The Perfect Picnic for Walnut Woods State Park

Broasted chicken from the Chicken features super-crisp skin and tender meat. The Full Court Press restaurant is located along the Great Western bicycle trail.

Writer: Wini Moranville

For me, the ultimate picnic menu includes fried chicken, potato salad and baked beans. Recently, I was thrilled to discover you could get this triumvirate at a locally owned restaurant within a 10-minute drive of a fabulous state park. Here’s the scoop:

The Chicken: The Full Court Press dudes do it again. The same good-time guys who bring you the Royal Mile, Iowa Taproom, Truman’s KC Pizza Tavern, High Life Lounge and more opened the Chicken two summers ago. Located along the southern edge of West Des Moines on the Great Western Trail and featuring an 80-seat patio, the casual, roadhouse-themed venue is especially popular with cyclists.

While the menu includes all kinds of casual sandwiches, salads and pizza, the specialty — as the venue’s name suggests — is chicken. Or, to be more exact, genuine Broasted chicken, a trademarked moniker that requires cooking chicken in a licensed contraption that pressure-cooks and fries at the same. The result is super-crisp, crackly skin that’s larded without being greasy, plus meat that’s tender and moist.

The sides, including sweet-tinged, thickly sauced baked beans and a classic potato salad, also hit their mark. 

The Chicken is at 4221 S. Orilla Road, West Des Moines, 515-410-2520; thechickenorilla.com.

Walnut Woods State Park: This venerable old park—with a stone lodge that dates to the 1930s and the country’s largest surviving natural stand of black walnut trees—is just a seven-minute drive from the Chicken. Dozens of picnic tables are scattered in the open air; after all, who needs shelters when there’s plenty of shade everywhere. It’s easy to find a serene table overlooking the Racoon River and tree-lined banks beyond.

The 2.5 to 3 miles of groomed trails into woodlands and skirting the river are a welcome activity after a filling lunch.

Find a map of Walnut Woods on the Iowa Department of Natural Resources website.

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