After one of the soggiest Seattle winters in recent memory, we’re ready to get back to eating outdoors. And while there’s much to love about good restaurant patio—particularly when oysters and something bubbly are enjoyed during a warmish spring happy hour—this is an ode to our favorite way to dine alfresco: the picnic. Grab a blanket and a basket and hit one of our area’s one-stop shops for a full gourmet picnic; then take it outdoors to our recommended dining spots. (You’ll notice our expert picks follow a pretty basic formula of cured meats + crusty bread + wine = happiness.) But let’s be real: You should probably have a backup plan. Pack the umbrella, too.
What's in the basket pictured above: 1. Dahlia Bakery Baguette from Home Remedy 2. La Quercia prosciutto from Home Remedy 3. Aloe Water from Stockbox 4. The Cookie from Metropolitan Market 5. Olympia Provisions Saucisson Sec (French salami) from Cone & Steiner 6. Beechers Cheese Curds from Home Remedy 7. Pickled Brussels Sprouts from Metropolitan Market 8. Lola Tzatziki from Home Remedy 9. Kale Salad from Home Remedy 10. Avocado from Stockbox
Phinney Ridge, 6801 Greenwood Ave. N; 206.453.5867; picnicseattle.com
An obvious choice considering its name, this charming Phinney Ridge neighborhood spot is equal parts wine shop and gourmet food boutique, where you can find a thoughtfully curated assortment of ingredients (dried heirloom beans, fancy sea salts etc.), ready-to-eat charcuterie and seasonal salads put together by owners Jenny and Anson Klock, both professionally trained chefs and wine lovers. Jenny Klock says their philosophy on the perfect picnic is simple: “A little bit of this, a little bit of that, and wine.” She recommends generous slabs of house-made pork and duck rillettes with pickled onions and cherries; slices of speck or spicy, spreadable ’nduja; tangy sheep milk cheese to complement the cured meats; and a rich triple cream to eat with a Columbia City Bakery baguette. In peak season, pick up a summer salad, made with lettuces, herbs and tomatoes, from the nearby Phinney farmers market. While Klock particularly loves a “frosty, bone dry rosé” from Provence, she says the shop carries a sparkling grape juice that’s not terribly sweet for the kiddos (and appropriate for consuming in city parks, which have a no-drinking rule).
» Where to picnic: Stroll just down the hill and set down your spread on the shore of Green Lake; follow the sunset and head west for a 10-minute drive to Golden Gardens; or, get your tickets early for nearby Woodland Park Zoo’s ZooTunes summer concert series.
Stockbox Neighborhood Grocery
First Hill, 901 James St.; 206.829.9940; stockboxgrocers.com
First Hill’s only corner store favors fresh grab-and-go foods from local vendors over processed junk, meeting the needs of a neighborhood that was sorely missing a market until this one opened in 2013. Cofounder Carrie Ferrence recommends starting your picnic shopping at the grab-and-go case; She particularly loves local restaurant Gaba Sushi’s seaweed salad. Since the store stocks an array of colorful, seasonal produce, Ferrence suggests adding a fresh pear or ripe avocado, the cheap and easy protein punch of string cheese, and ending with a Theo chocolate bar for dessert (our personal favorite is the salty-sweet bread-and-chocolate bar). A cool white wine or the current customer favorite, bottled Dry Soda, rounds out the meal. Dessert and drinks are important factors in Ferrence’s picnic-packing philosophy; she says these little treats are what elevate even the most pedestrian homemade sandwich lunch into a picnic done right.
» Where to go: Take about a 20-minute walk through Capitol Hill to Cal Anderson Park, where the people watching can’t be beat.
Multiple locations, metropolitan-market.com
You could pack a lifetime’s worth of picnics from the aisles of Met Market’s six Seattle-area locations—and if you live near one, you just might. Go Paleo with the excellent rotisserie chicken, and full-on glutton with the monster Bakewell tart (frangipane, raspberry jam and shortbread) or peanut butter brownie bar. Or, you know, be a grown-up, and put together a well-balanced meal. Deli specialist Angela Rihacek likes to pick up a selection of pickled cauliflower and Brussels sprouts to go with some bread and cured meats, such as the pancetta cotto, which the market has flown in from Italy. For cheese, she recommends those of Eatonville-based Mountain Lodge Farm, made by former Met Market cheesemonger Meghan McKenna (check out the fresh chèvre from the farm’s resident goats), although we really love the fresh-pulled mozzarella made in house as well. And because the produce here is so fresh and flavorful, you should throw in some seasonal fruit, even if you decide to have The Cookie—Metropolitan Market’s epic chocolate chip cookie, freshly baked.
» Where to go: This recommendation changes based on which Met Market location you stop at, obviously, but from the Sand Point store (5250 40th Ave. NE; 206.938.6600), we love the intimate nature of Matthews Beach over the expanse of Magnuson. Both are lovely options, though (and only about a five-minute drive).
Belltown, 2121 Sixth Ave.; 206.812.8407; tdhomeremedy.com
The 2,500-square-foot mega mini-mart that sits in Tom Douglas’ progressive Assembly Hall features an amazing spread of pantry items, ready-to-eat dishes and frozen food (much of it from T.D.’s other eateries), and wine—enough to make locals and nearby workers swoon. For a #notsaddesklunch, we love the impressive pay-by-the-pound salad bar. But for a special picnic, general manager Molly Melkonian recommends this long list of local loves: Dahlia Bakery ficelle, a thinner version of the baguette; Beecher’s cheese curds; La Quercia prosciutto; Jacobsen’s salty maple chews; Lola’s tzatziki; kale salad from the salad bar; marinated olives; Dahlia Bakery fig bars and chocolate butter pecan cookies; and a $12 bottle of Anew rosé (with a twist-off cap!).
» Where to go: It’s about a 30-minute walk if you head to Denny and then down Broad Street, meander through the Olympic Sculpture Park and find yourself at Myrtle Edwards Park. Another equidistant spot: Go north along Terry Avenue N to the Museum of History & Industry for premium Lake Union views.
Cone & Steiner
Pioneer Square, 135 S King St., 206.402.3682; Capitol Hill, 532 19th Ave. E, 206.582.1928; coneandsteiner.com
This little throwback to a bygone era of all-in-one corner stores takes a modern twist with an emphasis on grub for serious foodies. At this collaboration between Dani Cone (Fuel Coffee, High 5 Pies), Josh Henderson’s Huxley Wallace Collective (Westward) and Retrofit Home, there are plenty of dry goods—as well as fresh flowers, produce and a decent local beer selection—but picnickers will want to load up on ready-to-eat options. Lisa Russell, manager of the Pioneer Square location, says, “The perfect picnic meal is mostly finger food: light, flavorful and all local.” She suggests Macrina’s Pane Francese baguette, a stick of Olympia Provisions’ saucisson sec, a disk of Bloomy (a whole-milk cheese similar to a triple cream) from Jacobs Creamery in Chehalis, a pint of farro and artichoke salad, a couple of organic apples or pears, plus a bottle of Parejas Cellars Albariño from Yakima (and Jones’ peanut butter and jelly soda for the kids). Russell’s tip for picnicking: “Silence your phone, listen to the birds and take in the scenery while you chat and watch the people around you.” And don’t forget the moisture-resistant blanket.
» Where to picnic: If you’re not packing your picnic in a clear plastic bag for a Sounders or Seahawks game, from the Pioneer Square shop head west a few blocks to the waterfront and grab a bench seat.