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The Art of Picnics and Parking Lot Dining

Caught with takeout and no table in sight? Here's where and how to use a curb, bench, grass, or blanket ... to get your grub on.

Durham’s small businesses continue to need our support, and we’re seeing the community do many things to lend it, including venturing out to restaurants to take out meals and exploring outdoor dining options that are beginning to reopen. Since summer officially kicked off, we could all probably use some fresh air ... and there are some great ways to enjoy delicious cuisine with a measure of safety that will make everyone comfortable.

As some of you already know (we see you, burrito in hand, cross-legged on the sidewalk!) almost any take-out trip can be turned into an impromptu picnic with friends and family and a little bit of creative forethought. Here are some tips we’d like you to remember:

Show how much you care!

Some of us are diligent about always wearing masks. For those who feel they’re a burden, please remember that wearing face coverings is a way to show how much you care about others, including friends, your servers, and the people you pass by. And us all wearing them is one of the best ways to help us get rid of this pandemic so we can start getting back to normal. If you’re going out to eat, wear them until you’re seated, or better yet, until you have your food, for maximum protection. Meanwhile, stay six feet away from fellow diners who aren’t in your group.

Plan a take-out dinner party.

Find a common outdoor space and invite your friends to bring lawn chairs or blankets. (Hot tip: check out the Durham Parks & Recreation website for a comprehensive list of local parks.)

If you’re feeling generous, you can splurge for the take-out. Otherwise, set a theme — like Great American Cookout, Down-home Southern, Taco Tuesday, or Garden Party — and invite friends to bring their own take-out to fit it. You can socially distance and still have a lively conversation.

Find a new place to eat each week.

Admit it, you’re getting a little weary of all the home cooking. Use our blog post to find a new outdoor dining spot, or our list of almost 300 Durham restaurants, and pick a place you haven’t tried before.

Clean up.

This should go without saying, but as more of our activities result in single use materials from take-out, it’s important that they wind up in the right places. Consider bringing your own containers and utensils, and recycle and compost where you can.

Above all else, enjoy.