The weather is slowly transitioning into what we can passably call “summer,” and it doesn’t seem like outdoor get-togethers are going away any time soon - which means we’re contractually obligated to provide you with ideas for your next picnic. And luckily, San Francisco is home to some fantastic parks. So grab your favorite tote bag and head to one of these 21 spots to pick up food for your afternoon in the sun.
The sandwiches from Lucinda’s Deli & More are incredible masterpieces - and they’re also the reason Lucinda’s is one of our favorite new restaurants. It’s hard to articulate exactly what makes them such works of art, but we’ll try: it’s the fresh, crunchy rolls, and the fact that each sandwich is stuffed to the brim with fillings like mortadella and tapenade, or spicy tuna and sriracha mayo. And even better: Lucinda’s is right on the corner of Alamo Square.
El Metate in the Mission is a hot contender for one of our top three burritos in the city - theirs are long, thin, and consistently delicious. We’d honestly accept any excuse to pick one up and enjoy it in the sun. Get the carnitas or carne asada super burrito, and don’t be surprised when you finish it all before your chronically late friends arrive.
This SoMa spot is a permanent fixture on our mental sandwich Rolodex. We come here when we want massive sandwiches that are well-stuffed with hearty, good-quality fillings. Whatever you get from their usual menu or board of daily-changing specials will probably be fantastic. But when in doubt, get anything with pastrami.
The Epicurean Trader
If variety is the spice of life, Epicurean Trader is very spicy. The food and beverage shop has everything from fresh bread and empanadas to Compartes chocolate with donuts and coffee. So choosing what to bring to your park potluck will be an incredible exercise in self-control. We believe in you. Walk up to their Cow Hollow, Hayes Valley, or Bernal Heights locations, or order ahead here.
Palm City is home to another one of our favorite new sandwiches in the city: the Italian American hoagie, an arm-length behemoth filled with mortadella, salami, mozzarella, onion, arugula, parmesan, and a swath of ’nduja mayo. The Sunset spot is also a great one-stop shop if you’re trying to set up at Ocean Beach for the day. While you’re there, pick up a bottle of wine, a side of spicy garlic cheese dip, and chocolate chip cookies.
Sunset Squares in SoMa specializes in thick, square pies made with a chewy sourdough crust (although their thin-crust, Chicago tavern-style pizzas are also worth your time). Their toppings range from pepperoni (our go-to) or sausage and hot giardiniera to more unconventional combinations, like mapo tofu and ricotta. Pick up a couple of pizzas, a salad, and some brown butter chocolate chip cookies to go, and you’re all set.
The Ferry Building has filled their back plaza with socially distanced, umbrella-covered tables - but if it’s more of a take-off-your-shoes-and-chill-on-a-blanket kind of day, stop by and pick up some picnic essentials on your way to the patch of grass of your choosing. If you’re overwhelmed by the choices in there, you can never go wrong with a baguette from Acme and some salami from Golden Gate Meat Co.
Burke & Black
Burke & Black specializes in beautiful grazing platters and boxes that can feed 2 to 20 people (or, alternatively, you, 20 times). They’re offering cheese and charcuterie spreads and fruit and veggie boards for pre-order only. So, if you’re someone who likes to plan ahead, order for delivery or pick up at Wine Kitchen or High Treason.
Molinari is a North Beach institution that makes delicious Italian sandwiches. They’re the perfect picnic companion - an even better one than, dare we say, your dog? The sandwiches are stuffed with layers of meat, cheese, and all the fixings on your choice of bread (we like the soft roll or the Dutch crunch). And while you’re there, pick up a bottle of wine, too.
Cheese Plus in Polk Gulch is offering a cheese and charcuterie boxed lunch, which also comes with crackers and baguettes that the menu describes as “tender.” They’re also stocked with an extensive assortment of drinks, chips, snacks, and sandwiches. You can pre-order for pick up online or stop by their takeout window.
Yet another carbs + pork combo that we’ll recommend for your picnic: the char siu bao from Good Mong Kok Bakery in Chinatown. You also can’t go wrong with the siu mai or sesame balls. Walk up to the tiny takeout-only bakery and be prepared to wait in line for your dim sum - it moves quickly, though, so you’ll be on your way to the park in no time.
The Inner Sunset bakery and pizzeria is always a great place for coffee, scones, muffins, and other fresh-baked pastries and bread. And if you’re headed to a picnic in Golden Gate Park, consider stopping by Arizmendi first to pick up one of their excellent vegetarian pizzas with sourdough crusts. They have a different type every day, so check their pizza calendar to see what’s on the menu.
Bi-Rite Market - the serial picnicker’s dream. Their deli counter offers great sandwiches, and the market itself has a huge selection of bread, meats, cheeses, fresh fruits, and snacks from spots around the city. There are two locations - one on Divisadero in NoPa and one in the Mission - and if you’re at the latter, you can also stop by Bi-Rite Creamery across the street for scoops of ice cream or soft serve.
If today’s going to be a serious all-day picnic situation involving plenty of spikeball and a Yeti full of sangria, you’ll need something to sustain you for many hours. Let that something be a sandwich from Lou’s Cafe. They have tons of options, like a turkey club on Dutch crunch or buffalo chicken with bacon, or you can make your own - if you’re having a hard time narrowing down the menu, we like the turkey cranberry.
On your way to Dolores Park, stop by Señor Sisig. Their brick-and-mortar in the Mission has burritos that are stuffed with adobo garlic rice and sweet pork, or come loaded with fries. They also now have a vegan truck (Señor Sisig Vegano) that usually parks in the Mission, if you’d rather have all of the above in plant-based form. Whatever you get will taste very good while you’re laying horizontal in the sunshine.
The Mill makes some of our favorite bread in the city - so it’s no surprise that we love their thick-cut toast, topped with everything from mashed avocado to a sweet, magical mix of cinnamon sugar and butter. They also serve other pastries and Four Barrel coffee drinks out of their to-go window which make for the perfect breakfast-y picnic at Alamo Square.
This spot in the Richmond makes great birria tacos and massive tortas stuffed with meat (we like carne asada), queso fresco, carrots, jalapeños, and mayo. Both are the perfect handheld companion to bring with you to Golden Gate Park for a day of dog-watching and naps.
Whether you’re casually heading to the park alone, armed with a beach towel and your precious copy of Crying In H Mart, or are in need of a big, snack-y spread for a group of friends, Wise Sons probably has what you need. Grab a bagel sandwich or a babka loaf to snack on, or get the sandwich platter for two, which comes with hot pastrami and corned beef, rye, pickles, and fries.
For a picnic spread of waffles, perfect fried chicken, and cornbread, stop by Auntie April’s in Bayview. Their chicken is tender and juicy with a deep golden-brown breading, and is fantastic with maple syrup and an original, cinnamon, or red velvet waffle.
A day lounging at Ocean Beach can either be incredibly peaceful or very chaotic, depending on the speed of the wind that day. But if it’s sunny and clear, head on over and stop by Java Beach Cafe beforehand for a boost of energy. We like going for a coffee and a bagel - they’ve got everything from plain with cream cheese to bagel sandwiches stuffed with lox, veggies, or hummus.
Dumpling Kitchen in the Sunset is one of our many, many go-to spots for dumplings. And we like going here, especially before a picnic, for their pan-fried pork buns and green onion pancakes - you can get a little bit of everything, and showing up with their delicious dim sum is a guaranteed way to become the most popular person at the picnic.