Why does taking one's food outside to eat it on a blanket elevate its relevance and romanticism so dramatically? Who knows, but as Houstonians, we truly relish these fleeting moments when the weather allows us to have a picnic. Here are our suggestions for ten great places to get delicious picnic food to go.
10. Central Market
3815 Westheimer Road
A quick trip into the specially designated "Café on the Run" provides patrons with a plethora of options from which to choose. Would you like to make your own Bento Box to lunch on? How about a custom-made panini or cobb salad? Side items? They have them all. And with convenient to-go packaging, bountiful bottled beverages and little packets of plastic wear at your disposal, this place is truly a one-stop picnic palace. The fact that it is within a few minutes of the Water Wall, a great picnicking destination, doesn't hurt either.
9. Little Bigs
1600 Zoo Circle Drive
While burgers and fries are best consumed quickly while hot and fresh, Little Bigs makes the cut simply by being right in the heart of Hermann Park. All you has to do is show up, order your food, and carry it out it right out the door for an insta-picnic complete with deliciously juicy sliders and fresh-cut fries. And don't forget the lusciously creamy shakes. This couldn't be easier.
1928 Bissonnet Street
Yes, duh, Picnic is great for getting picnic food. But despite the obviousness, what list of picnic food places would be complete without it? Picnic offers charming tuna salads, sharp pimento cheese, freshly baked breads, crumbly scones and fresh lattes, and it's located close to Hermann Park. This place does close early, and the sooner you show up, the fresher the food will be, so be warned.
7. Antone's Import Co. Original
2424 Dunstan Road
Do you remember when you couldn't throw a stick without hitting an Antone's sub shop? Well, those days are long gone, but my heart will always reserve a special place for the Antone's tuna po-boy. Plus Antone's offers those oddly delightful Dill Crawtator potato chips, creamy hummus, fresh tabouli, and crunchy Jordan almonds. Go to the location in Rice Village and load up your picnic basket with foreign treats.
6. Zoe's Kitchen
3701 South Shepherd Drive & 4000 Washington Ave.
Allow me to preface this by acknowledging that some of the food at Zoe's can be slightly generic. But man, when they get it right, they get it right. Just tried the grilled feta sandwich with cheesey coleslaw and tell me you don't love it. And they'll gladly package it all up for you with utensils and napkins and everything you need for a picnic sans planning.
5. Niko Niko's
2520 Montrose Boulevard
If you're looking for something transportable but you're not in the mood for your average sandwich, this is the place to go get great Gyros and Souvlaki wraps with hand-cut French fries and fresh iced teas. And now that owner Dimitri Fetokakis is going green (yay!) and cutting out all that Styrofoam waste, you can feel self-righteous getting everything to go and then throwing it all away when you're done.
4. Pollo Campero
A list of picnic foods could not be complete without a fried chicken joint. And Guatemalan fried chicken to boot! I mean, really, you actually have to get out of your car for all those other places. Pollo Campero, on the other hand, makes it as simple as drive up, order some of the best fried chicken in town, and drive away to greener pastures and cloudless skies. Be sure to ask them for plates and napkins and utensils, though, because mashed potatoes + outdoor picnic hands = hot mess.
3. Brown Bag Deli
2036 Westheimer Road & 2540 Amherst Street (Rice Village)
Was this place made for picnics or what? You write your order on a brown paper lunch sack, and they fill it up with amazing, huge sandwiches made just the way you want them on freshly baked rolls that are to die for. An excellent selection of bottled beverages, whole fruit, and decadently rich chocolate chip cookies make it ridiculously easy to get in, pick up some food, and walk out with everything you need conveniently placed in a lunch bag.
12141 Westheimer Road
Honestly, sometimes we don't even like going to Phoenicia because we want every single thing they have. It's deliciousness overload! I become such a gluttonous lush binging on the puffy pita and freshly grilled kebabs. Hummus or garlic mayo? Which of the many, many delectable pastries should I choose to round out my meal? Decisions, decisions! Lucky for us, everything is made with such high standards and fresh ingredients, it's impossible to go wrong.
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1. Farmers' Markets
What could be better than grabbing your eco-friendly bag, biking to the nearest farmers' market and then filling up said bag with readymade treats like mini-quiches made with free-range eggs, creamy local cheeses, and freshly baked artisan bread made by that dude right over there? Now it is true that if you stock up on produce, you'll have to find a spot to rinse it off. Plus, this is the type of picnic that requires a bit of forethought, such as bringing forks and plates, etc. But on a beautiful Houston day gazing up at the cerulean sky and feeling the first hint of a tan settling onto your bare shoulders, this is exactly the kind of adventure you want.
Now go grab that basket, throw in your red-and-white-checked blanket, grab a loved one, and enjoy this wonderfully transient spring of ours.