Where To Grab Picnic Food Near Golden Gate Park
18 spots for when the grass by the Conservatory of Flowers calls you.
San Francisco has no shortage of green outdoor spaces, which certainly came in handy over the last year. And since you’re probably looking to sprawl out on some grass and soak in the Vitamin D now more than ever, why not do so at the city’s crown jewel - Golden Gate Park. So, if you want to grab some food for this very special occasion (hey, post-quarantine you), use this guide. It has 18 great spots for takeout that are within walking distance or a short drive from the park.
The wine bar in the Outer Sunset 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. It’s also a great one-stop shop if you’re trying to set up a picnic at Golden Gate Park for the day. While you’re there, pick up a bottle of wine, a side of spicy garlic cheese dip, and chocolate chip cookies.
Café Bunn Mi
Like a trusty friend (or, at least, a first-tier one who absolutely made the quarantine bubble cut), Cafe Bunn Mi is always there whenever we need a good meal, including one for a picnic. They have vermicelli and pho, but we rely on the crispy duck banh mi to get us through any day. The extra thick duck cutlet is fried then smothered in a house-made aioli and coleslaw. They also make a great lemongrass steak banh mi, which we like to pair with a Vietnamese iced coffee.
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What’s more perfect than rolling around on a lawn in Golden Gate Park on a fog-less morning? Doing so over pastries from Arsicault. The French bakery on Arguello makes some of the best croissants in town - they’re extra moist and buttery, and come plain, or with ham and cheese, chocolate, or almonds. Arsicault also makes a superb kouign amann. Make sure to get here on the earlier side as a lot of the baked goods will probably be sold out by closing time (3-3:30pm).
Cinderella Bakery & Café
This Russian bakery is a San Francisco institution, and dropping by for their baked piroshki, Siberian pies, and vareniki is never a bad idea. But if you really want to make your picnic as memorable as a trip to the Conservatory of Flowers, order the pelmeni. These juicy, meaty dumplings come with sour cream, and optional broth if you want a bowl of something warm on picnic day.
The Yellow Submarine
This Inner Sunset sandwich shop is where to go when you want giant hoagies, which are the size of full-blown tanks. We like the steak and cheese sub, which comes with shredded beef, grilled onions, bell peppers, and melted cheese on a freshly-baked sourdough roll. Definitely order your sandwich with a side of coleslaw, french fries, or potato salad.
If there’s one thing you get at Twirl and Dip, make it their creamy, chocolate-dipped vanilla soft serve with chunks of sticky honeycomb candy. You can find the ice cream truck at the Music Concourse (you’ll know you’ve arrived when you spot the long line), so it’s a convenient stop before or after you hit up the nearby California Academy of Sciences and hunker down on the grassy area around Rideout Fountain for some R&R.
The perfectly-square katsu sandwiches from Bread N’ Chu make us more excited than an evening marveling at the jellyfish at NightLife. That’s because the takeout-geared sandwich shop makes an excellent one with crispy, thick chicken, shredded cabbage, a generous layer of Kewpie mayo, and crustless milk bread. The Outer Richmond spot makes other sandwiches you should try, too, like tonkatsu and choux, but, really, the katsu is the star.
photo credit: Susie Lacocque
New World Market
New World Market on Geary is one of the largest Russian markets in San Francisco, and you should come here to peruse their aisles filled with plenty of drinks and snacks. The large deli case also has tons of prepared dishes to choose from, but we especially love the Russian salads - like the olivier (eggs, peas, meat, carrots, and onions tossed in mayo), crab, vinaigrette, and shuba (herring, vegetables, and mayo).
We love this Inner Sunset spot that specializes in boba tea and fantastic bánh mì stuffed with everything from roasted pork belly to fried tofu to chicken. If you really want to impress your picnic crew, get the one with bulgogi beef - the meat is rich and tender, and it comes with a creamy house-made gochujang aioli. Actually, consider ordering a couple of bulgogi beef sandwiches - you won’t want to share.
Volcano Curry has one of the best chicken katsu curries in the city. And a plate of it is also an easy-to-carry meal that’s ideal for picnics - the curry even comes in a separate container so the katsu chicken won’t get soggy in transit. Another great option from this Outer Richmond spot is the chicken katsu sandwich, stacked with two thick chicken cutlets and a ton of coleslaw.
Arguello Market is a grocery store in the Richmond that also happens to make a phenomenal, thick roasted turkey sandwich on a Dutch crunch roll. Their deli case also has plenty of other picnic-friendly options, like house-made pastas and salads. Get whatever looks good, and don’t leave without stocking up on drinks, chips, and more of your Favorite Picnic Snacks.
Velo Rouge Cafe
Velo Rouge Cafe is a great brunch spot in the Richmond that serves breakfast burritos, bagels, and avocado toast. After 10:30am, the menu expands to include soups, salads, and sandwiches like tuna melts, BLTs, and turkey-ham clubs. Whatever you get, pair it with a cup of coffee or iced tea and enjoy it on the short walk to the park - the Arguello Street entrance is just a block away.
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 build your own - if you’re having a hard time narrowing down the menu, we like the turkey cranberry.
Hook Fish Co
We head to Hook Fish Co whenever we have a craving for something that came out of the ocean - whether it’s poke or fish and chips or tacos or burritos. This place has a pretty good crab cake, too. The best part about Hook Fish Co is you can customize most orders - fish options include halibut, lingcod, yellowtail, a daily catch, and more. But whatever you get here will be great.
photo credit: Meika Ejiasi
Java Beach Cafe
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.
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.
There are many reasons to love this neighborhood spot in the Outer Richmond - they also make great taqueria staples, like tacos, nachos, and burritos filled with chile verde pork, carne asada, spicy chicken, and beef. But our go-to is the juicy carnitas, which you should get as a super burrito with guacamole and sour cream.
Lucinda’s Deli & More
Lucinda’s is technically closer to Alamo Square than it is to Golden Gate Park, but the sandwiches here are incredible masterpieces - and 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.