After months of bad weather, it’s finally nice outside. Take advantage of the Chicago sun before it quickly gets cold again and have a picnic in one of our favorite spots - Ping Tom Memorial Park, Millennium Park, or Humboldt Park. And to make your picnic even easier, we’ve put together this guide with the best markets, restaurants, and delis to pick up food from nearby.
No picnic is complete without dessert, and Tate’s Bake Shop Chocolate Chip Cookies are the perfect way to finish your outdoor meal. Dunk them in your coffee, make a DIY ice cream sandwich, or just eat them pure and simple. Grab your blanket, a cooler, and some Tate’s Bake Shop cookies on the way - you’ll find everything else you need below.
Ping Tom Memorial Park
Originally an old railroad yard, Ping Tom Memorial Park has transformed into beautiful rolling greenery with unbeatable views of the river. It’s an ideal place to set up a picnic with friends, enjoy some much-needed peace as your kids tire themselves at the playground, or take a riverfront walk admiring the city views and impressive Chinese landscape design.
La Michoacana has great paletas and regular ice cream. Our favorite is the cajeta ice cream, which tastes like frozen condensed milk in the best way. Combine it with your favorite Tate’s Bake Shop cookies and win the picnic with ice cream sandwiches for dessert.
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 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.
Of course, Chicago’s crown jewel - Millennium Park is a go-to for the perfect picnic. Find a spot on the Great Lawn where you can admire Chicago’s iconic architecture or hang out with the plants at Lurie Garden and find a peaceful place to relax and take in the skyline views.
Sure, you can go to the grocery store 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. While you’re there, get a coffee for some Tate’s Bake Shop cookie dunking too.
A short drive from Millennium park, this Texas-style BBQ has meats like ribs, brisket, and pulled pork, and excellent sides like broccoli salad, cornbread, baked beans, and elotes.
J.P. Graziano Grocery & Sub Shop
J.P. 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.
200 acres of green space surrounding a picturesque lagoon, what better picnic backdrop can you ask for? Humboldt Park offers plenty of room to claim your place in the sun and lay out your beautiful picnic spread for you and your friends.
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.
Nothing feels more like “it’s finally summer” than sitting outside on Big Star’s patio 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 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. For the finale - finish off with some of those Tate’s Bake Shop cookies.