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Boston’s Best Picnic Spots and the Foods You Should Bring to Impress Your Friends
Restaurants & Bars

Boston’s Best Picnic Spots and the Foods You Should Bring to Impress Your Friends

Pieces of buttermilk fried chicken, hunks of unfrosted chocolate cake, and a big Thermos of cold milk consumed while stretched out on a thick cotton blanket in the Public Garden in late June is idyllic picnicking in Boston. Not everyone owns the right type of wicker though, and who wants to carry around a blanket all day? Luckily there’s no shortage of spots all around the Boston area to take in its bountiful beauty, history, and charm—and there’s no shortage of portable, expertly prepared food available to be brought along and enjoyed with it.

The southern entrance of the Rose Kennedy Greenway begins at the tiny Mary Hoo Soo Park, (also known as the Chinatown Gate). If you’re planning on walking the length of the Greenway to the North End, fuel your trek with a bánh mì from New Saigon Sandwich. The tiny takeout spot is a couple of blocks away on Washington Street. The crusty baguettes are filled with the standard cucumbers, do chua, cilantro, mayo, jalapeños, and fish sauce, and eight different fillings are offered. 

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For a little extra, check out the variety of spring and summer rolls and bubble teas available, as well as premade noodle boxes. Back at the park, scan to find a bench or a table (they might all be occupied by mahjong players—in that case, it’s perfectly acceptable to eat your bánh mì while standing under one of the many canopy trees or leaning against the mural wall). Press your sandwich together, resign yourself to the fact that you’ll likely get breadcrumbs on your shirt, and enjoy the sweet and chewy, salty, and crispy marriage of French and Vietnamese cuisine in sandwich form.

After only being open a couple of years, Jamaica Plain’s Chilacates expanded its Mexican street food offerings from the Sam Adams brewery-abutting Amory Street location to a second storefront on Centre Street (a Mission Hill shop is also in the works). Both locations offer quesadillas, tacos, tortas, enchiladas, tostadas, and burritos with a variety of fillings including Chicken Tinga, Al Pastor, and Pork en Chile Verde. 

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You’d be hard-pressed to make a bad decision with any combo, but for our purposes we’re going with burritos. Starting at the Amory location, dress that beautiful burrito up any way you like (or get it naked) and make sure that it’s nice and bundled up; it’s going to be on a walk for most of its short life. Take a right out of the building, cross over Boylston, hook right onto School Street, cross over Washington and walk uphill until the street ends (you’re really going to want to keep that burrito safe and sound, this can’t be emphasized enough). Enter Franklin Park and walk into the park for a bit until you see a wide, stone staircase on your left. Here are the abandoned bear dens in Crouch Woods. One of the Olmstead-designed park’s original 1912 exhibits, it wasn’t incorporated into the newer animal exhibits in Franklin Park Zoo and was put into disuse in the 50s. Sharp-eyed movie buffs might recognize the site as the spot where (spoiler alert) Tim Robbins dumped Sean Penn’s daughter’s body in “Mystic River.” After you check out the long-empty enclosures and stone carvings from a bygone era, perch on one of the exhibit’s stone walls or walk a little farther up the rocks to unwrap that gorgeous burrito in full splendor of the city’s skyline.

People spend time outside like they need it during those first warm spring days. If you can get in some sunshine and breakfast in heavily-ensconced Kendall Square once that thaw peaks, bring Mamaleh’s into your morning. The “modern era Jewish Delicatessen” processes and prepares all its antibiotic and hormone-free meats in house and, aside from their rye breads, all baking is done on premise as well. 

The house-cured lox and cream cheese comes on any style bagel (or onion bialy) with cucumbers, tomatoes, red onion, and capers. Consider adding one or two chocolate or raspberry walnut rugelach, then take your breakfast over to the secret garden that’s on top of the parking garage next to the Marriott. Free and open to the public from sunrise to sunset, this carefully tended green oasis provides respite from the indoors. Just enter the parking garage elevator and choose the “garden” option. There are plenty of benches and picnic tables to enjoy your lox bagel (and maybe one or two rugelach) while soaking in some much-needed sunshine and warm air before you do whatever it is you need to do that day.

Chilacates Centre St
New Saigon Sandwich
Chilacates Amory St
Mamaleh's Delicatessen

About the Author

I've had a forever fascination with every step of the process that goes into food and drink entering a person's mouth hole. I also like going to special places where there aren't a lot of people.