Picnics opens on the Square with a focus on takeout

Picnics opened within Boar & Barrel in mid-August.
Spread Of Food From Picnics
Photo by Picnics

With dining al fresco more popular than ever, Anna Freudenberg decided to model her new restaurant after the classic outdoor dining experience, the picnic.

Operating out of the kitchen at Boar & Barrel at 101 N. Hamilton St., Picnics focuses on lunchtime takeout but Freudenberg wants to do more than simply provide food. “I love creating an experience for people and it’s so hard to do that right now,” Freudenberg says. “With keeping safety in mind, having them take an experience away from us is the best we can do and I really love the idea that people can take our meals away and that they look pretty and they can sit down and have a gorgeous meal anywhere they want.”

Marinated Olives on a table

Photo courtesy of Picnics

While Freudenberg didn’t always want to become a chef — she spent time in New York City studying fashion design — she started working in restaurants when she returned to Madison after dropping out of her fashion program. From her first restaurant job at Noodles & Co., Freudenberg went on to work in the kitchens of Mezze, Brasserie V, L’Etoile and Sardine, where she was working until this past March when restaurants were ordered to shut down. “I had been unemployed for four months and I had been approached by the people at Boar & Barrel who were open to having another business in their business,” Freudenberg says. “At first I [thought], ‘I don’t want to open my own business’ — I know how big of a deal that is — but I thought about it and I was driving along and the name ‘Picnics’ came into my mind.”

Picnics opened on Aug. 12 and specializes in seasonal food that can hold up in transit. “Kale salad won’t wilt in 20 minutes,” Freudenberg says. A bestseller on the menu is the trout salad sandwich made with homemade mayonnaise, fennel, carrot, onion and local trout (from Sturgeon Bay in Door County or closer, Freudenberg says) and served on Madison Sourdough bread. A cheese box that’s perfect for sharing comes with three rotating cheeses, bread, house-made jam, butter, mustard and pickles. A recent version included gouda, blue and goat cheeses, pickled fennel and golden beets, peach raspberry jam and compound butter made with roasted oyster mushrooms and thyme. Drink options include NessAlla kombucha, WiscoPop and Boxed Water.To Go Box of food from picnics

While Freudenberg’s food is takeout only, she is conscientious about the restaurant’s carbon footprint. “Our goal is to be as sustainable as possible,” she says. Freudenberg says she is most concerned about plastic use. “Everytime I eat out right now I feel so guilty.” Freudenberg knew she wanted takeout containers that were bio-degradable but also attractive. She now sources balsa wood boxes made of leftover wood from VerTerra Dinnerware in New York. For the jams and butters, Freudenberg uses plastic that is sourced from corn and is bio-degradable. “We want to help our customers feel less guilty because we know people in our area care,” Freudenberg says.

And plans for the winter when heading to the nearest park for an outdoor meal might not be possible? “People can have picnics in the winter,” Freudenberg says. “Just put a blanket in [the] living room!”