Le Pain Quotidien (six area locations)
This international cafe/patisserie chain offers delicate triangle sandwiches to go (we like the curried chicken salad with cranberry chutney), dainty salads, and flour-dusted baguettes with praline butter and marmalade. Throw a couple of madeleines, sugared waffles, or pains au chocolat into your basket to finish off the meal.
Hours vary by location.
Marvelous Market (multiple area locations)
Most everyone will find something to like at this catchall market that’s best known for its bakery, which turns out baguettes, pastries, pains au chocolat, and famous chocolate-chip cookies and brownies. Among the sandwiches, we like the chicken salad, flecked with apples, walnuts, and celery. Salads come in varieties such as one with Gorgonzola, plums, walnuts, apples, and raisins.
Hours vary by location.
Flame-grilled chicken is the thing here. It’s available in quarter, half, and full sizes, and you choose from one of four marinades; sensitive palates should stick to the lemon-and-herb dressing, while daring customers can opt for an extra-hot sauce. We find medium to be just right.
Open Sunday through Thursday 11:30 to 10, Friday and Saturday 11:30 to 11.
This Parisian-style bakery is known for both its quiches, such as a mushroom-and-spinach version, and its sinful desserts. For a healthy lunch, try the crudité salad with fennel mayo, beets, and corn, and then treat yourself to a chocolate éclair or a buttery croissant.
Open Tuesday through Friday 8:30 to 6, Saturday 8 to 5:30, Sunday 8 to 4.
Penn Quarter Farmers Market
Thursday afternoons, you can find fresh produce, cheese, bread, and cookies at this small market. Black Rock Orchards is a good bet for fresh fruit.
Open Thursdays 3 to 7 April 1 to December 23, 2010.
Adjacent to the upscale red-sauce restaurant Potenza, this little shop with tiled floors and granite tables looks like it belongs on a cobblestone street in Florence. Pre-wrapped sandwiches—we adore the roast beef one with orange-and-fennel aioli—are ideal for throwing in a picnic basket, while house-made pastries, such as doughnuts and miniature apricot tarts, are an easily packable dessert.
Open Monday through Friday 8 to 8, Saturday 10 to 8, Sunday 10 to 6.
The excellent house-made baguettes at Frenchman Bertrand Houlier's bakery sell out fast, but they're also the base for his roster of simple sandwiches. We like the ones with a swipe of French butter and Brie, ham with butter and cornichons, and a pan bagnat with tuna, olives, and hardboiled egg. Houlier's sweets are good, too, especially the raisin breakfast twirl, lemon tart, and croissants.
Open Monday through Saturday 8 to 5.
How well do fish filets and fried clams hold up in a to-go container? The grilled bluefish and rainbow trout do surprisingly well, while anything fried (sweet-potato fries included) ends up soggy. For $13, a Maine Meal comes with fish, two sides—asparagus and coleslaw are best for takeout—and a sauce, such as the tangy lemon-garlic. Don’t leave without a slice of one of Heather Chittum’s pies: It doesn’t get much more picnic-perfect than fruit pie on a red-and-white checkered blanket.
Open daily 7 AM to 10 PM.
Philly natives and anyone who uses the word “hoagie” will be right at home in these industrial-chic delis. The owners truck in their bread from the Philadelphia bakery Sarcone’s each week, and the fluffy rolls are used to make sandwiches such as the 9th Street Italian, which is stuffed with capicola, Genoa salami, prosciutto, and provolone. The slightly messier Benjamin Franklin Parkway smothers a chicken cutlet with marinara and provolone.
H Street, NE location open Sunday through Thursday 11 to 9, Friday and Saturday 11 AM to 3 AM. Fifth and K streets location open daily 11 to 9.
Teaism (various locations)
The Japanese gave us the cherry blossoms, so it’s only fitting that you’d picnic under the trees with a bento box. The ones from Teaism are not only delicious; they’re also healthy. We’re partial to the box with a sushi roll of tea-cured salmon, miso mayo, and daikon. A side of sweet-potato salad with miso sauce is good, too, and it’d be a shame to leave without a chocolate salty-oat cookie. In fact, we recommend getting two—or three.
Downtown DC location open Monday through Friday 7:30 to 5:30; R Street open Monday through Thursday 8 to 10, Friday 8 to 11, Saturday 9 to 11, Sunday 9 to 10; Eighth Street open Monday through Friday 7:30 to 10, Saturday and Sunday 9:30 to 9.
→ At a Glance: Cherry-Blossom Basics
→ Beyond Cherry Blossoms: Activities Near the Tidal Basin
→ Cherry Blossom Dishes at Restaurants
→ In Bloom: Cherry Blossom Hotel Packages
→ We Want Your Cherry Blossom Photos
→ Cherry Picnicking: Spread a Blanket Under the Blossoms
→ Sake to Me: Where to Get Japan's Favorite Drink in Washington
→ Cherry Blossom Cocktails
→ Beat the Crowds: Where Else to See Blooms Around Washington
→ Visitors' Guide to Washington, DC