Our Guide to Planning the Perfect Picnic in Milwaukee This Summer

Follow our lead: Combine delicious, mobile-friendly foods and an unbeatable outdoor spot for an ace excursion.

1. Sandwiches are perfect picnic finger food, and the Milwaukee Muffaletta (with three cold cuts, provolone and mild olive salad on a seeded roll) makes it all so easy. Cut the sandwich into wedges (one can easily satisfy two people) and you’ll be snacking all afternoon. From Glorioso’s Italian Market, 1011 E Brady St.

Napkins, glassware, plates, tray, basket and flask courtesy of Olson House (4326 N. Oakland Ave.; olson-house.com)
2. Ditch the creamy, heavy pasta salads for a grain-based creation tossed with a zesty vinaigrette. Here’s a quick, simple DIY favorite: Combine 3 cups of cooked quinoa, ½ cup feta or goat cheese, ½ cup fresh raspberries, ⅓ cup dried cherries and ⅓ cup fresh chopped mint. In a small bowl, whisk ¼ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons), 1 tsp. red wine vinegar, ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, ½ tsp. sugar, ½ tsp. salt, 1 T. za’atar (a blend of sumac, salt and sesame seeds). Pour vinaigrette over salad and toss. Top with fresh cracked pepper.

3. Viroqua-based Wisco Pop comes in four flavors, including cherry, strawberry and a bright, citrus-infused ginger. Sweet but not too heavy, they make drinking soda pop fun for grown-ups. The ginger soda also makes a great mixer with bourbon or vodka, hence the flask tucked into the basket. Sodas are carried at Outpost Natural Foods, Bavette La Boucherie and West Allis Cheese & Sausage Shoppe.

4. Add a mix of sweet and savory nibbles such as dried apricots, mixed pitted olives and spiced nuts. Make your own spiced nuts at home. It’s cheaper and a snap to put together. How to do it: Spread 3 cups of raw almonds on an ungreased baking sheet. In a small bowl, whisk 3 T. of melted butter with ½ tsp. garlic powder, ⅛ tsp. ground cayenne pepper and 2 tsp. za’atar. Pour mixture over nuts and toss to coat. Bake in a 325-degree oven for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure the nuts are browning evenly.

5. Dessert bars and cookies don’t require utensils to eat, plus these scrumptious, whimsical sweets – Nutter Butters, iced sugar cookies with sprinkles, Rice Krispie treats and key lime bars – from C. Adam’s Bakery (Milwaukee Public Market, 400 N. Water St.) will lead to a blissful little catnap.


Kilbourn Reservoir Park: Take the steps up from East North Avenue at North Bremen Street

Lake Park: Lots of great spots north and south of Lake Park

Bistro Village Park: Superb view of the Milwaukee River from this park at 250 Elm St., Thiensville

“Pack a Picnic” appears in the June 2019 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Find it on newsstands beginning June 3, or buy a copy at milwaukeemag.com/shop.

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Ann Christenson has covered dining for Milwaukee Magazine since 1997. She was raised on a diet of casseroles that started with a pound of ground beef and a can of Campbell's soup. Feel free to share any casserole recipes with her.