Picnic season is upon us, whether you’re taking to outdoor theater, hiking the Barton Creek Green Belt, or some other al fresco spot, be prepared with the perfect picnic meal with DIY fixings from any of the following spots. Go ahead and put a bag full of paper towels, a knife and cutting board, trash bag, blanket, and canned beverages of your choosing in your car now; you’ll be thankful for it later. For more outdoor eating, check out Austin’s best and new patios, and rooftops.
1) Finger food plus sweets from Bribery Bakery — Even if you want a whole meal, Bribery’s Mueller location is a good bet. The lunch menu includes chicken and dumplings, avocado and hummus toast, and anytime items like ham, egg and cheddar biscuits, savory croissants, and kolaches. Call ahead to check the menu, since it varies daily. Pick some chocolate cake, face-sized cinnamon roll, or strawberry lemonade macarons for dessert, and your picnic will go down in your personal history as the sweetest ever.
2) Sandwiches and trimmings from Salt & Time — For a seriously gourmet meal, call ahead and order the Cuban (roasted pork, coffee lomo, swiss cheese, spicy mustard, pickles) or the Roast Beast (with caramelized onions, creme fraiche, on a baguette) sandwiches to go. Just make sure you eat ‘em soon after ordering, or you’ll have sad soggy sandwiches on your hands. Alternatively, pick up sliced Toscano Salame, Pure Luck goat cheese, Zapp's potato chips, and some chocolate. For extra indulgence, use the salami as crackers for the cheese.
3) Lebanese takeout from Tarbouch — The vegetarian sampler is a great start, and pita bread is included. Just pick five out of following choices, like hummus, baba ghannouj (eggplant dip), dolma (grape leaves), falafel vegetable patties, tabbouleh salad, laban-wi-khiyar (yogurt and cucumber dip), house salad, Tarbouch potatoes, or rice.
4) Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken — Hit up this purveyor of battered and fried happiness any time after 11 a.m. for an easy route to filling your stomach sans fuss. An eight- to twenty-piece meal forms the base, then pick up some staple cookout sides like potato salad, slaw or baked beans too. If you think you’ll have room, pick up a whole or slice of pecan pie on the way out.
5) Proof & Cooper in Dripping Springs — If you’re headed for Hamilton Pool or elsewhere in the Hill Country, call ahead for a takeout order from Proof & Cooper, where you can pick from any of the mouthwatering eats. Choices include chicken salad sandwich with tomato and avocado on sourdough, pulled pork sandwich, Alabama-style with cole slaw, or the big house salad. If you’re looking to go easier on your pocket book, they also have a dedicated section for picnic items.
6) Gourmands — Another heavy sandwich hitter from the east side, Gourmands does not mess around. Try the Bacchus (fajita marinated chicken breast, bacon, sautéed poblanos, onions, Swiss, avocado, sliced tomato, shredded lettuce, and sambal mayo, served on a hoagie roll) and the Orgy (warm peppered pastrami, Swiss cheese, coleslaw, and Russian dressing, served on marble rye), with an otherworldly salad.
7) Wheatsville — Great bang for your buck. Order Austin’s best-kept secret: find the beans and rice with casera salsa in a half-pound box from the prepared foods ordering counter, where people order smoothies. Grab a couple cheese ends ($1 to $2 each); corn tortillas; sour cream; and a few avocados, and voila: you’ve got everything you need to make six or seven delicious vegetarian tacos.