Some people call it a picnic; I call it the perfect excuse to drink wine and pig out on cheese and olives outside in the middle of the day. Either way, there's always the question of where to pick up pre-picnic provisions. So you don't end up stuck with Lunchables from the nearest convenience store, we've matched six picnic destinations with places to procure snacks nearby. Word of warning: Open alcohol is not allowed in Chicago Park District parks. (I don't make the rules, but it's my job to tell you about them.) Booze is permitted at Ravinia and for most public performances at Jay Pritzker Pavilion and the Great Lawn at Millennium Park. firstname.lastname@example.org | @redeyeeatdrink
Stop by Chop Shop (2033 W. North Ave. 773-537-4440) and head straight to the deli counter to browse grab-and-go sandwiches ($7-$11 each) as well as pre-made dips and salads. If you've got a few mouths to feed and are planning in advance, call 24 hours ahead of time to order the picnic to-go package, which includes an antipasto platter, breads from Red Hen, pasta salad and your choice of select 6-packs of beer or bottles of wine ($40; feeds 4-6).
Promontory Point Park
Pick up baguette sandwiches ($6.95) to-go at Hyde Park cafe Plein Air (5751 S. Woodlawn Ave. 773-966-7531) on your way over to the lakefront. Options include prosciutto with manchego cheese and fig jam or goat cheese with sweet peppers, and both include a side salad with the dressing packaged separately for easy traveling.
Myriad options abound at Chicago French Market (131 N. Clinton St. 312-575-0306) inside Ogilvie Transportation Center; just make sure to allow extra time to wait in line before catching a Metra Union Pacific North Line train to Ravinia Park. Little Goat Bread packs up seriously tasty made-to-order sandwiches, Wisma stocks pre-packaged salads and snacks and Pastoral is your one-stop-shop for wine, beer, olives, cheeses, baguette sammies and more.
Before setting up camp for Downtown Sound or the Millennium Park Summer Film Series, design your own picnic box ($12.95) at Toni Patisserie (65 E. Washington St. 312-726-2020). Pick an entree (choose from six baguette sandwiches or two salads), side (chips, fruit cup or side salad) and dessert (brownie, shortbread cookies, macarons or chocolate-chip cookie). For multiple boxes or to avoid a wait, call ahead. Also nearby, the Loop location of gourmet cheese and wine shop Pastoral (53 E. Lake St. 312-658-1250) offers curated picnic spreads ($39.99-$69.99); download a picnic menu and order online.
Though the July 2 pre-order deadline for the 4th of July picnic pack at Honey Butter Fried Chicken (3361 N. Elston Ave. 773-478-4000) has passed, the good news is that the Avondale restaurant is extending the offer for the rest of the summer. Call at least 24 hours ahead of time to reserve your picnic meal ($45 for eight pieces of fried chicken, corn muffins with honey butter and seasonal side dishes) and take it to Brands, a small park with ballfields and plenty of shade.
Plan your picnic time strategically for the chance to choose from ready-to-eat goodies at Green City Market (7 a.m.-1 p.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays at 1790 N. Clark St.) Look for wood-fired pizzas from The Nomad Food Company, sandwiches from Cookies and Carnitas (Saturdays only), salami and soppressata from Underground Meats (Saturdays only) and pastries from Verzenay, just to name a few options. Find a full vendor list online: greencitymarket.org