Picnic is a great name for a cafe. It conjures up thoughts of relaxation and joy. The word picnic transports you to a cozy, shady spot under a majestic old tree, where a feast of all delights is spread out on a red checkerboard tablecloth.
You sip champagne or lemonade under a gorgeous blue sky dotted with puffy white clouds drifting by with no particular hurry. A gentle breeze dances through the leaves.
I’ve never been to a remote picnic like this, but when I hear the word, it’s the image conjured up. So if I go to a cafe called Picnic, I’m already in a good mood just thinking how dreamy a picnic can be. And when Picnic Cafe turns out to make great food, I’m living the dream.
You can find Picnic Café & Bakery nestled on Bellevue Avenue across from the Viking Hotel and next to the Inn on Bellevue. You could almost miss it if not for its red awning appealing to curious and hungry passers-by.
On warm days (whenever that happens) there’s usually a table or two outside where you can enjoy your coffee and freshly baked pastries while people watching. But when you open the door, that’s when you soak up the charm of the building and the space that is Picnic.
Your eyes immediately turn to the pastry and the range of freshly prepared offerings. Behind the case you find the hard working staff ready to greet you or help you. But you may not want help right away. You might need a few extra minutes to soak up the plethora of pastries, coffees, and sandwiches.
The picnic is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, but the rest of the week it opens at 8 am. It has the perfect caffeine fix for you with a coffee menu that includes standard brewed coffees as well as lattes, cappuccinos, and macchiatos. But, if you don’t dive into its baked confections, you’re missing out.
Their cinnamon swirls, covered in a sweet glaze, are worth the calories. Ditto for the freshly baked fruit tarts and Au Pain Chocolat. If you’re craving something more savory and filling, breakfast options range from the standard like an egg and cheese sandwich to unexpected dishes like egg patty and lobster frittata.
Each item is expertly and carefully crafted and carefully packaged to go in case you want to enjoy it at the office, the beach, or even on a gingham blanket on a scenic hillside.
You don’t have to eat your Picnic meal at a picnic, but if you want, the whole menu is ready to go. All sandwiches are served with a hearty serving of homemade slaw and potatoes – the perfect complement to a picnic – and are packaged for travel neat and easy.
Try the roast chicken sandwich with hand-carved fresh roast chicken, served with house pesto and fresh greens. Or for something a little unusual, opt for the Chicago Dog, a cooked-to-order hot dog served with tomato, cucumber, hot peppers, mustard and ketchup. Naturally, Picnic has a lobster salad roll on the menu (perfect for any picnic in Newport) as well as a classic burger, a blackened salmon sandwich and what might be the essential picnic sandwich – mozzarella and tomato with green vegetables and aioli.
Picnic’s salad menu is also full of fresh and tasty surprises. Falafel salad comes with hummus, Greek olives, banana peppers and tzatziki-tahini and delivers that Mediterranean flavor. The Antioxidant Salad with fresh blueberries, dried cranberries, sliced almonds and balsamic vinaigrette is perfect for an energy boost.
Try the strawberry and feta salad made with field vegetables, pistachios and a balsamic vinaigrette if you’re looking for a salad that tastes like summer.
And what’s a picnic without a nice ending? Choose from a range of her freshly baked treats like triple chocolate chip cookies, apple turnovers or a selection of freshly baked pies. Take a look at the pastry counter. You never know what sweet little morsels they will have prepared. (But you’ll always know they’ll be good).
Picnic (the cafe) also has everything you need for a picnic (the activity), including a selection of finely crafted picnic baskets. The Country Basket is perfect for that nostalgic feel, while the Coronado Basket looks ready for a trip by boat or to the beach. When it comes to planning a picnic, you can have it all.
As we all go through this prolonged winter, we can’t help but think about all the things we’ll do once the weather turns nice. We will take these trips to the beach. We will go hiking. We will explore. And when we do, we have to promise to indulge in a picnic.
We will celebrate the joy of a delicious outdoor lunch with the special people in our lives in one of the many scenic landscapes we have here in Rhode Island. No matter where you go to enjoy the outdoors, the folks at Picnic Cafe and Bakery have the tasty food you want.
Going on a picnic is one of life’s simple pleasures. Picnic Cafe is another.
Dan Lederer is a Middletown resident with 30 years experience in the restaurant industry throughout New England. He continues to work locally behind the scenes in the industry and remains a dedicated fan of all things restaurant and hospitality. His column appears on newportri.com and Thursdays in The Daily News. Cheers!