Few things exemplify summertime noshing quite like a good picnic. Fortunately, Chicago is chock full of picnic-friendly parks and picnic-friendly restaurants and shops, the two essential ingredients to picnic perfection.
Honey Butter Fried Chicken (3361 N. Elston Ave.)
Fried chicken, cornbread, slaw and cookies are the stuff of picnic dreams. And they're all on deck at Honey Butter Fried Chicken, your quintessential destination for picnic provisions this season. For the Fourth of July, the Avondale restaurant has created special picnic packs that serve up to four people. Or one Jabba the Hutt. Each pack contains eight pieces of cold fried chicken, which is picnic food at its finest, along with four corn muffins, honey butter, kale and cabbage slaw with cumin-yogurt dressing and dried pomegranate, fusilli pasta salad with bacon-herb ranch dressing, and four chocolate toffee cookies. There are also plates, silverware, napkins and towelettes. Orders may be placed by calling 773-478-4000 and can be picked up on July 3 or July 4. Of course, Honey Butter Fried Chicken is generally a great destination for picking up to-go picnic-friendly meals any time of summer.
Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread & Wine (multiple locations)
Cheeses, charcuterie, wine, bread and more. This can all be had at Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread & Wine, AKA your dream store. The adorable market with locations in Lakeview, the Loop, and the Chicago French Market ensures customers are never far from their next picnic repast. Either assemble your own haphazard feast, order some sandwiches and sides, or compile a combo of both. They also have customized picnic packages, just to make things easy.
The NOSH (Two North Riverside Plaza)
Here's an offbeat way to get your picnic on: swing by The NOSH and load up on everything from haute tamales to chicken, cupcakes, lobster rolls and Southeast Asian street food. Chicago's preeminent artisanal food market, featuring a dozen or so local food vendors each week, is now in residence at Two North Riverside Plaza every Thursday and Friday through summer from 11:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. The vendor lineup changes periodically, but expect dishes from the likes of Pecking Order, New England Seafood Company, the Yum Dum Truck, and Dia De Los Tamales. It's a great way to sample a variety of eclectic eats and amass an internationally inspired picnic for a nearby park.
Eataly (43 E. Ohio St.)
Take your picnics in an Italian direction by swinging by Eataly to embark on a culinary shopping spree. The Italian mega-mart and restaurant assemblage is home to a dizzying array of grab-and-go dishes and drinks spread over 63,000 square feet of shopping space. The first floor contains a sprawling grocery-style marketplace stocked with produce aplenty, plus a vegetable butcher equipped to chop and prep your veggies for you as you shop. Go around the corner to purchase chocolates before heading upstairs to peruse cheeses, wines, beers, meats, sandwiches and lots more.
Block Thirty Seven (108 N. State St.)
The sleek mall in the heart of the Loop is home to a variety of picnic-ready eateries and cafes, from sandwiches to desserts. First, swing by Which Wich on the lower level to pick up some sandwiches. The menu offers an expansive assortment of ‘wiches, from BBQ pork to seafood, vegetables, chicken, beef, and everything in between. If you're feeling saucy, Simply Thalia next door has some refreshing Thai appetizers to partake in. Next, head up to the ground floor for cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery and chocolates from Godiva. Then mosey a couple blocks east to park yourself in Millennium Park and enjoy the view.
Photos: DCASE, Honey Butter Fried Chicken, Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread & Wine, The NOSH, Eataly, Magnolia Bakery