Friday, April 26 2024 9:50

Easy Picnics and Tailgates

Written by Shannon Montgomery

Elevate your al fresco meals with help from Main Line pros

Winterthur Point-to-Point tailgate. Photo: Bob Leitch, courtesy of Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library

May is an exciting month in the Brandywine Valley. The Main Line’s public gardens are in full bloom, the Devon Horse Show and local steeplechase races bring equestrian fun to the area, and the weather is just warm enough to lure us outside — before it drives us back indoors to the comfort of the AC.

It’s the perfect time to plan a picnic, steeplechase tailgate or any kind of al fresco meal. That said, not all of us have the time, talent or inclination to prepare a full spread of food and drinks for a group. Luckily, the Main Line has plenty of local markets, restaurants and delis ready to pitch in with their fine assortments of sandwiches, salads, sweets and more.

Whether you plan to order the whole spread or just need some help with the sides, read on for ideas on how to elevate your picnic or tailgate.

Gourmet Goodies

Tower of Di Bruno Bros. sandwiches

Take your picnic or tailgate up a notch with provisions from a gourmet market. In addition to artisan groceries, many offer readyto- eat dishes perfect for feeding a crowd.


Wayne’s Di Bruno Bros. has everything you need for a winning spread. Start with a specialty salad or gourmet cheese board with artisanal bread, crostini crackers and flatbreads. For the main course, choose massive, made-to-order sandwiches on fresh-baked focaccia, like the Parma Perfection (prosciutto di Parma, caciocavallo cheese, tomato spread, arugula) or Tuscan Temptation (fennel salami, pecorino Crotonese, truffle honey). Finish with something sweet — cookies, brownies, pastries, cannoli — and pair with wine, craft beer, mixers or mocktails from their Bottle Shop.

Antipasto Carlino tray from Carlino’s Market

At Carlino’s Market in Ardmore (another in West Chester), choose from a robust selection of hoagies, wraps and sandwiches, including the Ultimate Italian hoagie (prosciutto, mortadella, hot capicola, rosemary ham, Calabrese hot salami, aged sharp provolone), chicken Caesar wrap and eggplant caprese sandwich (battered eggplant, mozzarella, bruschetta, arugula and romaine lettuce on ciabatta). Complement your meal with a snackable charcuterie tray, like the Tour of Italy or Antipasto Carlino, and tasty sides like Mama’s potato salad, classic coleslaw or lemon Dijon pasta salad. For dessert, you can’t go wrong with one of Carlino’s cookie tins — options include classic, Italian, amaretti and biscotti.

Perhaps best known for their pastries, Malvern Buttery is also a great option for lunch. Choose from scrumptious sandwiches on fresh-baked bread — ham, brie and Dijonnaise on a baguette, apple and almond chicken salad on a flaky croissant, smoked prosciutto and truffle pecorino on focaccia — and pair with one of their family-style salads. In the mood for brunch? Try their rotating selection of quiche. And, of course, don’t forget their delicious cookies and other baked goods for dessert.

Market Made

With several vendors to choose from, your local farmers market is another great place to find picnic and tailgate fare. Choose your favorite purveyor or mix and match for your perfect spread.

Delicious sides from Countryview Barbecue at the Lancaster County Farmers Market

Open Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, the Lancaster County Farmers Market in Wayne has been feeding the Main Line for over 80 years. Find specialty sandwiches at Angelo’s Café, Amish macaroni salad and white meat chicken salad at Countryview Barbecue, small-production Italian wines at Vino Wine and dessert at D’Innocenzo’s Bakery or Nancy’s Candy Corner. Pick up fresh-cut flowers from Market Fresh Flowers to brighten your tailgate table or picnic blanket.


Located in Suburban Square, the Ardmore Farmers Market is home to a variety of local vendors, open seven days a week. Try Stoltzfus Family Foods’ homemade coleslaw or Amish-style potato salad, fresh fruit from Ardmore Produce and decadent desserts from The Ultimate Bake Shoppe. Or put an international twist on your meal with Aziatisch’s Asian fare, Sushei Sei’s party trays, Tabouli’s Mediterranean cuisine or go Italian at the market’s Di Bruno Bros. location.

Better in a Box

Dixie Picnic box lunch featuring an upcake

Indulge in a little childhood nostalgia with boxed lunches. Several Main Line eateries offer an elevated version of this schoolyard classic. Plus, boxed lunches come prepackaged and are easy to clean up — simply put your trash back in the box and throw it all away.

Known for Southern comfort food made from scratch, Malvern’s Dixie Picnic offers Bette’s Box Lunch. Each box includes a sandwich of your choice — roast beef and provolone, Virginia baked ham, nutty chicken salad, Thanksgiving (roast turkey breast, stuffing, whole-berry cranberry sauce) — a side, deviled egg and one of their signature “upcakes” — upside-down cupcakes with plenty of frosting on both the top and the sides.

Wraps from The Classic Diner

Also in Malvern, The Classic Diner’s take on box lunches is part of their catering menu. Boxes include a sandwich or wrap, whole fruit, house chips and a cookie. Choose from The Classic (caramelized pear, sautéed onion, smoked bacon, baby arugula, sharp cheddar and honey mustard on pumpernickel), corned beef special, sriracha ranch Buffalo chicken wrap and many more options. Be aware of the 10-person order minimum.

Alternatively, get a boxed lunch from Hymie’s in Merion Station. At this beloved Jewish deli, boxes come with a sandwich — corned beef, roast beef, turkey, ham and cheese, tuna salad, chicken salad or egg salad on rye, wheat, kaiser roll or in a wrap — pickle, condiments and your choice of side (potato salad, coleslaw, pasta salad) and dessert (cookie, Tastykake, chips or fruit). Like The Classic Diner, they have a 10-person minimum — but there are plenty of other options for smaller groups.


This tailgate and picnic season, let the professionals take some of the preparations off your plate, literally! Your guests will surely be impressed by your spread, whether you tell them where it came from or pass it off as your own — we won’t tell.