The warm season calls for alfresco dining, but this summer is even more picnicky than usual. And because packing a fancy feast for a socially distanced picnic can be a hassle, we have compiled a list of Canadian restaurants that offer the best boxed buffets, for frictionless outings.
Eateries across the country are boxing up three–course meals and elevating the sandwich to new foodie heights.
Palme, Montreal —‘If a country has a palm tree, we take inspiration from it,’ is Palme’s motto, and it rings true in their menu. Palme is a Caribbean–owned fusion restaurant that prides itself on incorporating flavours found in Asia, Latin American and even the Middle East in their food and drinks. Order a takeaway BBQ Basket (starting at $95) to try out their homemade jerk sauce, choka plantains, West Indian fattoush salad and more signature sides. Every basket, including the Vegan, Carnivore, Surf & Turf and Ultimate Menu options, comes with a miniature personal grill to cook your own mains.
La Prunelle, Montreal —Turning the casual Plateau Mont–Royal favourite into a street food joint has literally opened doors – ordering through the storefront’s open garage door keeps guests from having to go in. La Prunelle is experimenting with all kinds of world cuisines, from Thai and Vietnamese to Creole and Turkish. On top of welcoming Montreal chefs for pop–up events every other week, the neighbourhood BYOB (booze, not blanket) spot is boxing up festive fare for two ($50, Thursday through Saturday) to be enjoyed in nearby Jeanne–Mance or La Fontaine parks. Pack your cooler with ice–cold beer and head for the Duluth Avenue address to pick up a loaded picnic basket. And don’t forget to try their soft serve after returning your set.
Aviator, Toronto —This glossy East Danforth bistro has turned into a pickup point for picnics for two. Run by husband–and–wife team Verity Crewe–Nelson and Alexander Austriaco, Aviator curates romantic meals that evoke a sense of voyage – that’s where the restaurant got its name. Picnic offerings change weekly, but recent menus have included a peach pancake brunch picnic, an Italian style antipasto platter, and tea party sandwiches. Meals and opening hours for pick up are posted on Instagram, so make sure to follow their account.
Langdon Hall Country House Hotel & Spa, Cambridge —Lunch on the Relais & Châteaux property will be nothing short of lavish. The 75–acre estate flaunts the hundred–year legacy of Eugene Langdon Wilks, the wealthy Englishman who built the grand home and its lush Victorian gardens. Known for his dedication to regional cuisine, the Chef at Langdon Hall, Jason Bangerter – who made his name working in some of London’s top kitchens – conveys a sense of place by harvesting and foraging on site. Choose your Sunday, select your bottle of wine from their list and purchase your luxurious picnic for two ($250) online. Once you arrive at Langdon Hall, pick up your deluxe basket (poached chicken with cabernet franc vinaigrette and a wild blueberry cheesecake are a couple of recent gourmet menu items) and spend a romantic afternoon on the estate’s premises.
River Café, Calgary —Set by the Bow River, a 20–minute walk from downtown Calgary, the upscale woodland lodge on Prince’s Island serves ingredients indigenous to the region. For 25 years, the café’s menu has been a reflection of the restaurant’s unique surroundings. Build your own basket, choosing from a selection of small plates to share – artisan cheeses, charcuteries, red lentil hummus with rice crackers, and other finger treats like sandwiches, desserts and beverages. Picnic orders must be placed by 11:30 PM the previous night. The café is accessible by footbridge and making your way there by foot or bike is also part of the experience.
Chancho Tortilleria, Vancouver —Local taco joint Chancho’s backyard kits call for a hand–held treat fiesta. The DIY combos come with carnitas (pork shoulder and/or pork belly) or veggies, fresh–made corn tortillas, chips and guac, salsas and black beans, as well as a choice of margaritas or micheladas. Kits are available for order by phone or online seven days a week (any day can be #TacoTuesday), from noon to 8 p.m.
Wild Mountain Food and Drink, Sooke —Everything is made from local, seasonal, organic ingredients at this Vancouver Island restaurant. In keeping with slow food values, Wild Mountain’s menu reflects the large community of farmers, foragers, winemakers and brewers found on the island. Picnic packs for two come in both omnivore ($25) and meatless ($20) options, but you’ll definitely want to eat your greens – the side of local greens and radish with edible flowers and fig leaf vinaigrette is a must. Pre–order (scroll down to the drinks section – you’ll want to try the rhubarb gin fizz), pay and choose your pick–up time online, then head to the Sooke boardwalk nearby.
Prince Edward Island
The Prince Edward Island Preserve Co., PEI —
Located in the quaint riverside village of New Glasgow, The Preserve Company is dedicated to producing and selling low–sugar preserves, specialty foods, blended full leaf tea, spice blends and more. If treats like Maple Walnut Fudge or Organic Veggie Wine Gummies pique your interest, check out their premade picnics. Starting at $5 (the price for packing things up), customers can select between three and 25 products to build their perfect picnic basket. Choose your pickup day and time for takeaway or order your picnic to be enjoyed right in the 12–acre garden sanctuary called the Gardens of Hope. With over two kilometres of walking trails, picnickers can find the perfect spot to take in views of the water and enjoy a meal.
Lighthouse Picnics, Ferryland —About an hour’s drive from St. John’s, the Ferryland Lighthouse – a traditional red and white beacon for local fishermen built in 1870 – is one of the first things you’ll notice as you drive through town and head towards the water. The sought–after picnic experience ($28 per adult) requires that you make a reservation a few weeks in advance, but the quality of the food and scenery – waves and whales are part of the vista – make it worth waiting for. Everything is baked fresh at the lighthouse and each picnic includes a sandwich, salad, dessert and freshly squeezed lemonade. Your experience starts with a walk along the narrow isthmus leading up to the lighthouse and cliffs overlooking the ocean where you’ll enjoy your meal.