Summer Guide: Seattle Chefs Suggest Perfect Picnic Pick-Ups

Three great dining ideas.

During the summer months, trying to snag a perfect outdoor spot at a restaurant (with water views, preferably) can be one big headache. So instead of fighting your city brethren for a sunny seat, pack your own picnic. With all the great food retailers and some of our favorite restaurants’ housemade products, you can take fine summer dining anywhere. No lines, no reservations, no hassle—just pick the place and set out your righteous spread.

We’ve helped you do the work by asking local chefs to create baskets for a variety of occasions. Follow these suggestions, or cherry-pick ideas. If a specific place to buy items is not called out, go to your favorite local grocery or specialty store.

Lakeside Chillin'

From Zoi Antonitsas, executive chef at Westward. Who better than the chef who presides over one of Seattle’s best seafood spots—view included—to weigh in on this basket?

• Fried chicken.

• A loaf of Columbia City Bread fresh from Columbia City Bakery [editor’s note: I like their walnut levain].

• A wheel of Dinah’s Cheese (this Vashon Island Kurtwood Farms cheese is available all over the city, in places like DeLaurenti, Metropolitan Market, PCC Natural Markets, and Whole Foods).

• Fried chickpeas (at Westward, they fry theirs with chiles, fenugreek, and sea salt).

• Smoked clam dip and potato chips (dip and chips available at Westward’s sister grocery, Little Gull, or check out local seafood shops).

• A couple cans of Matiz sardines.

• Wine: Triennes Rosé, Greek asyrtiko, and txakoli are all delicious and perfect for a day outside.

• Coconut water.

• Iced coffee.

“The day before I’d go to Ezell’s and get some fried chicken and refrigerate it overnight. Cold fried chicken is a must for me in a picnic basket (don’t forget the hot sauce!). From the grocery store, [get] coconut water, a big bottle of Talking Rain bubbly water, bunched radishes, and seasonal fruit (cherries, stone fruit, etc). From home: strong iced coffee with cream and sugar. I make it the day before, freeze it in a big Mason jar (not too full as it will expand!), and then pack it in the cooler. Stays cold all day.” —Zoi Antonitsas

The Rendezvous For Two

From Joe Rieke at Ballard Annex Oyster House. It seemed right to go to a restaurant with the most well-known aphrodisiac in its name for our romantic basket. Here’s what Rieke suggests for lovers in the wild:

• I hit up the deli section, hard [no pun intended, thinks editor]: olives, pickles, artichokes—basically just build an antipasti at the olive bar; even the lower-end grocery stores have these now. Pair that with a couple strong cheeses like a Stilton or a Humboldt fog, spreadable types.

• Get a crusty baguette, a jar of stone-ground mustard, and a couple apples and make yourself tiny sandwiches.

• As far as meat, smoked salmon is king. It’s strong, flavorful, and you don’t have to really keep it cold; it’s not going to get weird if it gets too warm. Either that or grab a rotisserie chicken, some olive oil, and a lemon, and steal a couple salt and pepper packets from the deli condiment section. Pull and dress your chicken as needed, and make and feed your partner little bites.

• Next a bottle of cold sparkling rosé and a couple Solo cups, a 22 oz. of a saison-style beer, and maybe a flask of something a bit stronger.

“My ‘getting some’ picnic is all about the snacks. A picnic is an investment in time, otherwise you’re just eating sandwiches on a bench. The most important thing I find is a good picnic knife—something large, rustic, and not easily wielded. I’ve got a stout Finnish seal-skinning knife someone gave me years ago that I use as a utility knife at work and keep on my person most of the time. There is something pleasant about slicing yourself an apple and smearing some cheese with what is most definitively the wrong tool. Eat off the bags your food came in, and feel free to swig from the bottle if you need to. A picnic should be a little unsophisticated, and ‘roughing’ it a little bit definitely lends a hand to the pastoral mood.” —Joe Rieke

The Biking Basket

From Ericka Burke , owner of Volunteer Park Cafe. This basket had to accomplish two things: appeal to health-conscious folks and fill up bellies after a hard workout. That’s why we reached out to Burke, known for her tasty but wholesome food.

• Quinoa tabouli salad with cherry tomatoes, cucumber, garbanzo beans, and mint.

• Tomme-style cheese and a baguette from The Calf & Kid.

• Fresh seasonal fruit from the Columbia City farmers market (Wednesday) or from any other local farmers markets; my go-to is peaches and cherries.

• VPC’s whole-grain granola bars (these will help get you home after lunch!).

• Rachel’s Ginger Beer (original flavor).

“I make a quinoa tabouli packed full of cherry tomatoes, cucumber, garbanzo beans, and mint—I’d either whip up a batch at home or grab some from the cafe before heading to Melrose Market to get some hard tomme-style cheese and a baguette from The Calf & Kid. I’ve always got a kitchen full of summer fruit (my favorites are cherries and peaches) from whichever farmers market I’ve made it to that week (Columbia City, Madrona, and Broadway are my go-to’s), so I’d add some ripe fruit in for a healthy dessert. Lastly, some whole-grain granola bars from VPC to give us a last bit of energy for the bike home, and some Rachel’s Ginger Beer to keep us hydrated!” —Ericka Burke

Ericka Burke’s Quinoa Tabouli (Serves 4)


2 cups quinoa (cooked)

½ cup cilantro, minced

½ cup parsley, minced

1 tsp. mint, minced

LeftAlign.10¼ cup scallion (white and green parts), chopped

½ cup red onion, diced

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1 cup English cucumbers, diced

1 cup garbanzo beans

LeftAlign.92 tsp. lemon juice

2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil

Salt to taste


In a large bowl, stir together all ingredients.


* A cooler with plenty of ice

* A small cutting board and a small sharp knife

* Forks

* Napkins

* Small compostable plates

* Mason jars for cups

* Wine key

* Portable speakers for music

Notes on Drinkin’ and Smokin’

If your picnic plans involve alcohol and/or pot, you’ll need to be conscious of park rangers and police officers, obviously, since both substances are illegal to consume in public. For pot, a citation structure was recently put in place in Washington: A first offense gets a warning, a second allows police to fine you $27 (which is probably less than the cost of all those yummy treats in your picnic basket). While Sgt. Sean Whitcomb of the Seattle Police Department’s Public Affairs Unit says “It’s not a first-time-free kind of deal,” he adds that “There’s no ticket-writing campaign” and “The spirit of the law is voluntary compliance. That’s what we’re after, and if there’s an opportunity for leniency, that’s preferred.” How do the officers know if you’re a first-time offender or not? There’s no database, so it’s up to them (who patrol mainly on foot and bike) to remember who’s who in their patrol areas.

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