They say the best things in life are free, but that argument doesn't work well when the bill comes at your favorite restaurant. If eating out has become an all-too-common occurrence in your life, take back the term by turning to the world's best host: Mother Nature. Incorporating simple ingredients from local producers, and a priceless view, here are some ideas for satisfying alfresco dining.

La Gastrónoma

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A good meal isn't complete without the perfect drink to pair it with and, if we’re being honest, that usually means alcohol. Walking into La Gastrónoma is like stepping into the tiny kitchen of the sweet Italian grandmother you never had: pastas and jars of tomato sauce, rustic furniture, teapots and freshly baked goodies — and glass doors leading to a room stocked with red and white wines as well as a few bottles of bubbly. If you’re looking for something to really cool you down, browse the wide variety of regional craft beers kept in an old hutch refurbished as a fridge.

Libertad 439, Miraflores, Lima. +51 1 4471383; lagastronoma.com

 

Vacas Felices

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Health food store Vacas Felices sells some exquisite happiness in the form of cheese wedges. With one location in classy San Isidro and the other in laid-back Barranco, two districts full of picnic-worthy parks, good cheese is never hard to find. Just look for the smiling cow logo — or follow the scent of stinky, well-aged cheese. While the shop's name translates to Happy Cows, don't pass up the logs of goat's cheese rolled in Peruvian herbs and spices such as the rocoto pepper and slightly sour aguaymanto fruit.

Jr. Colina 108, Barranco, Lima & Juan Eléspuru 305, San Isidro, Lima. vacasfelices.com

 

La Panetteria

via Facebook. Photo by Cha Rly


Even the busiest, most social person savors the opportunity to slow down when they happen upon a cozy nook in the big city. La Panetteria is that neighborhood spot where everyone offers you a warm smile and an even warmer baguette when you walk in. Inventive breads baked with pesto, spicy peppers and sweet dried fruits make it easy to bring variety to your outdoor meal in the simplest manner. Smear the glutenous loaves with soft cheeses, or just dip crusty slices in olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Av. Grau 369, Barranco, Lima. +51 1 4698260​; lapanetteria.com

 

Different Folks

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Remember when the only way your parents could get you to eat your vegetables was by lining them up on your plate in the shape of a smiley face? You won't have to carefully arrange the greenery for kiddos when your dishes come from Different Folks, a funky ceramics company. The handmade bowls, small plates and handleless cups to cradle make your picnic experience that much more ecofriendly, but what will really win you over is the cute factor. Let the lovable black bears and perky-eared rabbits decorating each piece remind you that you’re never too old to play with your food.  

 

Raphia & Arena

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Summer is about spontaneity: throwing a few essentials into a bag and stepping outside to bask in the sun. Inspired by the endless-summer vibe of Peru’s northern beaches, Raphia & Arena offers a fashionable, eco-conscious way to carry just what you need for that romantic meal or potluck hangout with friends. Just don’t be offended if one of these colorful, hand-woven bags steals the thunder from your pasta salad.

 

Parque Maria Reiche

Photo by Municipalidad de Miraflores via Flickr


Don’t feed the monkeys! If a trip to the Nazca Lines doesn’t fit into your schedule, bring the flora-and-fauna-inspired geoglyphs to you. Located along the coastal walkway in friendly Miraflores, this park is brimming with character. Spot a large monkey and bird, formed out of bright flowers, sprawled across the expansive green area — a lusher version of the desert originals. Taking its name from the German archaeologist responsible for sharing the original artistic stunners with the world, this public space is far from traffic, making it popular with furry friends and yogis alike, and the azure ocean serves as the perfect backdrop to your picnic. The best part? You decide what time is last call.

Malecón de la Marina 716, Miraflores, Lima


By Susana Lay

Susana loves long walks and sometimes loses her voice while teaching literature classes. She loves to write, watch movies, eat and sleep. She also loves to travel and to write about her travels. You'll never know where to find her — most of the time, she herself doesn't know.