It’s summer! It’s summer? Sure it is! I don’t know. It seems like summer is finally here anyway. All spring we’ve been encouraging you to drink and eat outside, but it’s all easier said than done because it’s remained cold and rainy for what seem like endless months. But maybe all that is finally over, and what better way to celebrate than with a picnic in one of Brooklyn’s many lovely parks? Food always tastes better when eaten outside. Hell, everything is better when it’s done outside. So make a point of trying to hit up each of these places over the course of this summer. You won’t regret it.
This park is the perfect destination spot for a picnic. It has it all—ample grassy spots on which to lay your blanket, trees to shade you as you laze away the day, and a view of all New York Harbor stretched before you, which is spectacular during (duh) sunset, but pretty damn nice at any other time of day as well. Plus, Sunset Park is home to some of Brooklyn’s best cheap eats, so be sure to fill up your picnic basket before trekking up that big hill and claiming your spot. For a summertime picnic, you can’t go wrong with a bánh mi from Ba Xuyên—my favorites are the grilled pork and the meatball. At just $4 a sandwich, you can also grab an avocado shake or a Thai iced coffee and have a filling and delicious picnic for under $10 a person.
Ba Xuyên; 4222 Eighth Avenue, Sunset Park
The Peninsula in Prospect Park
Prospect Park is enormous, so just advising you to picnic in the park would be vague and unhelpful. And all I ever want in life is to be specific and useful. So, with that in mind, this is the first of three places in Prospect Park that are perfect for picnicking. The Peninsula is in the southwestern part of the park and is best accessed by the entrance on Prospect Park Southwest and Vanderbilt Street. It’s a grassy finger of land that juts out and into the lake and is the kind of quiet and peaceful spot where you’re likely to see people quietly fishing on the water’s edge, while turtles line of on a piece of driftwood, enjoying the summer sun. Before heading to the Peninsula, stop off at Brooklyn Commune for salads or sandwiches to take with you. Brooklyn Commune has just unveiled their summer menu, and I recommend their chicken salad sandwich that is full of Old Bay-flavor and the Vietnamese rice salad which is a delicious vegan choice. The restaurant has a tasty lychee lemonade going on right now, but I’d also advise you to pop into Juice Box Wine & Spirits, which is just down the block, and grab a chilled bottle of Albariño. Sure you’re not technically allowed to drink in public, but if you take the label off the wine, you can’t get a ticket!
Brooklyn Commune; 601 Greenwood Ave, Windsor Terrace
Juice Box Wine & Spirits;1289 Prospect Ave, Windsor Terrace
Brooklyn Bridge Park
There are many things to love about Brooklyn Bridge Park—the view is ripped from a postcard, you’re right by the water’s edge, you can go for a spin on the carousel if that’s your thing, etc. But what’s also kind of amazing to think about is that this entire area was under water after Hurricane Sandy struck, and yet has now fully recovered. This is kind of incredible, and serves as a reminder to appreciate what you’ve got when you’ve got it. So picnic here, and keep an eye on the seemingly calm waters in front of you, because those waters are ready to rise up at any time. Um. So also, get a pizza at Juliana’s in DUMBO. The lines are never as bad as they are at Grimaldi’s and the pizza is pretty much the same. I recommend two pizza extremes here: the pepperoni and sausage pizza, but also the marinara pizza, which is vegan, but delicious and studded with garlic. What should you drink with your pizza? Beer, of course. Head over to Peas & Pickles and pick up a couple of six-packs of Tecate or something. Enjoy your cheap eats and your million-dollar view.
Juliana’s Pizza; 19 Old Fulton Street, DUMBO
Peas & Pickles; 101 Washington Street, DUMBO
Concert Grove in Prospect Park
This is the next perfect picnic spot in Prospect Park, and I like it because it’s well shaded and has plenty of peaceful places to settle down in, but also because you won’t just be picnicking here, you’ll be getting a good old-fashioned dose of Brooklyn culture. That’s right, Concert Grove is a special part of Prospect Park that is lined with the busts of people like Beethoven, Mozart, and Washington Irving. You can also see “the first statue of Abraham Lincoln erected after his assassination.” And although it’s not really the best place to settle inside for your picnic, the Oriental Pavilion in Concert Grove is a lovely place to walk through as it “features a stained-glass cupola and medieval, Hindu-inspired columns.” Concert Grove is best accessed from the Ocean Avenue and Lincoln entrance, but before you head into the park, stop off at Culpepper’s for some Caribbean take-out. The oxtail and the vegetable roti are both delicious—just make sure to bring a lot of napkins with you to the park.
Culpepper’s: 1082 Nostrand Avenue, Prospect Lefferts Gardens
Owl’s Head Park
Owl’s Head Park is the most beautiful park that nobody knows about if they haven’t been to Bay Ridge. The views from the hills of Owl’s Head rival those found in any other park in Brooklyn, and even on the hottest days of summer, a cool sea breeze will keep you comfortable as you picnic. Plus, if you head out to Bay Ridge, you can enjoy the culinary bounty of Tanoreen. This Middle Eastern restaurant rivals Owl’s Head Park as a destination, but you don’t want to eat inside, do you? No, you don’t. So order with abandon at Tanoreen and spread your feast out in the hills of Bay Ridge and indulge. What exactly should you indulge in? I’d recommend the fattoush salad with feta cheese, the cauliflower salad with tahini and pomegranate molasses, the labaneh, and the okra with lamb. But really, you can’t go wrong with anything here. It’s all exceptional.
Tanoreen; 7523 3rd Avenue, Bay Ridge
Sure, it’s not the biggest of Brooklyn parks. You’re not going to feel like you’re a million miles away from the city once you’ve staked out your picnic spot here, but who cares? There’s a dog run in the park, so you’re guaranteed the opportunity to see lots of happy, well-socialized dogs, and that’s always fun. Plus, McGolrick has beautiful old trees and (big bonus here!) bathrooms inside the elegant, hundred-year-old Shelter Pavilion. If you go on a Sunday, you can stock up on provisions at McGolrick Park’s Down to Earth Farmers Market, where food is on offer from such delicious places as Pie Corps and La Newyorkina.
McGolrick Park’s Down to Earth Farmers Market; Russell Street off Nassau Avenue, Greenpoint (open Sundays from 11:00am-4:00pm)
Gerritsen Inlet in Marine Park
Marine Park is huge. There is a ton of stuff to do here besides just picnic, but, really, it would take more than one visit to thoroughly explore Brooklyn’s largest park. So for your picnic, just head over to Gerritsen Inlet in Marine Park, where you can watch boats departing into the waters of Dead Horse Bay, and talk amongst your friends about why in the hell this beautiful area of Brooklyn is named “Dead Horse Bay.” You can then impress your friends by telling them that the reason is that this area used to be where Brooklynites manufactured fertilizer using the remains of dead animals. So! Hungry yet? Before heading over to Gerritsen Inlet, go to the original 40-year-old Roll ‘n’ Roaster on Emmons Avenue and pick up some sandwiches to eat while you enjoy the view of the bay.
Roll ‘n’ Roaster; 2901 Emmons Avenue, Sheepshead Bay
Picnicking in McCarren Park is fun for the simple reason that it will probably be easy to get a lot of your friends to join you because of its location, and there’s tons of good food in the immediate area with which to furnish your picnic basket. In fact, there’s so much good food nearby that instead of doing the lazy thing and grabbing sandwiches at Saltie or breakfast tacos at Briskettown (both totally viable options!) you should head over to the Bedford Cheese Shop and get an array of cheeses and crackers and olives and charcuterie to enjoy on your blanket in the park. That is the perfect way to enjoy a picnic in this
over-crowded bustling part of north Brooklyn.
Saltie; 378 Metropolitan Ave, Williamsburg
Briskettown; 359 Bedford Ave, Williamsburg
Bedford Cheese Shop; 141 N 4th St, Williamsburg
Fort Greene Park
In 1847, Fort Greene Park was officially designated Brooklyn’s first park. While it was originally a space used as a military stronghold (hence the name), those days are long-gone and the park is now one of the more peaceful places in the borough. Unless, that is, you happen to picnic near a child’s birthday party. Then you will feel like you are in Dante’s Fourth Circle of Hell, about which he said:
to every side of me; their howls were loud
while, wheeling weights, they used their chests to push.
They struck against each other; at that point,
each turned around and, wheeling back those weights,
cried out: Why do you hoard? Why do you squander?
Yup! That sounds like just about every child’s birthday party I’ve ever witnessed. Anyway, find a peaceful spot—there really are many options, and enjoy food from a place like the Smoke Joint, where you can get a BBQ spread to take with you to the park. You can’t lose. Just stay away from all those kids!
The Smoke Joint; 87 S Elliott Pl, Fort Greene
The Nethermead in Prospect Park
And now for the last, distinct part of Prospect Park in which to picnic. The Nethermead is an open and expansive meadow right in the middle of the park that was not, luckily, completely ruined by the Great Googa Mooga. It is still a perfectly decent place to picnic, surrounded as it is by some of the oldest trees in the park. You can most easily reach the Nethermead by entering the park at Prospect Park West and 9th Street. There are lots of food options in the area, but, I’ve gotta say, as long as you’re this close to it, you might as well hit up Talde. Talde might not spring to mind as the best place to do take-out, but, in fact, a lot of the food is perfect for just that. Order the lobster bao, the spicy lemongrass chicken, the bacon pad Thai, and the Korean chicken wings and waffles. You will be in guaranteed picnic heaven. There’s nothing else quite like it. Enjoy the summer.
Talde; 369 7th Avenue, Park Slope
Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen