With more restaurants intent on offering food that travels well, the options for picnic fare are arguably better than ever. That situation probably won’t last (and frankly, thank goodness). But while it does, here are some of the best snacks to take to the park—and some of our favorite places to spread a blanket out.
This Atlanta institution has been serving solid Japanese fare since 1972, but you can’t really bring hot pot to the park—luckily, the restaurant’s sushi is always fresh and smartly packaged for carrying out.
Take it to: Morningside Nature Preserve, where you can watch dogs play in the sand along the creek
James Beard nominee Jarrett Stieber pivoted hard to takeout during the pandemic, and, though the restaurant has since reopened for dine-in service, you can still pick up Stieber’s “Just Fuck Me Up, Fam” prix fixe menu to go, which could include menu mainstays like his gefilte caesar salad and mala beef with matzo balls.
Take it to: Fucked up, you say? Keeping with the theme, drive on over to Constitution Lakes and dine among the doll’s heads.
Plant Based Pizzeria
Pizza comes premade and requires no silverware—it’s every bit as picnic-friendly as fried chicken. This pizzeria turns out popular vegan pies (with optional gluten-free cauliflower crust) as well as calzones, another perfectly portable option. Try the Georgia Peach, a pie with spicy Beyond sausage, roasted peaches, red onions, and jalapeños.
Take it to: Freedom Park
Chase it with: Milk and bubble teas from Honey Bubble, right across Ponce from the park
This buzzy Israeli restaurant on Ponce asks for $18 in exchange for six mezze, which can include roasted beets, sumac-cabbage slaw, pickles, olives, and more. Throw in the restaurant’s pita and Hummus No. 2—with roasted butternut squash, harissa, and the nut-and-spice blend dukkah—and one or two of its boozy Turkish-coffee shakes and you’ve got the fixings for a pretty good afternoon.
Just a quick BeltLine stroll away: Historic Fourth Ward Park
Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks
West Philly transplant Derrick Hayes has earned a swift and loyal following for his enormous cheesesteaks made with grass-fed beef, his highly portable (and highly cheesy) egg rolls, and his ardent support of Covid healthcare workers and the Black Lives Matter movement.
Take it to: Cascade Springs Nature Preserve, a verdant urban oasis with Civil War earthworks. The forest is also home to a gorgeous waterfall.
JCT. Kitchen & Bar
This Ford Fry joint offers a fried-chicken picnic pour deux, including the titular bird, biscuits and jam, deviled eggs, braised greens, and mac and cheese.
Take it to: Long-awaited Westside Park, built around the massive Bellwood Quarry reservoir, is slated to open this summer just a few minutes away; it’ll be the city’s biggest park. The park’s initial phase will include trails, a “grand overlook,” and a lawn for picnicking.
Familiar sights: Bellwood Quarry has been the filming location for scenes from The Walking Dead, Stranger Things, The Hunger Games, and other movies and TV shows.
Tassa Caribbean Restaurant
This Marietta Caribbean spot is a popular destination for rich, well-spiced chicken, goat, and chickpeas and potatoes—and more—enfolded in tender roti flatbread. Grab a fresh sorrel, passionfruit, or soursop juice to go with it.
Bring it on: An afternoon ramble through the East Palisades trails along the Chattahoochee River
It requires 48 hours’ notice, but Linton Hopkins’s Piedmont Park picnic for two provides a proper Southern lunch and probably some leftovers: a half loaf of bread, a pint of pimento cheese, Holeman & Finch bread-and-butter pickles, and Zapps chips, plus two cookies.
Take it to: Where else? Piedmont Park. If you spread your blanket out on the park’s north end, you can easily hit up Orpheus Brewing afterward for a beer.
Linger over: The grocery options at the Buttery when you pick your food up. From packaged sauces and seasonings to fancy meats and cheeses to some of pastry chef Jen Yee’s wonderful cookies and croissants, you may find a few more things to like in this thoughtful little market.
Kinship Butcher & Sundry
The chef at this brand-new VaHi business is Myles Moody, who’s worked with Linton Hopkins; the thing to get is a picnic basket for two or four, with cheese, ham, tomatoes, pork rillettes, and a baguette, plus (optional) caviar-add on.
Take it to: Orme Park, a sweet little VaHi nook built around Clear Creek and restored about a decade ago
Sweet treat: If you don’t mind a stroll back to Virginia Avenue, Kinship is right next to Paolo’s Gelato—and a little cioccolato (or lemon sorbetto) never hurt anyone.
However many you order, Lee’s assembles some of Atlanta’s best banh mi, but pro tip if you’re feeding a crowd: It’s buy five, get one free. A few classically porky banh mi—like one with ham, head cheese, and pâté—are joined by solid vegetarian options, including an avocado and a tofu sandwich.
Take it to: The picnic tables at Doc Manget Memorial Aviation Park, where you can watch planes take off and land at DeKalb-Peachtree Airport (and kids can run around at an aviation-themed playground). There’s also hiking trails right across Clairmont Road at Ashford Forest Preserve, previously a “protection area” for one of the airport’s (now disused) runways.
Lake & Oak BBQ
Chef Todd Richards’s East Lake barbecue joint sells individual plates, but you’ll also find the means to feed a family: You can order brisket, ribs, chicken wings, and pulled pork by the pound, to go with pints of Brussels sprouts and cabbage slaw, stewed collards with smoked chicken, smoked mac and cheese, and more.
Take it to: Kirkwood Urban Forest Preserve, a five-acre greenspace with picnic tables, a meadow, a community garden, and a frog pond
One of the best deals is town right now is whatever they’re serving on any given day at Staplehouse, which converted during the pandemic from a temple of fine-dining to a much more accessible (and affordable) market with a can’t-miss menu of takeaway items. Grab a pepperoni hand pie, some cheese and crackers, and a few canelés and head to Grant Park.
Something to consider: Swinging by 3 Parks Wine Shop en route for something to sip on. (If you buy it in a can and use a koozie, probably nobody’ll hassle you.)
Dosirak are Korean lunchboxes, with a bed of rice providing the base for a few judiciously chosen components: At this Edgewood Avenue spot, you can choose among bulgogi (marinated beef), japchae (stir-fried glass noodles), kimbap (a seaweed and rice roll akin to sushi), dumplings, and Korean fried chicken. (Also worth noting: It’s right around the corner from Sweet Stack Creamery.)
Take it to: Rose Circle Park, home to the 0 Mile Marker for the Atlanta BeltLine—and right across the street from the panoply of breweries housed in the Lee + White district
At the Roswell location of Atlanta-area icon Souper Jenny, a fancy PB&J—with local Georgia peanut butter and jam from Fairywood Thicket Farm, on Alon’s bread—will set you back six bucks and give you plenty of fuel for exploring Roswell’s extensive walking paths.
Check out: The Roswell Riverwalk at Azalea Park, or the extensive trail system around Vickery Creek Falls
This article appears in our June 2021 issue.