Picnic Dates

Picnic Dates

“I did all the work so you wouldn’t have to do anything,” Tim Cabral, owner of the downtown tavern Ordinary, told a crowd lolling in Temple Plaza one Friday afternoon late in June. Sunlight brightened the high crevices between buildings, but the plaza’s turf was shaded, and not doing anything sounded like a great idea.

Cabral was begging off a lesson on how to mix the two drinks he’d concocted for the occasion—one of Town Green District’s Picnic in the Plaza events, happening on the last Friday of each month from 5 to 7 p.m. through September. Cabral figured most people had already poured and sipped without his help. The drinks—a take on a Collins using a red pepper blackberry shrub and Japanese Roku gin and a Gold Rush using Japanese whiskey—were both fizzy and refreshing, and Cabral had, indeed, done most of the work, right down to figuring out how much water to add to the Gold Rush to compensate for the fact that it wasn’t going to be shaken.

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Also part of the package for paid guests: a picnic from Elm City Social. A different restaurant is slated for each month. My husband and I pre-ordered turkey bacon sandwiches with spicy mayo on thick multigrain bread and a side of potato salad. The food and drink, plus promised seating on the turf or at a cafe table, runs a beefy $45, but part of the price benefits Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen. Add in live music and a host of outdoor and board games, and you’ve got a party.

At 5 p.m., as singer Sonia Morant and her band got things rolling onstage, just a handful of people relaxed on blankets and cafe chairs. Over the course of the event, the number swelled to about 100. I watched a father and son from Wallingford battle it out on the plaza’s ping pong table while a pair of couples took aim at cornhole. A Town Green District game table offered several more choices. Rock ’Em Sock ’Em Robots got a workout, while three women spilled Scrabble tiles out on one of the umbrella stand benches.

Temple Plaza is an enticing spot for a summer happy hour, and not just due to its perfect shade. Shoehorned behind the buildings at the corner of Chapel Street and Temple Street, with the stacked curves of the Crown Street Garage dominating its south side, the plaza is a delightful discovery when you come upon it for the first time as a few people appeared to that evening. Adding to the intrigue is Bu Lei Tu’s new stairway mural, which borders the small stage and climbs the steps to College Street with an homage to Connecticut’s 14-plus species of carnivorous plants.

We ate our meals, chatted with strangers and nursed our drinks, impressed by the vocal talent of Morant, then tried a few rounds of oversized Connect Four before we wandered out. Behind us, evening wandered in.

Picnic in the Plaza
Temple Plaza – 160 Temple St, New Haven (map)

5-7pm on 7/30, 8/27 & 9/24
Website | Tickets ($45)

Written and photographed by Kathy Leonard Czepiel.

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