Nothing says summer like a picnic.
There’s something inherently romantic about gathering a delicious collection of comestibles to be enjoyed al fresco.
When you’re attending one of the many outdoor concerts in Chicago, visiting a local park, or exploring one of our forest preserves, bringing a picnic basket filled with goodies enhances the experience and makes it even more memorable.
Sure, you could just stop at KFC and pick up a bucket of finger lickin’ good, but why would you when there are so many options for creating a customized meal that’s perfect for you?
We’ve got five of the best places in Chicago to pack a perfect picnic. Did we miss your favorite spot? Leave a comment!
While alcohol choice is included in some of the descriptions, alcoholic beverages are not allowed in Chicago beaches or parks. Millennium Park’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion and the Great Lawn is the exception, and then alcohol is only allowed during certain performances. Check our Millennium Park guide for details.
Chicago French Market
The main problem you’ll have when shopping for your picnic at the Chicago French Market is buying more than you can carry.
This indoor collection of local purveyors and producers has pretty much everything you could want for your al fresco dining experience.
In addition to an outpost of Pastoral (see below), the market includes a Kosher deli, a shop dedicated to olive oils and vinegars, a few bakeries, fresh produce, and several vendors offering prepared meals.
You can even get some almost-too-pretty-to-eat sweet treats to end your meal in style.
Chicago French Market, 131 N Clinton St
This market is an extension of Fountainhead, the gastropub and craft beer and whiskey emporium, so the items are locally sourced and guaranteed to be delicious.
Try a smoked Michigan Farms turkey and prairie pure swiss with arugula pistou on 9 grain bread; or grilled spring vegetables, smoked hummus, and spicy tzatziki sauce wrapped in lavosh.
In addition to grab-and-go sandwiches and snacks there’s a healthy selection of craft beer and whiskeys.
Want to know what to put in your perfect picnic basket? Here’s what Chef Cleetus Friedman recommends:
- Crafted by Cleetus Trois Poivre
- West Loop Salumi Soppressata
- Landmark Creamery Petite Nuage
- Fountainhead Pub Cheese
- Potters Whole Wheat Crackers
- Rare Bird Strawberry Rhubarb Preserves
- DeQuMaNa Arbequena Olives
- Pommery Fine Moutarde
- Crusty Baguette
- Liquid Geography Rose
- Poggio Anima Uriel
Fountainhead Market, 1966 W Montrose Ave
Goddess & Grocer
The founder of Goddess and Grocer has catered for Paul McCartney, Justin Timberlake, Phish, and Arcade Fire, to name a few, which makes this the perfect spot to pick up your outdoor concert provisions.
You can pick up gourmet sandwiches like the ancho-marinated flank steak with cilantro-mint chimichurri, a variety of salads, or you can order one of their picnic baskets.
Goddess & Grocer Bucktown, 1649 N Damen Ave; Goddess & Grocer River North, 901 N Larrabee St; Goddess & Grocer Gold Coast, 1127 N State St
Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread, and Wine
There’s a reason this shop has been the go-to picnic supplier since they opened in Lakeview East. They’ve even got it all in their name: artisan cheese, bread, and wine.
Pastoral lets you build-your-own picnic baskets. You start by selecting whether you’d like Fresh (with fruit), Savory (with charcuterie), or Sweet (with dried fruits). They’ll have pre-selected options to fill your basket, or you can choose your own. They’ve also got wine options if you’d like to add a bottle.
Pastoral Lakeview, 2945 N Broadway Ave; Pastoral Loop, 53 E Lake St; Pastoral Chicago French Market, 131 N Clinton St
You can pick up mini beef tenderloin and grilled chicken breast sandwiches, wraps, a variety of salads, and box lunches and dinners.
Their deli counter includes items that go beyond coleslaw and three bean salad, like fettuccine with sun dried tomatoes (pictured), bow tie pasta with asparagus and mostaccioli with garlic chicken.
They also feature fresh baked bread and a nice selection of wines and craft beers to accompany your choices.
Sunset Foods, 1812 Green Bay Road, Highland Park
Where’s your favorite place to pack your picnic basket? Leave a comment and let us know!
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