In Defense of the Lazy Picnic

In Defense of the Lazy Picnic

There are few things that I enjoy more than eating good food with people I love in a beautiful place.

That’s not a particularly difficult situation to create in New York City, where there’s an abundance of interesting neighborhoods and restaurants (or rooftops) with stunning views, but when I don’t want to deal with reservations or prepare my own meals, I like to organize a lazy picnic.

There’s no wrong way to do this; you can pick up snacks from the grocery store, or full meals from your favorite restaurant. But to get you started, I gathered some pairings of my favorite foods that are situated near public parks.

In the Bronx, Lloyd’s Carrot Cake serves up unbeatable slices and cupcakes that can easily be towed across the street to Van Cortlandt Park. A bit farther south, in Washington Heights, Cachapas y Mas prepares delicious Venezuelan street food. (I’m partial to the yoyos, which are stacks of meat and cheese between sweet plantains.) It’s a short walk from Fort Tryon Park, but if you’re looking for a slightly longer journey, the Little Red Lighthouse in Fort Washington is less than an hour away on foot.

Over in Chelsea, Miznon serves up fantastic vegetables and pita sandwiches just steps away from the High Line. (You also can’t go wrong with most anything in Chelsea Market; when I’m there during the morning, I also like to stop by Amy’s Bread for a sourdough twist.)

When I want a treat, I like to stop by Vanessa’s Dumplings on Eldridge Street in Chinatown. I like bringing my dumplings and sesame pancake sandwiches onto the Brooklyn Bridge — at dusk the bridge is less crowded, and if you bring a date it makes for a sweet picnic with a lovely view.

By Marsha P. Johnson State Park, in Williamsburg, you can find the second Birria-Landia truck on the corner of Metropolitan and Meeker Avenues. (The truck is there from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. on weekdays, and from 2 p.m. to midnight on weekends.) Serving adobo-marinated beef in tacos, consommé and mulitas, the truck is a perfect place to pick up lunch or dinner before sitting by the water.

Roberta’s — the beloved Bushwick pizzeria — also has a location a few blocks away, where you can pick up a pie to snack on in nearby Domino Park. (If you’re feeling super D.I.Y., you can even learn how to make the dough yourself.)

Over in Red Hook, I love going to Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pie to pick up raspberry blonde swingles — tiny, frozen, white chocolate-dipped pies — and heading over to Louis Valentino Jr. Park and Pier (which is just steps away) to enjoy them. Since the closest subway stop is the F and G at Smith-9th Streets, the pies and park are a bit of a walk, but I’d travel far and wide to eat amazing pie at a sunset spot like this one.

On superhot summer days, I like strolling through Brooklyn Bridge Park in Dumbo and stopping by the tiny Ample Hills Creamery in the old Fulton Ferry Fireboat House. The park has also been running a ton of family-friendly activities, exercise classes and movie nights throughout the summer if you’re looking to hang around — you can check out the calendar here.

On Staten Island, Sagara makes Sri Lankan classics within walking distance of the ferry. Our critic recommends the tempered cashews, lamprais and chicken cheese kottu, and I recommend checking out the view of Manhattan’s skyline from the nearby North Shore Esplanade.

And if you’re looking for something more beachy, Bar Marseille is perched right by Rockaway Beach in Queens. They serve up fresh seafood, charcuterie boards and heartier meals, all of which you’re welcome to eat there or out on the sand.

A few more ideas:

Free fun: Watch “Akeelah and The Bee” tomorrow at the Harbor View Lawn in Brooklyn Bridge Park. Food and music start around 6 p.m. and the movie starts after sunset.

In Queens: The Gino Sitson Trio is playing “Beautiful Vibration,” a night of African music, at Flushing Town Hall on Friday. Tickets and details can be found here.

In Brooklyn: The musicians Junglepussy, Tygapaw and Mari World are playing at Celebrate Brooklyn at the Prospect Park Bandshell on Friday. The show is free with an R.S.V.P.

In Manhattan: The Caribbean Cultural Central African Diaspora Institute in East Harlem is hosting its AfriBembé Festival at 120th Street and Sylvan Place on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

For date night: Visit Cadence, the soul food spot that puts a vegan twist on Black Southern dishes.

Solo fun: Head to Times Square to see the Harlem Quintet tonight at 5 p.m. If you’re not free tonight, check out Brave New World Repertory Theatre’s new production, “Dutch Kings,” in Red Hook on Saturday at 11 a.m. or 3 p.m.

With friends: Watch performances at the New York Burlesque Fest’s Summer Sizzler Show at City Winery on Saturday at 8 p.m.

And if you want to see it all: The TD Five Boro Bike Tour is happening on Sunday. Sign-up details can be found here.

What do you want to hear from us this summer? Are there events or venues we should know about? Send us a note at, or let us know in the comments.

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