Above: A crabcake plate from Alon’s Bakery can make picnicking extra special. Courtesy of Alon’s.
Something about a picnic can seem quintessentially American, especially this time of the year.
A charcuterie tray, a fresh-made sandwich, chilled fruit, cold side salads, side munchies and a bottle of wine — all those seem a perfect accompaniment to spreading the blanket out on the lawn and dining in the open air while listening to patriotic music and speeches and ooh-ing and ahh-ing over fireworks.
But if you’re not up for a crowd (and many seniors are not this year as they try to protect themselves during the COVID-19 pandemic) metro Atlanta offers a wide variety of take-out fare to take to more socially distanced spots.
If you want to load up a hamper and hanker for something more adventurous than the standard boxed lunch, here are some places to check out that offer picnic-friendly foods.
With outposts in Virginia-Highland/Morningside and Dunwoody, Alon’s sets the standard for takeaway and picnic fair. The Dunwoody location is a bright, cheerful and bustling spot that has a dizzying array of cold prepared foods that are ready on the spot.
How about a meat and cheese tray as one possible appetizer — through entrees, veggies and cold salads-to dessert? Prepared sandwiches are also in the mix. There are crab cakes, Moroccan chicken skewers with hints of garlic, dill and other spices artfully crafted together, sides such as pasta salads and green beans. For dessert, there is fudge or chocolate chip cookies that taste like they’d just rolled out of the oven. (They make their own).
Manager Maegan Bufffington said they’ll gladly help you assemble a package for your excursion. Beautiful picnic spots are just minutes away at the Dunwoody Nature Center.
The Fickle Pickle
Ensconced in a converted house on a leafy street near downtown Roswell, the Pickle provides a prime spot for grabbing gourmet sandwiches for an excursion, or you can picnic right there. Their outdoor dining area includes picnic tables shaded by a giant sugar hackberry tree.
The restaurant offers more than a dozen artfully crafted sandwiches. Owner Andy Badgett says their biggest sellers are the Chicken Avocado (chicken marinated in garlic and cilantro piled onto multigrain bread and served with avocado, lettuce, onion and pickle) and the Brie BLT (with arugula lettuce that gives an old standard additional character) that is made panini-style on a sourdough bun. The Creole Cuban teams up smoked turkey and ham with Cajun pickles and a remoulade sauce.
True to its name, the restaurant offers four varieties of homemade pickles: Cajun, dill, bread-and-butter and “sweet little devils.” Appetizers include — yes, indeed — fried pickles.
A longtime Atlanta favorite, Star Provisions offers one of the top cheese shops in the South, said manager Robby Cunningham. If your preferred picnic fare includes a favorite or hard-to-find cheese (and what better basket filler can you find?), they probably can accommodate you. They also cure meat in-house.
Cunningham touts a wide variety of prepared sandwiches. Most of them travel quite well, he said, so you should have no worries if you’re trying to picnic at a treasured shady spot by a mountain waterfall. Their best-seller is a prosciutto baguette, made with fresh, house-baked bread and topped with grass-fed butter and parmesan.
Cunningham said that, if you want, Star Provisions can create and plate a selection of goodies just for you. Drop off your platter the day before. They’ll ask you about budget, diet requirements, etc. and they’ll put together a selection. He says several of those boards leave the premises weekly. Piedmont Park is not far away.
Your DeKalb Farmers Market
You can certainly find robust outdoor fare at big food chains and specialty grocers such as Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, but if you want to choose from among a world-spanning selection of flavorful items, there’s nothing like this iconic Decatur spot.
You’ll find fresh-baked breads (from bagels to baguettes), an array of tasty seasonal fruits and vegetables ranging from collards to kohlrabi. Although their cafeteria was closed at press time, YDFM offers deli sandwiches, a wide variety of cheeses and picnic-ready meat selections.
Some of their imports make for unusual side items, such as imported Candied Thai Ginger. Picnic around the planet! Glenlake Park is just a hop, skip and a jump away.