Picnic Cafe is a hidden gem on Newport’s historic Bellevue Avenue that gives off European cafe vibes mixed with a quintessential New England atmosphere. The small white tables and chairs and chalk-drawn menu beside the door are invitations for passersby to pause en route to their destination, and perhaps even be rerouted after seeing the picnic baskets for sale right inside the dining area.
Established in 2016 by John and Tracy Bach-Sorensen, the concept was a passion project that allowed them to offer freshly baked goods and superior coffee, while sharing their love of the place where they live. Even though John was trained in the culinary arts in both Denmark and France, he lights up the most when talking about Newport. You’re likely to find him in the narrow cafe, grabbing a map of the area and guiding newcomers to must-see adventures, or connecting with locals, who flock to the shop, too.
My husband and I visited for brunch on a Sunday afternoon. Having moseyed over from Thames Street, with its crowds and impossible parking, we were shocked to find a spot right in front of Picnic. We were greeted warmly, and stood in awe of the pastry counter, filled with the most delicious eye candy: slices of chocolate cake, personal-sized pecan pies, blueberry turnovers, fruit tarts, and Reese’s Peanut Butter cookies, just to name a handful.
It took us a minute to scan the variety of coffees and teas, sweet and savory bakery items, and list of sandwiches and salads that were available. All orders are prepared in to-go containers – just another nudge to have an impromptu picnic – but there is also a small seating area in the back, decorated with whites and blues and rustic colors reminiscent of the perfect beach home. This is a laptop-free zone, encouraging customers to savor the experience while dining.
After much deliberation, we ordered a cinnamon roll specifically to dunk in our freshly brewed cup of coffee (this was John’s suggestion) – it was the perfect pairing! Since many of the bakery’s favorites are adorned with almonds, and I’m allergic, I lived vicariously through my husband. He ordered an authentic Danish Kringle, created by the Dane himself. “I didn’t know a Danish could taste so good!” my husband reported. “This makes me rethink everything I thought I knew – it’s juicy and sweet and soft and fluffy.”
Shifting to savory fare, I ordered an avocado toast, served on multigrain bread, with a side of lettuce, tomato, and pickled onion. My husband took the advice of Bach-Sorensen’s eldest daughter, who was working behind the counter that day, and ordered the Blackened Salmon sandwich, served with picnic-favorite sides: coleslaw, potato salad, and a pickle. Although tempted to take our meals outside, I was lured to the back by the comfortably cushioned bench. We enjoyed our light fare and considered buying more treats for the ride home. It is, after all, a long drive back to Providence.
Whether you choose to hole up this winter inside their cozy cafe or bundle up and grab a picnic basket lunch to enjoy at one of Newport’s picturesque backdrops, Picnic Cafe will give you all you need to savor the moment and the experience.
28 Bellevue Avenue, Newport
401-619-1181 • PicnicNewport.com
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