Summer is at its peak: the days are long, temperatures are hot and the air conditioning is cranked up high.  If you’re like me, spending these ideal summer days inside an office is, well, less than ideal.  Fortunately, a glimmer of hope exists in the middle of the day: the summer lunch.

Summer lunches are your chance to get outside, enjoy the day and really taste summer.  If you’re working, summer lunch break is liberating.  It’s refreshing.  It’s hard to go back to the office when it’s over!  If you’re lucky enough to have summers off, it’s the perfect meal for getting out and enjoying the season.

Today, we celebrate the summer lunch.  Whether you only have a few minutes to grab a sandwich, can take time to enjoy a leisurely ladies lunch or conspire with co-workers to slip away for an hour on a restaurant patio, take a moment to appreciate this delightful dining occasion.

We’ve compiled some of our favorite summer lunch suggestions below:

The summer salad – Most restaurants have one, or roll out a special recipe just for the season.  A bite of a crisp, refreshing salad is the perfect answer to a hot summer day.  Try a strawberry-poppyseed version or the Mediterranean inspired cucumber and tomato-based option.  Even a traditional Cobb or Caesar will do the trick.  It’s a light, delightful lunch that might save you some calories too!

Gazpacho – What better way to cool off on a hot day than with a chilled cup of flavorful gazpacho?  This cold tomato soup often comes with fresh veggies you can stir in at your leisure, adding a refreshing crunch to the soup, or a dollop of sour cream to add some thickness.  Try it alone or with a summer salad for a more filling meal.

Fish tacos – Fresh fish tacos offer a summery take on the ubiquitous Mexican staple.  Top yours with a fresh mango salsa for some tang, or add fresh pico-de-gallo if you’re more of a savory flavor lover.

The club sandwich – Nearly every restaurant has some version of this layered sandwich, and with good reason.  The club is a satisfying flavor combo that is said to have originated – where else – in a social club.  It’s the perfect after golf snack or satisfying working lunch.  Don’t forget the traditional potato chips on the side!

Burgers – It’s impossible to leave this summer grilling staple off our lunch list.  Burgers are emblematic of the summer season and figure in most backyard parties and restaurant menus that you’ll visit during the summer month.  If you’re enjoying lunch in a restaurant, add some fun flavors to your burger that you might not at home.  Try a black bean burger with pepperjack cheese and a slice of avocado, or add ham and pineapple to your burger for a Hawaiian spin.

Don’t forget to wash your lunch down with a cold ice tea or lemonade (or mix them together to make an Arnold Palmer.)  If you’ve got extra time, treat yourself to an cool treat for dessert: Key Lime Pie, Sorbet and fresh berries are a great way to end your meal.

What are your favorite summer lunch dishes?  Tell us in the comments section below!