Pastoral

Grab your basket: 6 of Chicago’s best picnic possibilities

It’s prime season for al fresco dining, so grab your checkered blanket and beat a path to the nearest patch of grass. Whether you’re headed for Ravinia, Millennium Park, the beach, or just your own backyard, we have a line on the best sources for all your provisions. Some provide complete picnics; others are filled with great pre-made grub, but no matter what you choose, you won’t be disappointed.

Wine and cheese in the park means Pastoral
The prince of picnics in Chicago is, hands down, Pastoral, an artisan cheese and wine source with locations all over town. They have a wide variety of full picnic packages, most of which will run you around $40. All are stuffed with fancy cheese, meat, bread, and fixins’ perfect for nibbling. Our favorite: Taste of the Midwest, which has local charcuterie from places like La Quercia and Smoking Goose, goat cheese from Clock Shadow Creamery in Milwaukee, dried cherries from Door County, and much more.

Honey Butter Fried Chicken—a drumstick in the hand is worth two on the plate
Fried chicken is one of the best picnic foods—it’s delicious even when it's cold, and the only utensils you need are your hands. Honey Butter Fried Chicken ups the ante with their “Picnic Pack,” which includes chicken, corn muffins, kale slaw, pasta salad, and chocolate cookies for four people. For $45, that’s a pretty impressive spread.

Do it up the old-fashioned way with Gene’s Sausage Shop
Gene’s is best known for its incredible meat selection—if you want to bring 15 kinds of sausage on your picnic, there’s really no place else to go—but their great selection of pre-made, German-inspired foods is often overlooked, and frankly is tailor-made for an old-fashioned picnic. Slaws galore, potato salads, meatloaf, roast chicken, and more, all at totally reasonable prices. Grab a bottle of prosecco upstairs and you’re set for the day.

Carry out a romantic feast from The Florentine
If you’re hoping to impress your date, the Florentine has the picnic for you. The Ciao Bella Date picnic, a minor splurge at $65, is practically a full seven-course meal, along with a bottle of wine. Start with house-made breadsticks, then snack on cheeses and olives, move through prosciutto-wrapped melon, pull out your Roasted Amish Chicken (with baby carrots and roasted potatoes), and finish with biscotti.

A perfect promenade and pique-nique with Toni Patisserie
For a taste of Paris right across from Millennium Park, look no further; Toni has you covered, and at a reasonable price to boot. For $13.95, you can get a half of one of their amazing baguette sandwiches—we love La Breton, made with ham, salted butter and, cornichons—plus your choice between a bag of fancy chips, a fruit cup, or a mixed green side salad, and for dessert have either a brownie, a chocolate chip cookie, two macarons, or two shortbread cookies. Call ahead to confirm; sometimes they require a minimum order.

J.P. Graziano has everything you need to roll Italian-style
Hankering for a picnic that sidesteps the familiar German staples? Head to Italy with J.P. Graziano. Not only do they have the best Italian sandwiches in Chicago (order the Mr. G—with imported provolone and prosciutto, hot oil, marinated artichokes, fresh basil, and truffle mustard balsamic vinaigrette—and thank us later), but they have a full line of gourmet Italian groceries to stuff your basket. Grab some Parmigiano-Reggiano straight from the wheel, layer on some prosciutto, and you’ll be singing opera in no time.

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