While on their own, a hunk of cheese, some cured meats, a container of jam and a chunk of crusty bread may seem like nothing special, but sometimes something simplistic can come together to make for a memorable experience. Pack up a bag of quality ingredients and set out to liven up a mundane weekly dinner, add some spontaneity to a weekend party or procure items from local purveyors around town to piece together the ideal Pittsburgh picnic. We even have found a few magical places to spread a blanket.

The essentials

Snag some superior goodies to put into your basket. Since your ingredients are the focal point, there are several places where you can pick up all the right components to wow your picnic pals. And don’t forget the beverages.

The Cheese Queen sets up some serious spreads and can easily be your one-stop shop for a charcuterie board that will have everyone excited to eat. What began as bespoke boards, boxes and individual orders has morphed into a booming business and an upcoming storefront in Mt. Oliver that will fulfill online orders, host tastings and lead courses.   

Another central spot for grabbing all your essentials is Chantal’s Cheese Shop at 4402 Penn Ave. in Bloomfield. With a variety of cheese, charcuterie and specialty food selections, there is everything you’d need for a superb spread. Don’t forget the vegan offerings too, so no picnic goer is without snack options. If you’re looking to learn more, the shop has pairing classes so you can be knowledgeable about what to order and impress your date.

an overhead view of a cheese spread from Chantal's Cheese Shop

Photo courtesy of Chantal’s Cheese Shop.

Salty Pork Bits is the place to order your cured meats. The quality is shown by the level of care they take when working with producers and sourcing from sustainable small farmers. Weekly pickup is now at Morcilla, so be sure to plan ahead for your order if you want their salamis in your picnic basket. 

A Waterfront charcuterie and deli, Boards and Baskets in Homestead encompasses all the perfect picnic pairings in one place. Their shareable plates and charcuterie boards are right for serving a couple up to a dozen diners or more for your next outdoor dining event. They prepare boards on site, so you can watch their edible works of art come to life. 

Pane è Pronto is the Italian-themed takeaway that will always have a place on the gingham picnic blanket. The fresh bakery items are a crowd pleaser and they have ready-to-serve Italian dishes that are inspired by DiAnoia’s kitchen. Conveniently located in the Strip District, the daily offerings make for great additions. 

La Gourmandine is where to head if you’re looking to for a little Parisian inspiration. This French-style bakery has four locations throughout Pittsburgh and is more than your basic boulangerie. Pick up a baguette to accompany your meats and cheeses or make it a little more effortless by snagging one of their savory sandwiches. Owners Fabien and Lisanne Moreau were both born and raised in France, so any additions from La Gourmandine will be an authentic elevation to your ingredient list. It’s also on our list of the best bakeries in Pittsburgh.

Market Street Grocery is the place to go for beverage options. At the Market Square location, you can find delicious choices for both your plate and your glass with to-go prepared foods and beverages. 

23rd and Vine boutique wine shop will have just the bottle you need. Open Wednesdays through Saturdays, this specialty shop and bar sources wines from vineyards worldwide so you’re guaranteed to find a special bottle that will pair perfectly with your snacks. If you’re wanting more natural wines to drink while surrounded by nature, purveyors like the Pennsylvania Market, Tina’s Bar & Bottle Shop and Nine O’clock Wines are all the places to purchase. Nothing goes better with outdoor dining than wines that are directly influenced by the agricultural process of winemaking, without additives. 

A spread from Salty Pork Bits. Photo by Adam Milliron.

Turn to the experts

Looking for the pros to handle your picnic needs? Blanket & Board takes the guesswork out of your al fresco dining with a lux option. Founders Colleen Peddycord and Tierra Thorne began the event planning business in 2020, although Peddycord is no longer with the company. Blanket & Board is not only focused on providing quality events for its clients but is giving back to the community as well. A portion of the earnings is donated to local nonprofit organizations. 

Millvale is home to Duncan Street, a sandwich shop where specialty sandwiches reign supreme. Both owners/chefs Dan Rodriguez and Kendyl Ryan wanted a place where they could create casual day-to-day food offerings without having to compromise on quality, and so Duncan Street was born. Their sandwiches can often be in high demand, so be sure to order ahead to avoid a wait.

Head to “boarding school” to really up your picnic pairing game. EZPZ Gatherings makes gathering boards, mini charcuteries and boards in a box, all great options for your next outdoor event. Make your picnic even fancier by ordering a customized serving board in partnership with Steel City Arts

Brie & Baskets will also help plan your next outdoor event with thoughtful touches that bring together any outdoor event. Friends turned owners Brittney and Jade took their love of hosting and savvy event planning skills and created a way to experience special occasions along with the beauty of the city as a backdrop. Their picnics include just what you’ll need, and they’ve thought of everything from curated design themes to even little details like providing bug spray and candles. Their meal selection is top shelf and even the pickiest of palates will be delighted.

Photo courtesy Brie & Baskets.

Next, find your perfect picnic place

Now that the basket is packed, the next step is finding the ideal location to lay down your blanket and unfurl your spread. There are countless options in and around town that provide a beautiful setting for an outdoor meal.  

With more than 600 acres, Frick Park has several little nooks and crannies that make for a place to return to time after time and never picnic in the same spot twice. Post up somewhere easily accessible by the Environmental Center or find a more secluded destination by hiking a little deeper into the woods. There are several areas with benches and tables throughout the park so you have your choice of a more rustic picnic spot or a more formal forest setup.

Washington’s Landing, formerly Herrs Island, may be overlooked in favor of larger parks in the city, but don’t sleep on the island’s North Park as a peaceful place with riverfront and city views. Aside from the ambiance, you can also access the Three Rivers Heritage Trail here via a pedestrian bridge.  

Grandview Scenic Byway offers several areas that provide unbeatable skyline views along Mt. Washington. Grandview overlooks allow for stunning photo ops, hiking trails that weave throughout the neighborhood and Emerald View Park are garden party gems within the urban park system. 

Highland Park’s Victorian-style gardens, fountains and restored reservoirs make for a quintessential picnicking spot. With over 700 acres and 4 miles of hiking trails, you’re sure to find a quiet place to enjoy an evening. 

Hartwood Acres or South Park both have outdoor amphitheaters which host free summer concerts. Both parks are a wonderful option for dinner and entertainment, with a variety of performers you can always find something to please any picnic-goer. Beyond the summer concert season, you can still enjoy these green spaces any time of the year.  

If you are participating in any picnics and you’re bringing food and drinks into public spaces, be sure to practice the leave no trace principle to keep our parks clean for every visitor. There are so many picturesque places throughout the city so be mindful of others and clean up any messes made.