In the best of times, summer provides ample opportunities to throw some food in a bag or basket along with a blanket and some silverware and find a spot under the midday sun or moonlight for a picnic. This summer, it's pretty much a requirement if you want to get out of your home quarantine and enjoy some fresh, socially distanced air.
Thankfully, the Inland Northwest is littered with nice parks, and there are plenty of spots near those parks with great cheap options for your next outdoor dining excursion. Here are some of the best places near some of our favorite parks:
315 E. 18th Ave., 747-8691
Between its 90 acres of varied gardens, a duck pond, playground and ample space for everything from sledding in the winter to a little baseball in the summer, it's hard to beat Manito Park. And nearby Rockwood Bakery has just as diverse a range of treats to pack for a picnic at the park just a stone's throw away. On a recent visit, I sampled an array of goodies; the Southwestern pasta ($5.95 for a large) was a delicious mix of spinach, black beans, green chiles, red bell pepper and more in a creamy chipotle dressing that gave it some kick. The chicken chipotle sandwich ($7.50) paired nicely, and you know I couldn't walk out without a sweet treat. Let me recommend the peach cobbler scone ($3.15). There's a world of good things happening in the $5-$10 range.
Garland Sandwich Shoppe
3903 N. Madison St., 326-2405
Corbin Park on the lower north side of Spokane (not to be confused with the one in Post Falls) is a true gem, a former horseracing oval surrounded by Victorian homes and full of mature trees offering ample shade in the summer. Hit up the Garland Sandwich Shoppe up the hill in the Garland District for a sandwich for every appetite. I like the Big Dill ($8), which packs turkey, ham, bacon, lettuce, tomato and onion and replaces the bread with a giant pickle. If that's a lot of dill for your taste, you can build your own sandy. Get into a panini like the chipotle sirloin ($8) or one of many salads — all for less than $10.
Slick Rock Burrito
2926 S. Grand Blvd., 747-6041
Comstock Park on the South Hill offers nearly 25 acres of grassy patches, a full-blown (if not currently operating) aquatics area and annual Labor Day concerts by the Spokane Symphony. A short drive east on 29th Avenue will land you at Slick Rock Burrito, where you can get the perfect packable handheld for less than $10. I went the traditional route and ordered the carnitas burrito because I can't resist slow-roasted pork, especially one boasting a "spicy tequila-based marinade," and there are also atypical burrito flavors on some, including the Bar-B-Que burrito (roasted red potatoes, pinto beans, chicken, barbecue sauce, cheese, sour cream, roasted chili corn salsa), and a couple with a Thai vibe.
DiNardi's Pizza & Pasta
829 E. Boone Ave., Suite A, 960-7949
Mission Park is small compared to some of Spokane's parks, but it packs a lot into its Logan neighborhood location, from horseshoe pits to Spokane River access, and it connects to the Centennial Trail. You might not consider pizza "picnic food," but you should when a place like DiNardi's is nearby. It's some of the best pizza in town, and you can pick up a pie for $12, whether it's a meaty pizza or a veggie pie. (I'm a big fan of the Margherita.) There's a vast array of salads and calzones under $10, as well as sandwiches like the chicken parm and eggplant parm, also coming in around $10.
602 N. Fifth Ave., Sandpoint, 208-263-3491
The Festival at Sandpoint is often my organizing inspiration for a trip to Sandpoint, but the ample waterfront recreation at Sandpoint City Beach Park and Lakeview Park will do just fine. For a day in the sun, perhaps pack yourself a serious sammy courtesy of Mr. Sub, where $9.35 will get you a big, easily shareable grinder like the Pioneer (ham, pastrami, salami) or a hot spicy chicken or meatball. There's lighter fare, too, like salads, and you won't find a thing on the menu over $10. ♦