Memorial Day marks the beginning of summer, and summer is arguably the best food season of the year. All those block parties and backyard barbecues have a little extra emphasis this year, so it’s more than fair to get the summer festivities started a little early. And no good summer gathering is complete without food. Below, we’ve ranked our favorite Memorial Day foods, from the blandly healthy to the deliciously processed (we’re looking at you, corn dogs). Fire up the grill, get the condiments out, and prepare for a summer of good eating.
11. Veggie Plate
You know what I’m talking about—baby carrots, cucumber slices, bell peppers, celery, tomato. All colorfully nestled around a tiny container of ranch for dipping. Is it the best snack in the world? No. But is it good? Yeah, kinda. Better than chips at least. And the ranch ensures you’re not keeping it too health-conscious.
We’re getting our mayo-based dishes out of the way fast, huh? Probably for the best. Coleslaw classifies as more of a condiment than its own food, but it’s a summer staple. You know you’re outside at a barbecue when there’s a bowl of this stuff being ignored at the corner of the table. But it doesn’t deserve to be ignored. It improves just about anything you’re eating, works perfectly on a sandwich, and gives you a nice crunch. What more can you ask of shredded veggies slathered in mayo?
9. Potato Salad
We’ve only got this so low because of variance. Great potato salads can elevate an entire gathering, but bad potato salads are inedible mood-killers. If you make the latter, push this up a few spots.
8. Macaroni Salad
Same exact thing as potato salad—potential game changer, but too much recipe variance to rely on it.
Corn isn’t quite in season yet, but you can probably find a few fresh stalks at your local farmer’s market. This stuff is good no matter how you prepare it, so we’re encompassing all of them here—grilled, steamed, in a salad, you name it. It also qualifies as another thing that goes well with mayo, but then again what doesn’t?
Another treat that’s not quite in season, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a fresh one. Watermelons brighten everyone’s mood. They’re light, sweet, and there’s about a thousand different ways to cut and sculpt them. Plus they come with their own built-in entertainment in the form of seed spitting contests. Unless you’re one of those heroes who hollows it out to serve liquor right in the dang melon.
5. Corn Dogs
Is it fair to put corn dogs on this list when their much more attractive cousins are waiting a few spots below? Probably not. But nothing quite says summer like eating a deep fried battered hot dog on a stick. Or any food on a stick, really. Hot dogs just look the funniest.
I mean, duh. No barbecue feels complete without burgers. No matter how you prepare them or what you put on them, they’re a true sign of summer. Just don’t hover—let whoever’s grilling these do it in peace.
3. Fried Chicken
Is fried chicken a Memorial Day food? Screw it, we’re making it one. Some people might prefer grilled chicken (especially at a barbecue), but some people are wrong. Bring a bucket of the fresh stuff to your nearest vaccinated gathering and watch it disappear quicker than anything else. You should make it fresh and not chicken out (get it?!) by bringing a fast food bucket, but honestly, that’ll go just as quickly.
2. Italian Ices
Real paisans know: summer is ice season. You really can’t go wrong with any flavor, but your best bets are cherry or lemon. They’ll make you feel like someone fast-forwarded the year by two months.
1. Hot Dogs
Hot dogs, like almost everything on this list, can be enjoyed year round. But they just hit differently when eaten outside in warm weather. Quality doesn’t matter either—a dirty water dog from your local cart will do just fine if that’s what’s available to you. Hot dogs get a bad rap for being random tubes of mystery meat, but honestly, that’s what makes them great. You can stack them with veggies and condiments to your heart’s desire, and they’re eminently Instagrammable. What’s more American than that?