If you ask me, the only way to make a sunny summer day outdoors even better is to throw some excellent food and drink into the mix. With a little planning, you can turn a lazy day on the slopes of Mount Tabor or a waterfall hike in the Gorge into a day that’s equally memorable for both the scenery and the food. Read on for our favorite picnic-friendly sandwiches, salads, drinks, and (of course) desserts.
Muffuletta from Sebastiano’s
This sandwich combines a little bit of Sicily, a little bit of New Orleans, and a little Pacific Northwest in every bite. The Montavilla deli bakes their own fennel-sesame round bread, hand-stretches their own mozzarella, and chops up their own olive relish; the muffuletta then gets stacked with Olympia Provisions mortadella and sweetheart ham, sided by housemade paprika potato chips. There's also a vegetarian version made with eggplant that's a hit with meat eaters, too. No wonder Sebastiano’s easily made our Best Restaurants 2020 list.
Banh Mi from An Xuyen
This bakery is a go-to for banh mi sandwiches, and for good reason: where else can you get a banh mi with bread straight from the source, perfectly crisp and airy and fluffy? The ratios of meat to pickled veggies to egg butter are dialed in just right, making for a sandwich that you’ll want to inhale in minutes. The barbecue pork is a classic, but you can’t go wrong with any of the options, including lemongrass chicken, the classic pate-ham combo, or a vegetarian tofu or egg sandwich. Pro tip: pick up some cream puffs or black and white cookies for dessert.
Egg Salad Sando from Tokyo Sando
We love all the sandos at this downtown cart. But when it’s available—it isn’t available every day and often sells out, so order online to secure yours—our picnic pick is the egg salad, which swaddles an entire soft-boiled egg in a generous amount of Japanese mayo and an intriguing depth of flavor thanks to mirin and soy sauce. Plus, there’s no arguing with the fluffy, cloud-like shokupan bread. Grab a side of karaage with lemon sauce or potato salad while you’re there, too.
The Italian Sandwich from Demarco’s
We like this Italian sub not only for its classic cold cuts and crunchy garnishes like red onion, tomato, and a drizzle of Italian oil and vinegar, but especially for its housemade giardinera—a pickled blend of carrots and peppers. To score extra points with your picnic crew, bring a side of their crispy, stretchy mozzarella sticks with marinara.
The Famous Tickler from Taste Tickler
Taste Tickler, open since 1971, does fusion subs right (see the bulgogi-marinated cheesesteak), but for a picnic, we like a cold-cut sub like the Famous Tickler: ham, salami, and pepperoni with provolone cheese, grated parmesan, mayo, lettuce, tomato, pickle, onion, and pepperoncini. Also on the menu: turkey cranberry with cream cheese, plus veggie options like egg salad and grilled veggie for your plant-based friends.
Tofu Salad Rolls from Bui Natural Tofu
This shop is a veritable cornucopia of grab-and-go goods for meat eaters and vegetarians alike. Our picnic go-to: tofu salad rolls in super-tender, fresh rice paper wrappers, stuffed with crisp lettuce, thick rice noodles, and flavorful fried housemade tofu, served with a standout umami-packed peanut sauce for dipping.
Papaya Salad, Chicken Feet Salad, and Nam Khao from Lily Market
Head to the back of this grocery store for a jaw-dropping selection of hot foods and salads. Grab papaya salad made-to-order (mild to hot, peanut-topped Thai or extra-funky Lao style), lemongrass-infused crisp-skinned sausages, nam khao (crispy pork and coconut rice ball salad with herbs and lettuce for wrapping), and bouncy, gelatinous-textured chicken feet salad with shredded carrots, cilantro, and a hint of spice.
Seasonal Salades from Maurice
This French-meets-Nordic luncheonette serves a constantly rotating selection of salades, soups, and quiches. Recently spotted: a chilled golden raspberry and cantaloupe soup, quiche with chamomile and Tokyo turnips, a carrot-quinoa-prune-parsley leaf salade, and seared Oregon albacore tuna with summer salade, pictured above.
Tabbouleh, Grape Leaves, and Cheese from World Foods
World Foods has pretty much everything you need for a classic picnic—soft and hard cheeses, charcuterie, gherkins, olives, chocolate bars for days, and bottles of wine galore—plus a selection of Mediterranean-style salads in the cold case. Try the meat and rice-stuffed dolmas, one of the many types of hummus, or the Lebanese chicken salad, and grab one of the many types of housemade baklava (we like pistachio) for dessert.
Apicco Spritz and The Swizzle from Straightaway
No need to bring your entire cocktail bar when you go out for a picnic. We’ve quite enjoyed the wine cocktails from Straightaway, including the canned Apicco Spritz, which blends pinot gris with a housemade citrus amaro for a flavor reminiscent of orange blossom. Or if a tropical libation is more your speed, try The Swizzle, a bottled cocktail that mixes up rum, passionfruit, pineapple, and falernum. (Be sure to check whether alcohol is allowed at your picnic site first.)
Chocolate Capuchin Cakes from Maurice
This luncheonette is equally notable for its savory items as well as its sweets, including the cone-shaped chocolate capuchin cake with lapsang souchong (perfect for handheld cake eating), and its famous black pepper cheesecake is a must-try for all Portlanders and out-of-towners. Other hits: the lemon souffle pudding cake that’s acidic and refreshing on a hot day, and cookies like the Peace, No War cookies made with fruit jelly, orange zest, and Ayers Farm purple cornmeal.
Cowboy Cookies from Lauretta Jean’s
Lauretta Jean’s is known for their excellent pies, but for an easy-to-eat dessert, we’re also enamored with their cookies, especially the cowboy cookie—an oat cookie with chocolate chips, pecans, coconut, and cornflakes that’s a chewy-crunchy textural delight.
Banana Cream Pie from Pie Spot
The Pie Spot’s personal-sized pies are ideal for picnicking—you could even pick them up and eat them with your hands, no utensils required (if that’s your style). Our pick is the banana cream pie, which blends a toasty, butterscotch-like salted caramel drizzle with banana cream containing banana slices and a topping of fluffy whipped cream.
Baby Cakes and Thumbprint Cookies from Vivienne
This café also does savory and sweet equally well, but for a picnic dessert, we recommend the Baby Cake—a petite buttercream-frosted classic cake in flavors like chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry that generously serves two. We’re also intrigued by the thumbprint cookies made with strawberry jam and the seasonal berry galettes. Bonus: to accompany your picnic, choose from a selection of wines in their window provided by natural wine hotspot Bar Norman.