When D.C.’s dining rooms went dark this spring because of the coronavirus pandemic, chefs started getting creative with meals that customers could eat in their living rooms — or even the great outdoors. Restaurants across the city are now offering fully packed picnic baskets to-go with classic fixings, such as cheese and charcuterie or baguettes with fancy spreads, packaged for easy transport to the park.
“People are wanting to be outside more and more,” says Officina chef Nicholas Stefanelli. Over Memorial Day weekend, customers walked into his market at the Wharf looking for lunch to grab on the way to Hains Point or the Mall. That inspired Officina’s new picnic sets, which are served in a box that looks like a big lunch pail. “What can we do to give someone a little bit of joy as they’re going out the door and they don’t have to pack anything up at home?” Stefanelli says. “They can just come by, grab it from us and waste the afternoon away.”
Here are seven local restaurants where you can pick up a picnic for two, along with suggestions for nearby socially distanced, alfresco dining spots. You can order online from the restaurants’ websites before you head out, with preorder for the weekend in many cases. The only thing not included? Sunscreen and a blanket.
What’s in the basket: Pesto-y pasta salad, olives, cheese, prosciutto and salume, crostini and spreads, along with focaccia Barese, which is almost like an individual pan pizza, with toppings like tomatoes, olives and oregano baked into the bread. In addition to the $50 basket, picnic-goers can add on items like bottles of wine, extra wedges of cheese, pre-batched cocktails, and cannoli for dessert. 1120 Maine Ave. SW and 1525 Wisconsin Ave. NW. officinadc.com/cafe.
Where to picnic: Officina offers basket pickups at both its Georgetown location and its three-level flagship at the Wharf. The latter is a great jumping off point to eat by the waterfront, on the Mall or at East Potomac Park. For monument views, the Tidal Basin and the Thomas Jefferson Memorial are within a 15-minute walk of Officina at the Wharf.
What’s in the basket: There’s a picnic to suit every taste at Neighborhood Provisions, the takeout arm of Neighborhood Restaurant Group. Choose between three baskets: There’s a $50 charcuterie board from Red Apron Butchery with salami, pâté and accoutrements, while a $25 mezze box is all about such dips as muhammara, hummus and tzatziki. The $85 “Best. Picnic. Ever.” box combines Red Apron’s charcuterie with a cheese board from Dupont Circle Mediterranean-inspired restaurant Iron Gate, rounded out by strawberries and challah bread. nrgprovisions.com/picnic-baskets.
Where to picnic: Neighborhood Provisions delivers to homes in Washington, Arlington, Alexandria and Montgomery County, but you can also pick up your orders at four restaurants in the area. If you set out from Rustico’s Alexandria location, Daingerfield Island is just a three-minute drive away, with a grassy expanse for hanging out with a riverfront view.
What’s in the basket: A $22 picnic pack from the Imperial includes the standard fare you’d expect, like cornichons, hummus, crudités and a baguette. But the buzzy Adams Morgan restaurant throws in the unexpected, too, such as smoked trout rillette and green goddess dip. The picnic spread is available Wednesday through Sunday on the takeout menu. 2001 18th St. NW. imperialdc.com.
Where to picnic: Scope out Kalorama Park, a three-acre slice of green space with its own bloom-filled community garden. The park is less than a 10 minute walk from the Imperial.
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What’s in the basket: Items like focaccia bread and olive oil cake from chef Amy Brandwein’s wood-fired oven at Piccolina lend themselves to a picnic, but the cafe also offers a ready-made meal for two. For $48, get a large arugula salad to start along with two pizzas (of the margherita and sopressata variety), two cookies and a bottle of wine. 963 Palmer Alley NW. piccolinadc.com.
Where to picnic: Save the wine for later and head from CityCenterDC over to the Mall, where the National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden is now open with shorter daily hours from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. We might not have Jazz in the Garden this summer, but we can still picnic near Miró and Chagall masterworks.
What’s in the basket: Instead of brunch service, Mintwood Place is sending diners out into nature with $40 picnic baskets for two on the weekends. On Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m., pick up a package with a rotating selection of items from the bistro (preorders begin Wednesday morning). Think sandwiches like shredded chicken with red peppers on ciabatta along with prosciutto melon salad, rustic bread with Morbier semisoft cheese and quince paste and then chocolate chip cookies for dessert. 1813 Columbia Rd. NW. mintwoodplace.com.
Where to picnic: Watch pups play at the dog park at Walter Pierce Park, which is a five-minute walk from Mintwood Place. Or hop on a bicycle and ride for about 10 minutes into leafy Rock Creek Park, toward Picnic Grove 1.
What’s in the basket: Danny Lledó, chef at the Valencian-inspired Xiquet DL, put together a splurge-worthy picnic set. That includes two bottles of wine and plenty of Spanish products, including smoky Etxegarai cheese and Iberico chorizo. The picnic set serves two to four people, priced at $80 or $146. 2404 Wisconsin Ave. NW. xiquetdl.com.
Where to picnic: Head down Wisconsin Avenue, then climb the steps at charming Book Hill Park and settle in for lunch with a panoramic backdrop of Georgetown and the Potomac.
Grand Cata at La Cosecha
What’s in the basket: Grand Cata, the wine shop within Latin food hall La Cosecha at Union Market, offers slices of jamón serrano and block of Capáez cheese from Puerto Rico in a transportable to-go pack. The $40 cheese and charcuterie bundle includes extras like a spicy trail mix and hibiscus compote from chef Diego Felix. 1280 Fourth St. NE. grandcata.com/cocina.
Where to picnic: Take your cheese and charcuterie to one of D.C.’s newest parks, located within a 15-minute walk from the market. Alethia Tanner Park opened on June 25, taking its name from Alethia Tanner, who purchased her freedom from slavery in 1810 and later helped open the Bell School, known as the first school for African American children in the District. The years-in-the-making park boasts its own playground, dog park, gardens and a grassy lawn that’s perfect for picnic blankets.
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