Food for Thought
Over at 1928 Bissonnet Street, there’s a restaurant called Picnic. They sell awesome lunch boxes (and a killer jalapeño corn bread) that you can take over to nearby Hermann Park and, well, have a little picnic. Cute, eh?
The weather's certainly been fabulous for an outdoor meal lately, and there are no shortages of places to enjoy good food and good weather in Houston. Despite the urban sprawl here, we are also blessed with some awesome parks.
Check out the tables outside of Becks Prime in Memorial Park, they’re perfect for sinking your teeth into a juicy burger while watching the golfers swing.
Even if you’re downtown (living or working there) you’ve got great spots for a little afternoon picnic. Like the newly renovated Market Square Park with its outdoor art, dog run and even a Niko Niko’s for a little Greek bite. But there’s also Hearsay Gastro Lounge just across the street where you can grab and go.
“We started doing box lunches when they reopened the park,” head chef Nick Banaszak says. “We don’t have a big patio here so we thought it would be great to have these boxes people could grab and go across the street to the park to eat.”
The $9 boxes come with a drink and a side — either chips or fruit — and a sandwich. There are cold options liked smoked turkey or BLTs and hot options like the gooey, delicious Reuben oozing melted Swiss and Russian dressing.
“Deli sandwiches are perfect for picnics,” says Banaszak, who often packs them for family outings in Humble. “We just had a picnic last weekend.”
Sadly, you can’t get a bottle of Hearsay’s good Scotch to go.
But you can grab a cold beer and a hot dog at The Lake House situated lakeside in downtown’s Discovery Green park.
If you’re working in the urban jungle there’s nothing better than ambling over to Discovery Green at noon and soaking up the sun while noshing down on some picnic grub. Half of the 120 outdoor seats are along Kinder Lake and the rest are under a cover, in case the sun’s too hot.
“Which is good when it gets to be 137 degrees out here,” general manager Jody Feiss says. “But this is just an absolutely incredible urban park. When the weather is gorgeous we are just packed.”
And while office dwellers come during the week, the weekends are swamped with families and folks from all over. Which is why you can only get the wonderful Lake House milkshakes on Saturday and Sunday. But you can get sweet potato fries, fresh basil lemonade, cold beer and darn good burgers during the week.
“I like to be outdoors and eat,” Feiss says. “Although my definition of a picnic includes a barbecue grill.”
And while Feiss can’t fire up a grill outside of The Lake House, he can, and often does, grab one of the Kobe beef hot dogs on a poppy seed bun and enjoy the cool breezes off the boat basin.
Ah, to dine outdoors, to enjoy good food and lovely weather. I envision the famous picnic scene from To Catch a Thief where Grace Kelly offers Cary Grant cold chicken from the picnic basket while coyly asking “leg or breast?” before a torrid kiss.
But wait. Who am I kidding? I love looking at the outdoors, but I don’t like actually being in the outdoors. My idea of camping out is booking a room at the Hilton.
My idea of a picnic is opening one of those big woven baskets laden with china and crystal, divine wine and luscious food — and enjoying it in air conditioning with an actual restroom nearby.
Go ahead, call me a wimp, but that’s just how I roll.
So God love Max’s Wine Dive.
“We were just talking about something fun to do for summer,” Max's chef Michael Pellegrino says. “And we thought, what if you could have a picnic, in the city, in a restaurant? How cool is that?”
About 68 degrees cool, dude. Which is the temp inside Max’s, all summer long. Oh yeah.
So here’s the drill: you can book a “picnic date” at Max’s, paid in advance, for any night, but only one picnic table per night. You arrive; swish right by the hostess and head straight to the one empty table that is swathed in a classic red and white-checkered tablecloth with flickering candlelight. Moments later a server arrives to place a picnic basket on your table. It’s filled with wine, salads, cheeses, a Slow Dough baguette, cold fried chicken and truffle chips.
You are having a romantic urban picnic. Inside. In air conditioning!
“You can have a Gulf Coast seafood salad, a champagne chicken salad or an ahi tuna salad,” says Pellegrino of the choices.
There are two price points for your Max’s Urban Picnic, $175 and $225, per couple including tax and tip, depending upon wine choices. But the cool thing is that since it’s prepaid, you just get up and leave whenever you want, no waiting for a bill or tipping.
And no ants or mosquitoes.
Now that’s my kind of picnic.