Nothing beats a day of perfect weather—breezy, not too hot, with a crystal clear blue sky. What better way to enjoy the sublime conditions than by bringing your meal outside for a picnic? When that kind of mood suddenly strikes, you’ll want to find foods that taste good, travel well and can be had at your fingertips in minutes. We have a list of them here that fit the bill, many of which can be ordered in large quantities for more organized gatherings as well.
Thursdays are barbecue days at Backstreet Kitchen, when chef Josh Moonen starts the day bright and early to get the meats cooking out back on the smoker. The ribs, chicken and brisket are ready to sell 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., when the special includes two sides like oven roasted potatoes, coleslaw or potato salad, with a corn muffin, costs $8.95.
Box lunches, including a gourmet cold sandwich like a ham and turkey club with bacon and a honey Dijon spread, chips and a cookie, will set you up right for an impromptu lunch at the park any day of the week ($7.95). 7264 Washington Ave. S., Eden Prairie; 952.353.0204
The signature panino at Panino Brothers is something akin to a calzone, a crust filled with sandwich fixings that’s baked and cut in half. The buffalo panino ($8.95) is one of the best sellers, made with chicken, Swiss and mozzarella cheeses, buffalo sauce, celery and blue cheese sauce. Like all sandwiches, it’s served with kettle chips.
For an appetizer, try the meatball Italiano ($8.95). Similar to the sandwiches, it’s stuffed with meatballs and marinara sauce, but cut into smaller pieces to be eaten like an appetizer. 8335 Crystal View Rd., Eden Prairie; 952.405.9193
For a wholesome twist on picnic fare, try the deli at Lakewinds Natural Foods, especially if you have dietary restrictions. Gluten-free, dairy-free salads are popular, like the cranberry slaw, made with red cabbage, dried cranberries, green and red onion, with an olive oil, apple cider vinegar and red vinegar base ($5.99/lb).
The Thai sesame rice noodle salad brings together Asian flavors, with cold rice noodles, mushrooms, snow peas, red bell pepper, red onion, rice wine vinegar, tamari and sesame seeds ($6.99/lb). Other deli items that work well for taking your lunch outdoors include premade cold sandwiches, yogurt parfaits and desserts like a vegan almond cake or a German apple cake, sold whole, or in 4-inch by 4-inch slices for $3.49/slice. 435 Pond Promenade, Chanhassen; 952.697.3366
Garden Vegetable Wrap
New to the deli case at Green Olive catering this season are two wrap sandwiches. The garden vegetable wrap is made with fresh asparagus, cucumbers, red pepper, spinach, carrots and dilled cream cheese, wrapped up in a garden herb tortilla ($6.50). The Southwestern chicken chipotle is made with roasted white meat, chipotle cheddar mayonnaise, romaine lettuce and a homemade black bean and corn salsa.
Green Olive is also loved for its salads, from a best-selling roasted sweet and red potato salad to the broccoli cheddar bacon, dressed with red wine vinegar and mayonnaise. Six-oz. containers of salad go for $3.49, with a selection of 6 to 8 salads in the deli case daily. 37 First St. W., Waconia; 952.442.3949
White Chocolate Raspberry “Baby Cake”
If you’re a dessert-first kind of person, then don’t overlook the bakery section at Fresh Seasons Market while you’re loading up the picnic basket. A wide variety of delicious cakes come in 8-inch rounds ($9.99) or 5-inch baby cakes ($6.99), available fresh or frozen. The baby cakes are perfect for a small, intimate picnic when you really don’t need a whole cake. The white chocolate raspberry is a favorite, but the choices run from red velvet to Boston cream and German chocolate.
For savory foods, the fried and grilled chicken, and foccacia sandwiches ($6–$7) are tasty options. Potato salads come in three varieties: classic ($4.59/lb), bacon cheddar or dill ($5.99/lb), and like most of the salads, are made in house. 7999 Victoria Dr., Victoria; 952.443.1600
Chicken Salad Sandwich
Jerry’s has its own special recipes for sandwich fillings like the chicken salad, egg salad and ham salad, with ready-to-go, wrapped sandwiches running from $2.50–$5.
Grilled, fried or rotisserie cooked chicken can be purchased hot or cold ($7.49/8-piece pack). The rest of your needs will surely be met by the large salad bar, with pasta salads and different kinds of potato salad like blue cheese or New York ($5.99). For your sweet cravings, stock up on monster cookies or brownies. 9625 Anderson Lakes Pkwy., Eden Prairie; 952.941.9680
Everything they sell at Crumb Gourmet Deli is seemingly made to be toted along on a picnic. The Baja sandwich ($6.75) is a nice, light summery choice, made with grilled chicken, provolone, avocado, lettuce, tomato and a chipotle mayonnaise, on toasted ciabatta bread.
Customers also love the Southwest chicken wrap ($6.75) because it’s filled up with good stuff like grilled chicken, black beans, corn, tomatoes, red peppers, cheddar cheese, tortilla strips and greens, with chipotle ranch dressing. Everything here is made to order and packaged to be easily portable. 7910 Mitchell Rd., Eden Prairie; 952.934.1717