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Perfect Picnic Serves Basket-Ready Sandwiches Out of LES Basement

By Serena Solomon | November 16, 2012 10:13am | Updated on November 16, 2012 5:34pm

LOWER EAST SIDE — The irony of using a basement to sell gourmet picnic baskets doesn’t escape Wendy Weston.

"This place was just perfect, and an underground picnic is funny," said Weston, owner of the sandwich shop Perfect Picnic, of her just-opened space at 123 Ludlow St., where customers enter through an open sidewalk grate and down a flight of stairs.

"I always have a sense of humor about everything."

Perfect Picnic's bunker gives the Lower East Side business a brick-and-mortar space to pack orders of to-go picnic lunches, while also providing a few tables and chairs for those in search of a quick indoor snack of sandwiches or a cheese and charcuterie platter.

The store opened after Perfect Picnic's online delivery model debuted to New Yorkers in June of last year, with the concept of sending prepared picnic lunches ideal for an outdoor feast to hungry customers.

"I feel like I am constantly in search of that perfect bite," said Weston, 42, who will have a regularly changing menu at the Ludlow street basement shop, which opened Thursday.

The current selections of mini-baguettes, which sell for $6 each, include ingredients like fresh goat cheese, jam, surryano ham and chives. Along with cheese and meat platters, Weston is also hoping to add bring-you-own-booze for customers in the future.

For Weston, the thin staircase leading down to the tiny and rustic-looking 200-square-foot space — featuring exposed brick, wooden chairs and shelves filled with chutney — brings her back to the Italian vacation that first inspired her to launch the business.

"If you were only to look, you would think you were on the Amalfi Coast of the Lower East Side," said Weston, a 15-year Lower East Side resident, of her new space.

Perfect Picnic has already found success in providing large picnic orders for weddings and corporate clients, or a simple date for two. Most of those orders come via telephone or online and are often delivered to the picnickers directly.

"We want to change the way Americans eat on the run," said Weston, who is hoping to eventually franchise the business in other cities.

When Perfect Picnic first started last year, it had a summer pop-up shop at 9 Clinton St., and it struck up a partnership with a deli on Cherry Street this past summer for a location to prepare its meal packages. 

For instance, a classic European-style picnic — including cold meats, cheeses and condiments — is $32 and comes in a tote bag. The American-style picnic, with a mini baguette, gourmet potato chips and flat or sparkling water, is $14 per person.

Weston struck up a culinary partnership with private chef Prue Barrett, who will work with her on the constantly changing sandwich offerings, as well as developing a line of chutney and jam.

While the hours are not yet set in stone, Weston is planning to open for lunch 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, and for dinner from 6 p.m. to 12 a.m. Friday through Saturday.