totally irresistible.