It’s Almost ‘Picnic’ Season at the 5th Street Arcades

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Picnic season doesn’t officially kick off in these parts until Memorial Day, but it looks as though the season is starting early this year. As soon as next week, Picnic (530 Euclid Ave., 216-804-5550) will begin peddling sausages from its spot in the 5th Street Arcades. Barring any unforeseen snafus, the lunch-only shop will open on Monday or Tuesday, says owner Bob Holcepl, who also operates Tea Lab in the arcade.

Picnic is a sausage-centric concept that features locally made sausages, hand-cut fries, and creative toppings and sides.

“Think more Hot Doug’s than Happy Dog,” Holcepl says, referring to the uber-popular Chicago-based hot dog concept that featured unusual meats and gourmet toppings.

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The menu is built around four main sausages: a classic all-beef, natural-casing hot dog, a Cleveland-style bratwurst, smoked Polish sausage with pork and garlic, and a veggie dog. Specials like a Louisianan red hot or a duck and pork sausage are cycled into and out of the mix.

Diners can go their own way, dressing up their tube steaks from a lengthy list of free and not-free toppings that range from horsey sauce and 1,000 Island to pork belly, fried eggs and cheese curds. Or diners can select from a list of "Picnic's Picks," eight curated dogs named for and designed around major cities. The Cinci, naturally, is a hot dog topped with chili, onions and cheddar, while the Chicago is a hot dog "dragged through the garden."

The Cleveland is Picnic’s version of a Polish Boy, a Polish sausage in a grilled split-top Hawaiian-style bun crowned with fries, creamy coleslaw and barbecue sauce.

Those house-cut, double-fried fries also star in chili fries, cheddar fries, gravy fries or poutine, topped with gravy and cheese curds.

Prices for most menu items fall in the $4 to $6 range.

“I’m taking a low-brow food product and making it middle-brow,” Holcepl says. “At the end of the day it’s still just a sausage.”

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