Picnics as we know them may have originated in Europe (the word likely comes from the French pique-nique), but Americans have wholeheartedly adopted the idea and made it our own. More than enough food, eaten in a casual setting, probably using your hands? Yup, USA all the way.
Here’s how to make the most of an outdoor meal this holiday weekend (or any summer weekend) in Philly.
Grab & Grill
If you’re headed to a park equipped with public grills or are just planning to throw down in your own backyard/deck/tiny concrete area that just barely fits a Weber, get at one of these local butcher shops to score the best meats to roast over the flame.
This stand in Reading Terminal Market is the sibling of beer hall Brauhaus Schmitz, and carries ready-to-cook links of chef Jeremy Nolen’s housemade German sausages. Call in advance to order the special $60 grill package: two each of bratwursts, wieners, Hungarian bratwursts, bauernwursts and speckwursts, plus potato salad, cucumber salad, rolls, mustard and curry ketchup. Also available for pickup at the connected South Street restaurant, which is the place to get it if you want to fill up a growler of beer to go along. Note: RTM is closed on Saturday, July 4. (51 N. 12th St., 215-922-4887; 718 South St., 267-909-8814).
Get your all-American hot dogs and feel good about where they came from, too, at the sustainable butcher shop inside this Frankford Avenue restaurant. Four-packs of housemade hot dogs go for $8 each, and this weekend there will also be oversized footlongs (“They’re extreme — just super American,” says butcher Heather Thomason). Special bacon-beef burgers will be on offer for $10/lb (in pre-made 1/3 lb. patties), and there are also several varieties of sausages on offer. Pick up some Baker Street rolls and Three Springs Fruit Farm BBQ sauce while you’re there and you’ll be set (1310 Frankford Ave., 267-314-5086).
Pick-up & Prep
For a meal you can customize but don’t have to cook, visit one of these gourmet markets and piece together a collection of cheeses, spreads, salads and sandwich material, then prep it all at home and take it on the road.
Di Bruno Bros.
You could do worse than building a picnic around cheese, especially with the selection offered at any of the locations of this family-owned grocery. Ask the monger behind the counter for recommendations on the best wedges or hunks (or just go with old faves like mozzarella balls in brine and drunken goat cheese), add some olives, fruit and fig jam and add a few rolls or baguettes. Then get a pound or so of sliced meats and pre-build a selection of sandos to bulk up the feast (1730 Chestnut St., 215-665-9220; 834 Chestnut St., 267-519-3115; 930 S. 9th St., 215-922-2876).
Green Aisle Grocery
Extra reason to visit one of these two (soon to be three) boutique markets: Owners Andrew and Adam Erace will soon be featured on a Food Network show called Great American Food Finds. If a national TV network thinks these brothers know how to pick great bites, who are we to argue — plus the selection on the shelves proves it true. Look for pulled pork from Stryker Farm (great with pita chips or as a sandwich on Four Worlds breads), hummus from Dizengoff, cheeses from all over the area, prepared salads and roasted veggies and a rainbow array of chutneys, jams and condiments (1618 E. Passyunk Ave., 215-465-1411; 2241 Grays Ferry Ave., 267-687-2398).
Reserve & Share
Several restaurants offer party packs of ready-to-eat food, designed to feed your whole party right out of the box. Call in advance and you’ll be set to just swing by on your way to the grass lawn of your choice.
The Blue Duck
Get an order in before 2 PM on Friday, July 3 and you can hit up the sexy BYO star of the Northeast for pulled pork extravaganza. For $75, you’ll get enough of Kris Serviss’ pulled pork to fee 10-15 people (depending on inebriation level), along with mac ‘n’ cheese, coleslaw, potato salad and slider rolls (2859 Holme Ave.; 267-686-4687).
Percy Street Barbecue
Chef Erin O’Shea is a Southern food master — as good as her smoked meats are, her collard greens are even better. Get them both in a $55 Family Pack, which comes with 1 lb. sliced brisket, 1 lb. pulled pork, pinto beans, collards, potato salad, coleslaw and eight Martin’s potato rolls. Tip: add on a few slices of pecan pie and a mixed-six of craft cans (900 South St., 215-625-8510).
Sweet Lucy’s Smokehouse
If you’re closer to Tacony or plan to hit Pennypack Park for your outdoor party, visit this barbecue joint instead. “Pig Outs” are available to serve four ($39) or six ($58), and include 1 (or 2) lbs. of any meat of your choice, a whole BBQ chicken, four sides, BBQ sauce and rolls or cornbread. The restaurant recently added a liquor license, so you can scoop up beer here as well (7500 State Rd., 215-333-9663).
Make your open-air fiesta extra special by scoring birds and ‘nuts from FedNuts. Email 24 hours in advance (firstname.lastname@example.org) to place an order for fried chickens or donuts (or both!). All shops will be open on July 4 (1219 S. Second St.; 267-687-8258; 1632 Sansom St., 215-665-1101; 3428 Sansom St., 267-275-8499; 701 N. Seventh St., 267-928-3893).
For those who want to get really fancy about it, this Italian steakhouse in Rittenhouse offers a pre-packed picnic basket that’s perfect for toting over to the Square. Your wicker tote will include two sandwiches (choose from caprese, tuna, prosciutto, wild mushroom), two desserts and a bottle of still or sparkling water. You have to pony up $95 to get it, but return the empty basket and you’ll get $50 refunded back (111 S. 17th St., 215-563-4810).