After months of bad weather, it’s finally nice outside. And according to both Yogi Bear and Monet, picnics are a lot of fun. We don’t argue with cartoon bears or French impressionists, so here are 15 restaurants offering takeout options that are perfect for a picnic - whether it’s in a park, by the lake, or even on the balcony of your apartment.
This little restaurant and wine shop has quite a few things that are great for a picnic, like various snacks, cheese (and things to put cheese on), pickles, and tinned fish. You can also ask them to make you a cheese plate, and then pick a bottle of wine to go with it.
This cafe’s menu is also incredibly picnic-friendly. You can order prepared food like sandwiches and salads, bread, cheese, and they even have a virtual butcher shop where you can get deli meat and sausages. In other words, this whole place is basically a virtual picnic basket.
It’s no secret we’re big fans of the handmade pasta at Daisies. And now they have a market where you can pick up a selection of fresh produce, meats, cheeses, and desserts. All of which are perfect for bringing to a park (or eating in your car).
Along with having some of Chicago’s best sandwiches (the Beet Street, with beets, apples, and almond butter, is one of the best in the city), Tempesta Market is also a deli and specialty store. This means you can get lots of meat and cheese, along with prepared foods like potato and pasta salads.
Sure, you can go to Whole Foods for all your cellophane-wrapped sandwich, prepared food, and salad needs. Or, you can just order from the market at Beatrix. They even have chocolates and fancy gummies that look like little sharks, both of which are scientifically proven to make picnics better.
This Italian grocery store and sub shop has been in the West Loop for over 80 years, which is about how long it feels like the pandemic has lasted. And JP Graziano is a fantastic option for sandwiches and things like potato and pasta salads. The Italian sandwich is our favorite, but you can’t go wrong with anything (the muffaletta is also excellent). Order a cannoli, too, while you’re at it.
Nonna’s is another casual Italian sandwich shop in the West Loop - it’s the newer version of J.P. Graziano. The big difference? They also offer hot subs. If you’re looking for a meatball or chicken parm sub, then Nonna’s is your spot.
Not only does Floriole make some of our favorite bread and pastries in the city, but this bakery in Lincoln Park also has some excellent sandwiches - like the bacon, arugula, and date (B.A.D). And any of those things are perfect to take (along with a bottle of wine) to a picnic in Lincoln Park.
This is the original location of this classic Chinese bakery (there’s another in Uptown and a new one in Pilsen), though we love them all. Anything from their pastry case will be great for a picnic, such as the pork buns, sponge cakes, sesame balls, egg custards, dim sum, and much more. Everything is made fresh daily, and it’s all delicious.
This Logan Square sandwich shop is a collaboration between the former Blackbird chef and a chef from the sandwich spot Turkey and the Wolf in New Orleans. This means the sandwiches (like the grinders, or the collard melt with braised collard greens, Russian dressing, and Swiss cheese on rye) are incredible. Plus they have they have fun to-go drinks like milk punch or the ecto cooler.
Big Star’s huge perfect-for-day-drinking patio is one of the most likable in the city. So nothing feels more like “it’s finally summer” than sitting outside with margaritas, fresh chips, guacamole, and some tacos. Luckily you can recreate this feeling yourself because all of those things are available in the “DIY taco kit” which you can order for carryout or delivery. Then head to your favorite picnic spot, and make a patio in the park.
This Pilsen market has meat, cheese, a deli counter with prepared foods like salads and sandwiches, and a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables. Because you know what your picnic spread needs? Some grapes.
Last year, Table Donkey & Stick started offering specialty pizzas, which are very good. But it’s important not to forget their roots as a European cafe. Here you’ll find fantastic charcuterie, cheese, crusty bread, and small plates like latkes and salads, along with wine and beer - all of which are ideal to take on a romantic picnic. But if eating Sicilian pan-style pizza on a blanket in Palmer Square park sounds perfect, by all means, go for it.
Gene’s Sausage Shop
Yes, you should definitely get an assortment of sausages from Gene’s in Logan Square. But don’t forget to pick up some cheese, crackers, and basically anything else you expect to find in one of those Pepperidge Farm holiday gift baskets. Pair all of that with some beer and macaroni salad, and head straight over to Winnemac Park.
Lem’s is a classic counter-service BBQ spot (it’s been around since 1954) with fantastic rib tips, hot links, and fried chicken. Cold fried chicken is an old-school picnic staple, so pick up some of that along with some of their potato salad and coleslaw.
Despite restrictions are being lifted, hopefully no one will have to endure a company picnic this summer. That said, as awkward as a three-legged race with your boss can be, sometimes the food is pretty good. The Texas-style BBQ at Green Street reminds us of the best part of those picnics. You’ll find meats like ribs, brisket, and pulled pork, and excellent sides like broccoli salad, cornbread, baked beans, and elotes.