Breaking out the picnic basket and decamping to one of New York’s grand parks is one of the great pleasures of summer in New York City. But where to head? And what to pack? Well, that depends on your appetite, your mood and your company. Whether you want a bordering-on-lavish picnic prepared by one of New York’s top chefs, want something cheaper but premade or prefer to gather ingredients at a carefully curated market instead, we have the best places to pick up food — and six of the best parks for eating it. All you have to do is remember the sunscreen.
Telepan + Central Park
Located a block from the western flank of Central Park, Telepan restaurant is a neighborhood favorite that also packs one heck of a picnic basket. Chef Bill Telepan has taken the guesswork out of picnicking by creating a mix-and-match menu that includes a main dish with salt and vinegar cottage fries, side salad and dessert for $21 a person. Mains like crispy fried chicken or a Cuban sandwich will have you rethinking PB&J for good, and side salads like farro tabbouleh or spicy coleslaw almost call for cloth napkins. For dessert, a blueberry pie crescent embodies the taste of summer. You can download a picnic order form online (telepan-ny.com/images/content/file/picnic_order_form2.pdf) in advance. 72 W. 69th St., 212-580-4300, telepan-ny.com
>>For one of the better picnicking spots in Central Park, enter at 72nd Street and stroll to the lawns beneath Belvedere Castle, around 79th Street, for a particularly scenic picnic spot.
Otto + Washington Square Park
Mario Batali’s casual enoteca and pizzeria is located just two blocks north of the famous arch in Washington Square Park. A to-go menu allows you to craft a picnic to your exact specifications. Feeding vegetarians? Stock up on $5 veggie snacks such as eggplant caponatina or an $8 cucumber and watermelon salad. You can build a picnic around Italian cheeses and meat (three cheeses for $11 and $9 per meat selection) or opt for heartier items such as a Swiss chard and goat cheese pizza ($14) or pasta like penne with spicy cauliflower and chili flakes ($10). Whatever you choose, don’t forget something sweet — Otto is known for its olive oil ice cream ($12/pint) and assorted biscotti ($8). 1 Fifth Ave., 212-995-9559, ottopizzeria.com
>>Spread your picnic blanket beneath one of the broad trees on the northern flank of Washington Square Park for the perfect mix of sun and shade.
GRAB AND GO
Iris Cafe Takeaway + Brooklyn Bridge Park
On a movie-set beautiful block in historic Brooklyn Heights, Iris Cafe has earned a reputation for its careful execution of delicious sandwiches, creative salads and tempting baked goods. After the success of the cafe, owner Rachel Graville added a takeaway shop down the street. Beyond the grocery items and fridges stocked with cold drinks, there’s a deli counter offering sandwiches like turkey and cheddar with pickle and Dijon mayo on toasted cranberry pecan bread ($9). If you have a breakfast craving, breakfast items are served all day, including a lox and egg sandwich with spinach, capers and red onion ($9). Salads — such as the chopped Cobb ($12) with hard-boiled egg, bacon, gorgonzola, walnuts and balsamic vinaigrette — are served with buttered baguette. Round out your meal with cookies or get a scoop of white pistachio from its stock of Jane’s ice cream as a picnic prequel. 16 Columbia Pl., Brooklyn, 718-722-7395, iriscafenyc.com
>>Take your haul down Joralemon Street to Brooklyn Bridge Park (it’s about a five-minute walk) and pick a free spot on Pier 5 to eat while admiring views of lower Manhattan.
Bagel Hole + Prospect Park
Smallish bagels with a toothsome outer layer and a chewy interior — the quintessential New York bagel — have been served at Bagel Hole in Park Slope since 1985 to much acclaim. The line is often out the door for the hand-rolled bagels here, which can be filled with lox and cream cheese for a brunch-themed picnic or with fresh salads or cold cuts for a lunchtime gathering. To feed a group affordably, pick up a baker’s dozen (everything bagels, sesame, whole wheat and plain) along with a tub or two of cream cheese and some fruit. 400 Seventh Ave., Brooklyn, 718-788-4014, bagelhole.net
>>While some might be tempted to eat the hot bagels on the nearest bench, stroll the two blocks over to Prospect Park and head to Park Lake. The water view is an apt accompaniment to the wonderfully chewy bagels.
ASSEMBLE YOUR OWN NIBBLES
All Good Things + Hudson River Park
A new indoor Tribeca market, All Good Things is a carefully curated space with the best in cheese, bread, coffee, ice cream and more. You’ll likely recognize the names of many of its vendors — Dickson’s Farmstand Meats and Blue Bottle Coffee for example. There’s a picnic pair in the All Good Things Bread stall and the one for Cavianola cheese, stocked with cheeses, crackers and spreads for a picnic, and there are also sandwiches. The ham, brie and green apple sandwich on a Parisian-style baguette ($9) is a perfect execution of simple ingredients. Round out your picnic with selections from other craft vendors including pastries from Blue Bottle, ice cream from Blue Marble, or if you want to show off your shucking skills, oysters from the All Good Fish and Produce stand. 102 Franklin St., 212-966-3663, allgoodthingsny.com
>>With your goodies amassed, walk along Tribeca’s cobbled streets toward the Hudson, crossing the West Side Highway into Hudson River Park. There are comfortable lounge chairs at the end of Pier 25 or you can spread out a picnic blanket in the flower-fringed lawns along River Terrace.
Chelsea Market + High Line Park
Chelsea Market, an enclosed food market mecca has countless choices for picnic supplies, and an enviable location adjacent to the High Line. Depending on your appetite, assemble a spread among the sandwiches and pastries at Amy’s Bread, grilled steak quesadillas ($4.50) at Los Tacos No.1 and lobster rolls on a grilled split-top bun (MP) from the Lobster Place. Whether you opt for bite-sized donuts from the Doughnuttery, brownies from Fat Witch or Cookies from Eleni’s, you will not want for dessert sustenance. 75 Ninth Ave., 212-243-6005, chelseamarket.com
>>The buzzed-about High Line, a stretch of elevated train track that was converted into a foliage-filled park, is accessible from West 16th Street near 10th Avenue. For the best picnic experience, go during the week when you can soak up its blissfully quiet side and snag one of those highly coveted lounge chairs in time to watch the sunset.