Best Places to Grab a Picnic or To-Go Meal in Fairfield County CT

April Guilbault

A tisket, a tasket...a lovely picnic basket. Or possibly just a simple, perfect, brown bag lunch. A lunch wrapped to eat by the seashore (sand not included), one to eat while lounging on a blanket in the grass listening to an outdoor, evening concert or one stuffed into a backpack for your long, summer hike. What is it about eating en plein air that is so fabulously enjoyable? Whatever your destination, here are a few suggestions for acquiring the perfect to-go meal....

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Rowayton Market (157 Rowayton Ave., Rowayton) 

Soak up the waterfront or enjoy a bit of Shakespeare-on-the-Sound nearby...either way, enjoy some good food As You Like It (ha). From wraps such as their grilled chicken with sliced granny smith apples and brie with honey mustard, to sandwiches, soups and salads (arugula, tuna nicoise, mozzarella are just a few), you’ll have plenty to choose from at this market, one of the oldest continuously running markets in our lovely state.

Bartaco (Westport/Stamford/Port Chester/West Hartford) 

Even if your summer excursions don’t have you running for the border, but your cravings want you to, zip over to Bartaco and snap up a party pack for you and your best amigos. Nothing quite says summer, heat and fun like guac and chips, tortillas, cheese quesadillas, grilled corn with cayenne and cotija (cheese), tamales and chipotle slaw. Slather on the hot sauces and listen for the strains of a mariachi band.

Nicholas Roberts Gourmet Bistro (75 Main St., Norwalk) 

Venturing down to Calf Pasture beach for a concert or a sandy-yet-relaxing sunset picnic? Grab one of Nicholas Roberts’ boxed lunches for an unusual and enjoyable easy meal. Maybe a seared yellowfin tuna BLT on organic sourdough with wasabi mayonnaise or some mango chutney chicken salad with buttermilk dressing on 7-grain bread? Or try some surf or turf: a grilled steak sandwich with fried onions and chipotle aioli or a classic lobster salad roll. Boxes range from $11-24 and include a drink and dessert. Peanut butter and jelly doesn’t stand a chance with these offerings.

Bobby Qs Pit Stop (1340 East Putnam Ave., Old Greenwich) 

It might be hot out there, but sometimes a little fire within quells the fire outside. Honestly, fried pickles with Carolina Comeback sauce or hush puppies with maple bourbon butter? Hurt me and turn up the heat! Sure, you can be “good” with a salad (they do have those) but go for the gusto and grab a specialty burger or specialty hot dog with any number of their wild toppings. 

Grass Roots (197 Sound Beach Ave., Greenwich) 

There’s a good reason that there is a little letter “x” hanging off of the name: the food here is good and, most importantly, good for you. Raw, vegan, paleo, 100% soy free, corn free, gluten free, dairy free, peanut might wonder what could be left? Plenty! Try some sour cream and onion kale chips (thank you, I think I will!), the Love Potion #9 juice or the superfood kale salad with tahini-lemon dressing. Get back to your Roots.

109 Cheese and Wine (109 Danbury Rd., Ridgefield) 

Need to pack some goodies for one of the free Tuesday and Thursday concerts in Ballard Park? Then make a bee-line to 109 Cheese and Wine and a very delightful picnic you will have. The folks on the next blanket are sure to have picnic-envy. 109 Picnic Baskets, ranging from $75 for 2 to $275 for 4 with prices in between depending on baskets, can shipped to your doorstep, to a specific event (Limerock Historic Festival, care to go?) or simply picked up at the store. Some baskets come with specific items, others you can add to...cheeses, salami, cookies, fruits, drinks, wine, you name it!

The Stand (31 Wall St., Norwalk or 87 Mill Plain Road, Fairfield) 

It may be bathing suit seasons (gulp) but we all need our sustenance, too. Try cooling off and reviving with one of the many freshly-pressed juices and smoothies (or concoct your own), vegetarian sandwiches and salads offered here. Avocado, hummus, hearty grain breads, kale, nuts and seeds abound! Top it all off with a gluten-free cookie or pie and you are good to go. Win-win, for your appetite and your swimsuit. 

Aux Delices (Darien/Greenwich/Riverside/Westport) 

Almost two dozen different salads, a handful of soups, a variety of sides dishes, bigger entrees, individual or whole desserts...Aux Delices has one heck of an extensive take-away menu!  About every two weeks, the specials change a bit...a sauce here, a side there...just to keep things interesting. If you are craving their very popular kale or Brussel sprout salads, you can even call ahead (until 3pm) to have one set aside for you. Whether it be their sweet pea risotto cakes or their mixed berry shortcake parfait, you will be declaring “Ohhhh! delicious!”. 

Organic Market (285 Post Road East, Westport) 

If you are looking for organic, vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free or vegetarian lunch options, head to the Organic Market. Buried within a row of stores in a wee shopping strip (Playhouse Square), there is more here than initially meets the eye: a variety of fresh soups, a hot bar, a very popular juice bar, sandwiches made-to-order and an extensive prepared foods fridge stocked with all number of cold salads, soups, spreads and even desserts. You won’t go hungry here and your tummy will be so happy that you stopped by. Note: Be sure to try a spread-like concoction called “Caulicous”, a standout made with couscous, cauliflower, peas and seasonings. Eaten on the spoon or on a bed of greens, it’s fabulous even if the name is a bit crazy.

Naked Greens (45 North Main St., Norwalk/ 239 Danbury Rd., Wilton) 

If you are like Elaine on Seinfeld and are craving a BIG Salad, make your way to this haven of greens. This soup and salad/wrap bar, where the ingredients are laid out, tossed and prepared before your very eyes, proves that a lunch of greens can be fabulously satisfying. And that’s not even bringing the naked part into things. I’m a big fan of the Quinoa Kicker and Strawberry Harvest salad and the fact that they label things like the “proteins” in their creations to help get you into a healthy eating mindset.

Marcia Selden Gourmet-To-Go

“Yum on Demand” is the battle cry here and what could be better to yell about? Good food! Serving Fairfield and Westchester counties, dig in and try an over-stuffed gourmet sandwiches, such as The Beefeater (roast beef, roasted tomatoes, parmesan, caramelized onions, arugula, horseradish cream on a brioche roll) or the Parisienne, on which triple-creme brie, baked ham and and honey mustard cavort on a crusty baguette. Looking for something a bit more demure? Try one of a variety of salads like the Balsamic Glazed Pear with gorgonzola and candied walnuts. If your crowd is a tad larger, go for one of their platters, which can hold anything from breakfast items, to sushi to desserts. Yum...demand it!