7 Chicago Restaurants For An Urban Picnic To-Go

Photo: Courtesy of Honey Butter Fried Chicken.
August is upon us, and that means our sunny afternoons and balmy nights are numbered. One of the easiest ways to savor the summer is to plant your derriere in the grass (or sand) and enjoy a good old-fashioned picnic. The best part? You don’t even have to cook. We’ve scoped out some fab Chicago restaurants willing to do all of the legwork for you.
If you have plans this month to hit Ravinia, catch a movie in the park, chill at a free outdoor concert, or just while away the dog days at the beach, don’t waste precious time shopping, cooking, and packing an alfresco feast. Just swing by these Chicago restaurants and pick up one of the best picnics in town.
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Photo: Courtesy of Eataly.
Mario Batali’s multilevel Italian food emporium has everything a girl could want for a gourmet picnic. Start with a few wedges of Taleggio, Robiola, and other Italian cheeses. Then, grab some Sopressata, crostini, and a chilled bottle of Prosecco. Sounds like a perfectly balanced dinner to us. Don’t forget to stop by the Nutella bar to pick up a little something for dessert.

Eataly, 43 East Ohio Street (at Rush Street); 312-521-8700.
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Photo: Courtesy of Gene's Sausage Shop & Delicatessen.
Gene’s Sausage Shop & Delicatessen
They’re serious about sausage at Gene’s (the links are handmade, cured, and smoked on site). But, there’s much more to be had at this quaint Lincoln Square market. Shelves lined with gourmet European foodstuffs and baked goods beckon the adventurous picnicker. Or, grab a few pretzel-bread sandwiches stuffed with tempting combos like prosciutto and brie or Bavarian ham with dill Havarti. If you’re feeding a crowd, check out Gene’s picnic-friendly catering options like the pâté and cheese platter or salads and sides sold by the pound. Whichever option you choose, you’ll find more than 300 imported and local craft beers and 100 wines to add to your picnicking pleasure.

Gene’s Sausage Shop & Delicatessen, 4750 North Lincoln Avenue (at Lawrence Avenue); 773-728-7243.
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Photo: Courtesy of Honey Butter Fried Chicken.
Honey Butter Fried Chicken
Wherever it is eaten, Honey Butter Fried Chicken is always insanely delicious. But, Honey Butter Fried Chicken consumed under the elusive Chicago sun? Well, that’s sublime. Fried chicken is the foundation of a solid picnic basket, so make this Avondale joint the first stop on your picnic-packing route. For $45, the good people at HBFC will pack you a to-go meal of the magical boneless fried chicken, corn muffins with honey butter, kale and cabbage slaw, pasta salad, and toffee cookies (enough to feed four). Picnic packs come with plates, silverware, and towelettes (no finger lickin’ necessary).

Honey Butter Fried Chicken, 3361 North Elston Avenue (at Roscoe Street); 773-478-4000.
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Photo: Courtesy of Lillie's Q.
Lillie’s Q
You’ll be the envy of Ravinia (or wherever you choose to lay your picnic blanket), if you pack a Low Country spread from Lillie’s Q. The Wicker Park barbecue joint has a catering menu from which you can order pulled pork by the pound and mini brioche buns by the dozen. Round out your meal with picnic-friendly sides like coleslaw and caramelized corn on the cob.

Lillie’s Q, 1856 West North Avenue (at Honore Street); 773-772-5500.
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Photo: Courtesy of Pastoral.
It’s an age-old question for Chicagoans: How do you work a full day in the Loop and make it to Ravinia in time to get a spot on the lawn and set up a gourmet meal before the concert starts? Pastoral makes it simple with seven upscale picnic packages filled with delicacies like triple cream brie, Mortadella, chocolate bars from Madagascar, pâté, spiced almonds, and handmade caramels. There are even suggested wine pairings for each of the baskets. Pre-order a picnic for pick-up after work at Pastoral’s French Market location, and then catch the Metro to Ravinia. It doesn’t get any easier than that.

Pastoral, multiple locations.
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Photo: Courtesy of The Florentine.
The Florentine
Give summer date nights a major upgrade with a little help from The Florentine. For $65, you can get a “Ciao Bello Date Basket,” loaded with a multicourse Italian picnic for two. Located downtown in the JW Marriott, The Florentine is a super convenient spot to pick up a picnic before heading to Millennium or Grant parks, where you and your bae will feast on cheeses and marinated olives, prosciutto with melon, grilled veggies, Cornish hen with grilled rapini, biscotti, and a bottle of wine.

The Florentine, 151 West Adams Street (at LaSalle Street); 312-660-8866.
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Photo: Courtesy of Bountiful Eatery.
Bountiful Eatery
Gluten-free girls, you’ll want to get your picnic on at Bountiful Eatery, a casual Lakeview spot that serves up delicious salads, wraps, and soups (all without a hint of gluten). Have a hassle-free outdoor meal with one of Bountiful’s premade picnic bags, packed with a cup of soup, salad or wrap, and dessert for each person, as well as a tablecloth, utensils, and napkins. The turkey, bacon, and avocado wrap with chipotle-lime dressing makes for a light-yet-satisfying summer meal.

Bountiful Eatery, 3312 North Broadway (at Aldine Avenue); 773-687-9811.