To coincide with National Picnic Month, five Chicago restaurants are offering pre-packaged picnics throughout July. Whether it's in Grant Park along Lake Shore Drive or under the Frank Gehry-designed Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park on Michigan Avenue, your provisions are completely covered. Once you've plunked down the money for your picnic basket, all that's left to bring is a blanket to sit on.
What: Wine and Cheese
From: Bin 36
Details: Bin 36 sells "wine backpacks" (a two-bottle wine tote, $22; or a three-bottle wine tote, $40) through its retail market at the front of the restaurant. Sold with the totes are a wine-bottle opener, two wine glasses, and a selection of cheeses and snacks. Bin 36 sells wines that the restaurant's wine director has a hand in making (each features a Bin 36 label) as well as bottles from wineries around the world, with a focus on excellent values. You can also buy wine "stix" from Bin 36 ($14 for three) to stick in the grass and hold either wine glasses or a wine bottle; you wouldn't want to lose your wine to an accidental spill, would you?
What: Spanish Tapas
From: Mercat a la Planxa
Details: The experience kicks off with a cooking demo held select Saturdays at 12 p.m. from Chef de Cuisine Cory Morris (of Mercat a la Planxa) in how to prepare Spanish tapas. Then, the tapas ($25) – such as bocadillos (Spanish omelettes) with tuna and celery-caper aioli – are packaged into picnic lunches for you to take. Armed with the know-how in making these dishes, the hope is that next time you can pack the picnic yourself!
What: Locavore Lunch
From: Lobby Lounge inside JW Marriott Chicago
Details: Choose three dishes from a special menu (dubbed the PICKnic menu, $30 for two people) where all dishes contain locally sourced ingredients, and your selections are packaged in a JW Marriott Chicago picnic tote. Pair that with a half bottle of either Apaltagua Chardonnay or Apaltagua Pinot Noir for an additional $14. If you hold onto the tote and bring it back before Labor Day, the PICKnic menu costs you just $20.
What: Meat Lovers' Meal
From: Markethouse Restaurant
Details: Forget the veggies: if you're a meat lover to the core then cut to the chase with Executive Chef Scott Walton, of Markethouse Restaurant's meat-centric picnic ($12). Housemade specialty sausages (including seafood, lamb merguez, veal and pork bratwurst, hot or sweet Italian pork and spiced apple chicken sausage) are matched with housemade mustards (choose from violet, apple cider and tarragon), rolls and a choice of three salads.
What: Luxury Picnic
From: Filini Bar & Restaurant
Where: Lakeshore East Park
Details: Filini Bar & Restaurant, inside Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel celebrates its first summer in Chicago by offering a picnic basket that will impress your companions and might be the tool for a perfect romantic date. A keepsake basket is stocked with Italian edibles prepared by Filini's Executive Chef Christian Fantoni, as well as canapés and caviar. Pricing available upon request.
Photo Credits: Wine and Cheese: Wine and cheese via Shutterstock.com; Spanish Tapas: Mercat a la Planxa - cider-braised pork belly pinxos by Attribution License; Locavore Lunch: Courtesy of Marriott International, Inc.; Meat Lovers' Meal: Courtesy of Markethouse Restaurant; Luxury Picnic: Filini Bar and Restaurant