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[Rachel Meyer/The Daily Pennsylvanian

Picnic can potentially cause culinary crises for indecisive diners.

Walking into the quaint take-away or eat-in prepared food store tucked into the shops in the Left Bank at 3131 Walnut St., one is immediately met with an array of side salads, cold dishes, breads and bakery delights that could leave one dizzy. Luckily, the task becomes increasingly more manageable with the help of the friendly staff and the list of daily lunch and dinner specials.

On any given day, Picnic offers a variety of fresh soups; often a vegetarian option is available and clearly marked. It also serves a selection of made-to-order sandwiches on fresh Metropolitan Bakery bread and salads accented with fresh ingredients and homemade croutons, dressings or vinaigrettes. Side salads to accompany the meal come in a variety of forms -- everything from a fresh fruit salad to a lightly dressed salad of haricots verts, potato salad and more.

Though the staff at Picnic will gladly pack your food in one of their picnic baskets, the appealing setting of the restaurant is hard to turn down. Outdoor seating is available, and there is indoor seating for 20 with additional stools along the window for an ideal people-watching perch.

On a recent early fall afternoon, the restaurant was wrapping up its midday rush with a steady stream of late-lunchers. The chefs were eking out the last of the summer's seasonal produce with a creamy mushroom and artichoke soup and using fresh tomatoes in many of their featured salads. The roasted garlic honey dressing provided a light complement to the salad of crisp romaine lettuce with spiced pecans ($5.50). My guest chose from the selection of sandwich daily specials, a grilled chicken roll-up on lavash bread with cucumber raita, lettuce, tomato and red onion ($5). The cucumber and yogurt dressing provided a fresh backdrop for the moist chicken and earthy taste of the Mediterranean-style bread.

Along with the featured specials, we each tried some of the tempting cold salads. We both enjoyed my choice of the broccoli and cherry tomato salad, with its light dressing of oil and pepper. And my guest raved about his selection, a Greek salad with feta cheese with fresh cucumber, dill, kalamata olives and red onion.

Other lunch specials included a vegetarian sandwich option of grilled portobello mushroom with melted provolone, spinach pesto, tomato and red onion on a kaiser roll ($5.50), or a grilled chicken, melted cheddar, bacon, honey mustard, lettuce and tomato sandwich on a sourdough roll ($6.25). Other salad options included additions of grilled chicken and blue cheese to a bed of baby spinach with roasted mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, red onions and croutons ($6), or poached salmon with horseradish cream atop salad greens with cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, radishes and red onion with a lemon-dill vinaigrette ($6.25).

Dinner options are more extensive at Picnic. It offers fish specials daily, frequently serving salmon or mahi-mahi ($11-$13). Grilled chicken, pork and steak are also offered at dinner, all served with freshly cooked vegetables and a choice of roasted sweet potatoes, herbed vegetable couscous, herbed orzo or buttermilk mashed potatoes (entree $9.50-$11, sides $4.50-$5).

The assortment of homemade desserts is reason enough to be a frequent customer at Picnic. Though we only tried the walnut-spice coffee cake, the moist cake with a perfectly balanced crumbly topping had us wishing that we had saved more room for dessert. Grand marnier cheesecake with a chocolate cookie crust, a pear ginger crisp with oatmeal streusel, various loaf cakes and freshly baked cookies, biscotti and muffins were among the other dessert options at Picnic.

Picnic also serves a freshly pressed watermelon juice that is a must-have ($1.50). The juice is presented in a tall glass cooled with a few ice cubes, and the understated rosy color of the juice is balanced by the vibrant flavors of the fresh watermelon. Although classes are already in full force, the flavors of summer are still available just blocks away from campus.

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