Easy family picnic: Get takeout at these Seattle-area cafes — near parks!
The Herzog family relaxes at Volunteer Park with sandwiches from Cone & Steiner.
PHOTO: JOSHUA HUSTON
Updated for summer 2019
School’s almost out and summer is knocking, which means picnic season is upon us. Nothing makes a meal and a memory more than eating al fresco. Picnicking is easier than it’s ever been thanks to ever-increasing to-go options at so many restaurants. For days when it’s easiest not to pack a picnic, here are some of our favorite local destinations to dine in nature with excellent takeout options nearby. So break out the blanket and sunscreen (hopefully) and enjoy a picnic to go.
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Just 40 minutes east of Seattle, Rattlesnake Lake is a beautiful spot to visit, offering a four-mile roundtrip hike that goes up the ridge, a flat trail around the lake, and endless places to enjoy a picnic lunch. The nearby Riverbend Café, located just after exiting I-90, offers a comprehensive menu of lunch options. The house-smoked salmon is not to be missed; it’s available as a Caesar wrap or in a ciabatta roll. The generously stuffed, grilled panini sandwiches are also a standout, including a fresh Mediterranean veggie option. Place your order on the drive so it will be ready to pick up upon arrival. 14303 436th Ave. S.E., North Bend; 425-888-6600, riverbendcafenorthbend.com
Taking in the view at Lake Union’s Gas Works Park is a quirky haven for kids with wide-open spaces for running around and a hill that’s perfect for kite-flying on windy days. The play area and picnic barns are under construction (see Romp) so bring a blanket and enjoy beautiful views of the Space Needle and houseboats, and watch seaplanes flying overhead. Just a few blocks away, The Essential Baking Company offers sack lunches to go with a wide range of sandwiches made with their delicious artisanal bread. Turkey and cheddar is a perennial kid favorite, and the spicy bahn mi (choose pork belly over chicken) adds a little zing to usual picnic fare. If toasted egg sandwiches are your thing, you’re in luck; they offer a whopping eight varieties. Chips and potato salad are available on the side, and all sandwiches are available on gluten-free bread. 1604 N. 34th St., essentialbaking.com
Capitol Hill’s Volunteer Park is a 48-acre oasis in the heart of the city. There’s a large playground for kids to enjoy, a water tower with spectacular views of the city, and plenty of open spaces to throw a frisbee or enjoy playing soccer. In the summer months, kids love to splash in the wading pool (opens June 23), and families can enjoy a series of free concerts and events. Cone and Steiner, located about half a mile south of the park, is a charming gourmet general store where you can order sandwiches to go as you browse the wide range of upscale snacks and goodies (including a range of jarred candies that make sugar seem like an enriching cultural experience). The generously portioned ham-and-cheese (ham, bacon, and two kinds of cheese) gets a zippy lift from the garlic pesto, and the PB&J always goes down well with the kids. If you want to make it a freestyle picnic, opt for a freshly baked baguette and choose from their huge selection of cheeses and cured meats. 532 19th Ave. E., 206-582-1928; coneandsteiner.com
At 135 acres, Lincoln Park is an urban sanctuary in West Seattle, offering lush forests, miles of hiking and biking trails, and lengths of rocky beaches on Puget Sound. Kids love the newly renovated “treehouse” play structure, and the ziplines are always a favorite. Picnic tables can be found throughout the park; five picnic shelters on the beach can be reserved in advance. West Seattle’s flourishing culinary scene gives you plenty of food options to choose from, but Bakery Nouveau consistently knocks it out of the park with stellar sandwiches and baked goods. Kids go nuts for the Stromboli, essentially a rolled-up pizza turnover perfectly transportable for a picnic. The roast beef and caramelized onion sandwich packs a hearty, flavorful punch, and the rotating selection of quiches never disappoint. Be sure to pick up some of their famous croissants for breakfast the next day. 4737 California Ave. S.W., 206-923-0534; bakerynouveau.com