What is up with this Spring?
Usually by this time of year we're all cranking up the ACs as high as they can go and wishing we had oxygen masks when we go outside so we could breathe a little easier in the hot soup-like air. But something weird is going on this year. It's actually still kind of nice outside. Of course, putting that in print is bound to jinx it, but while there's still a nice breeze happening and temperatures in the 75 to 85-degree range, I say we get out and soak it up.
Instead of slaving over the perfect picnic, though, why not let someone else do the work for you? Here are the best spots in town where you can get food to-go and dine al fresco.
Mytiburger and Watonga Parkway Park Never heard of Watonga Parkway Park? You sheltered Inner-Looper. Just kidding. I only know about it because I have a friend who lives near there, but it turns out the park at the intersection of TC Jester and 43rd Street is a nice spot for a meal. There's a running trail, a cement-lined creek (not the prettiest, but it'll do), grassy hills and groves of trees for shade. Stop by Mytiburger, serving the Oak Forest area classic Texas-style burgers since 1967 for a meal on-the-go. From Mytiburger on West 43rd Street, it's only a short walk to Watonga Parkway Park, burgers and milkshakes in hand.
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Bodegas Taco Shop and Hermann Park Tacos almost have to be eaten outside, and Hermann Park near Bodegas Taco Shop is a fine place to do just that. One of the largest parks in Houston, Hermann Park has a number of areas perfect for picnicking, from the woods surrounding the zoo to the grassy knolls in the shade of the Sam Houston statue. Bodegas Taco Shop will hook you up with create-your-own tacos and burritos (a la Chipotle), and if you decide to stay and eat there, you can customize your margaritas as well. Or you could BYOB and bring the whole meal to the park. But...you know...that's illegal. So we definitely didn't suggest it.
Fusion Taco and Market Square Park The area around Market Square Park has been booming in the last few years, so there's no shortage of restaurants to hit up for a meal on-the-go. One of my favorites is Fusion Taco, right across the street from the park. Because the spot used to be a food truck, so the chefs know how to make food that can withstand being packed up and moved elsewhere. Market Square Park is an oasis in the middle of downtown filled with flowers, benches and the occasional homeless person. There's frequently live music in the park, and if you want booze, Niko Niko's sells beer and wine, as well as pretty good food if you aren't feeling like tacos. But if you aren't feeling like tacos, you might want to see a doctor.
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Eatsie Boys and the Menil Park Grabbing food at Eatsie Boys and taking it to the grounds of the Menil is a bit of a hike (12 minutes--I timed it), but it's definitely worth the trip to both spots. When you're dining among the artsy sculptures outside the Menil, you want some, well, artsy food to go with it. You want the Mutt Barkus sandwich, a smoked beef sausage, cole slaw, bbq sauce, fried onions and jalapenos on cheddar jalapeno hotdog bun. Or the chicken shazamwich with grilled chicken breast, avocado, arugula, feta, tomato and tarragon mayo on ciabatta bread. Then, when you're done eating, take a nap on the cool grass under the shade of an old live oak or tour the magnificent museum.
Phoenicia and Discovery Green Say what you will about the uber deli downtown, but I have never gotten a bad meal from Phoenicia. Whether I order a sandwich at the deli, a salad from the salad bar or a more upscale Mediterranean dish from MKT Bar, I'm always satisfied with the worldly options at Phoenicia. Park in the large garage above the market, grab some grub and walk a few blocks to Discovery Green and lunch under the lush trees at Kinder Lake or at Sarofim Picnic Lawn, the designated picnic area. Sure there are restaurants on the grounds of Discovery Green (The Lake House and The Grove), but they don't have addictive Armenian string cheese or divine baklava like Phoenicia. Plus, the extra walking means you can go ahead and indulge in that second pastry.