Outdoors-ish: That’s the word for the picnics planned by Kaneisha Montague and Saaghir Mitchell.
These sorts of pop-up events—which Montague and Mitchell prepare in greenspaces around the city, like Old Fourth Ward Park—became a cottage industry during the pandemic: Pinterest-inspired, Instagram-ready affairs that might fill a hole, if only somewhat, where restaurant dining once was. It’s more than just a blanket thrown down on the grass. Under a waterproof tent, Montague and Mitchell arrange mounds of pillows and throws, boho-chic textiles, even books, in a vision-board version of your living room. And then, they serve food. The result is airy, glamp-style, element-resistant digs for those who want to dine comfortably outdoors—or, again, outdoors . . . ish.
If customers have sought out Montague and Mitchell’s business, Elevated Picnics, as a pandemic adaptation, that’s also the spirit in which the business arose. Until 2020, the high-school sweethearts led separate work lives, she as the cofounder and lead instructor at a dance studio, he as an event coordinator—Mitchell organized rooftop soirees, for instance, at Ponce City Market. But the crisis forced Montague to shutter her studio, and Mitchell’s bookings petered out; the couple had to recalibrate. They spent a day or two putting sticky note to white board, brainstorming ways they could foster connection around their strong suits—food and fellowship—and “bring people back together again safely,” Mitchell says.
Launched in August 2020, Elevated Picnics was a way to combine Montague’s knack for design and Mitchell’s expertise in the logistics of swank events. “Clients come and say that they haven’t been out to eat in four or five months,” Montague says. Elevated Picnics provides privacy and seclusion, even in the middle of a public park, as well as full meals—whereas other luxe-picnic planners tend more toward finger foods and wine. Mitchell cooks dishes like honey-garlic shrimp over pimento cheese grits, or a Cajun-seasoned kale wrap massaged with dressing from Shamba Farms in East Point.
Picnickers can add Champagne or a pastry board or a “doughnut wall,” which is pretty much what it sounds like: a wall with doughnuts hanging on pegs. They can also add a bouquet of roses and a photographer. In the short time they’ve been in business, Montague and Mitchell have arranged everything from marriage proposals to (on the simpler end) ensuring quiet for postnosh naps. When the weather was unpredictable at the top of the year, Elevated Picnics launched a series at Tropical Express ATL, a plant nursery at the Goat Farm Arts Center with indoor-outdoor vibes, where diners lounged on plush rugs amid the flora.
“Now that everything is starting to reopen to full capacity, we’ve seen a lot of restaurants start to pick up their pace, but, surprisingly, we haven’t slowed down one bit,” says Mitchell.
“We’ve reached a sweet spot,” adds Montague. “Regardless of when things go back to normal, it’s a new kind of experience that people want to have, so there are so many untapped opportunities.”
This article appears in our June 2021 issue.