Good to Go is a column where our food writers explore Dallas’ restaurant scene through takeout orders, delivery boxes and reheated leftovers.
The first step to a successful picnic in the time of COVID-19 is to find your own corner of the park — or, better yet, to find your own park entirely.
After Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins tweeted out a warning March 28 that the trails around White Rock Lake are too crowded to be safe, a debate began among local officials about whether to close parks and trails altogether.
It’s a stupid solution, of course. Everybody wants to be outside, and the right answer is to create more outdoor spaces.
If everybody is walking and biking, and nobody is driving, why not temporarily convert some roads into walking and biking trails? If the Katy Trail has too many runners, why not follow the advice of my fellow Observer troublemaker Philip Kingston and make Turtle Creek Boulevard into a pedestrian mall?
Sorry, this article was supposed to be about picnics. Here’s the point: Don’t be part of the problem. Find your own park.
The day after Jenkins advised White Rock park-goers to distance themselves more effectively, I ventured to a Dallas city park with a paper bag of takeout sandwiches. During our meal, only two other people used the park, an adult couple kicking a soccer ball back and forth with adorably poor aim.
Lake Highlands Park is only 1,000 feet away from White Rock Lake Trail, but its picnic tables sit empty. [Editor's note: They should sit empty, as Dallas Park and Recreation is not sanitizing picnic tables. Find a spot on the grass.] It’s not exactly a glamorous park; it’s a collection of sports fields along a tree-lined creek. That’s what makes it an ideal place for a nice, quiet little picnic. There are dozens of other green spots in Dallas to get away from the crowds.
Also, this: Lake Highlands Park is just a few blocks away from a number of good takeout eateries, including One90 Smoked Meats if you want a barbecue sandwich, the curbside combo plates of El Vecino Tex Mex or the Green Spot’s celebrated breakfast tacos.
For our Sunday picnic, we stopped by Goodfriend Package, the deli-slash-bakery-slash-beer-store on Peavy Road not far from the Casa Linda neighborhood. We kept our order simple: a BLT ($9.50) and a pastrami on rye ($11.50).
There’s really nothing like sitting outside on a spring day and eating a good BLT. To me, this sandwich is as closely linked to sunshine and a gentle breeze as, say, Junior Mints are to movie theaters. At Goodfriend Package, they make their own bacon, just like they cure pastrami in-house, and the result is a BLT with thickly cut strips of meat that, when stacked on top of each other, become a challenge for your front teeth.
These are pure nostalgia sandwiches: buttered and toasted white bread and a slathering of mayo, but with better bacon, lettuce or tomato slices than we ever had as kids.
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The pastrami, with a swirly rye bread, is similar. Goodfriend makes glorious peppery fat-ribboned meat, although I wish they had been more generous with the whole-grain mustard, which mostly stays hidden.
I’ll admit that Goodfriend Package’s takeout process could do with a couple more picnic-friendly tweaks. Like nearly every other Dallas restaurant, the phone-in process is overwhelmed by callers and, occasionally, undone by busy staff who can’t answer. Also, I forgot to pack napkins for my jaunt in the park, and so did the deli. [Editor's note: In the world of coronavirus, it's probably best to not use plasticware or napkins that come from outside your own stash.]
So here are my tips for a good picnic in the park: Avoid White Rock Lake and the Katy Trail and explore Dallas’ greater greenery. (Even Samuell Grand Park sat empty when we drove through it on the way home.) Get some nice, portable, summery takeout foods. (Tip generously.) Be responsible and stay away from other people. Bring a water bottle and hand sanitizer.
And don’t forget napkins.