Summer in LA marks the opening of a new sports season: professional picnicking. Between the Hollywood Bowl, movies at Cinespia, concerts at the Santa Monica pier, and all the various other outdoor evening activities, outdoor meal assembling is a skill that comes in pretty handy in this town.
But if you can be bothered to make 12-ingredient salads and bake pies for every screening of Kill Bill, you’re a better person than us. Our go-to move is to head to one of these spots pre-event and pick up enough salads, sandwiches, and cured meats to feed an army. It’s the easy way to be crowned picnic champion of the year.
Friends & Family may be relatively new, but this Thai Town spot has a very serious picnic box showing. You can build your own with things like their za’atar flatbreads, charcuterie, and an egg salad we would cross town for, but the best move is just to go for their cold fried chicken basket. Along with the chicken, you get slaw, potato salad, a biscuit, and pie for dessert. All of which means we will probably be ordering this even when we don’t have a picnic to bring it to.
If you don’t need this whole picnic thing to be a big deal, head for Uncle Paulie’s. They do very good Italian-style deli sandwiches (we’re all about the artichoke caprese with added hot peppers), a few salads, sliced cold cuts, and some very tasty cookies. Be warned though - their hours are highly unpredictable, so give them a call first if you don’t want to possibly end up with packaged ham and a sad baguette from Gelson’s.
Mozza2Go is the takeout version of Pizzeria Mozza, which lets you eat their insanely good pizza whenever you damn well please. For a picnic situation, you’re going to want the Pizza e Antipasti option: five pizzas, antipasti, biscotti, and envious glances from all the people around you at Hollywood Forever who settled for hummus straight out of the container. Sure, the pizza might not be hot by the time it gets into your mouth, but you eat it like that on Sunday morning anyway. Also of note: you can get the Mozza butterscotch budino to-go. And you should.
While we are generally all about the meatball sub at this casual Italian spot in Beverly Grove, it’s a poorly-considered soggy situation waiting to happen. Instead, go for the prosciutto, a salad, and some arancini that will make it to your outdoor viewing of Clueless intact. And if you can get out the door without a gelato as your pre-game, you’re stronger than us.
The food at a picnic is important, but so is the booze. And if your priorities lean more towards the latter, Hi-Lo is a good spot to hit. This next-level neighborhood market has a big selection of beer, wine, and stronger things, and all kinds of snacks to help you stay upright (and awake through the LA Phil concert you thought would make you feel like an adult).
Yes, this is where everyone gets their picnic supplies. No, that doesn’t make it any less good. Joan’s on Third knows exactly what it’s doing. They’ll put together a picnic box for you, or you can build your own with the store’s huge selection of sandwiches, salads, cheese, and meats. You don’t even have to stop at the liquor store - they have plenty of wine here too. Do not skip dessert. Under any circumstances.
Need an easy option? Swing by Larchmont Wine and Cheese. If you’re there before 5pm (and they haven’t already run out of bread), you can pick up a sandwich. If not, you won’t get a sandwich, but you will load up on cheese, charcuterie, and all the wine. Neither route will result in disappointment.
Stop in for one of their daily specials (if you see the lobster rolls, act fast), or get one of the super helpful staff members to help you put together a seafood spread. They do pretty killer party platters - crab claws won’t ever let you down. Just don’t forget your trusty insulated bag for safe transportation.
It’s another place with ‘market’ in its name, so you probably know the drill by now. They do picnic boxes with sandwiches, salads, and wine. Their real winner move is throwing in wine glasses and a corkscrew with every box that includes wine - because we definitely haven’t ever brought three bottles of wine to the Bowl and forgotten a corkscrew. Nope, not ever.
Picnics and seafood might not seem like a great idea, but Sugarfish is actually perfect for outdoor eating (because there’s apparently nothing these people haven’t figured out). Takeout boxes are handily compartmentalized and easily stackable, and there’s no dealing with paper plates when everybody has their own Trust Me box. Hit the Hollywood location before the Bowl or a cemetery screening.
There are three Larders - Brentwood, West Hollywood-ish, Beverly Hills - and all have the drop-in-and-take-out thing down. They have a range of picnic boxes, or just go in and mix and match some salads, sandwiches, and pastries.
We could, and have, spent hours at the cheese counter at Wally’s. If heaven has a place on Earth, it’s probably right here on Canon Drive. Show up at the picnic with a Wally’s bag and you’ll be the automatic MVP.
Of course Bay Cities is on the list. The Godmother is the ultimate picnic sandwich - there’s nothing particularly sloppy in it, so no soaked-through roll once you’ve unfurled the blankets. Pick up some cannoli while you’re at it.
There are all kinds of things to eat at Froma - dips, pizza, salads - but we get one thing and one thing only. The Alpino sandwich. This, plus a bottle of wine, and Froma has the outdoor eating thing covered.
This little spot in Eagle Rock has a daily-rotating menu of sandwiches that you’ll need to get in quick for before they run out. But even if you miss out, you can’t really be disappointed here - the cheese case is enormous, there’s a fridge full of tasty snacks, and plenty of wine to take with you.
We’re not here to hide our love of California Chicken Cafe. We’re here to share it. Because with its Hollywood Forever-adjacent location, this spot’s fresh chicken-centric wraps, salads, plates, and sides make for an ideal picnic situation. Don’t miss out on the broccoli pasta salad (and don’t pretend you’re not excited that it involves ranch dressing).