San Francisco has no shortage of parks where you can spread out a blanket and eat a meal. So you should take advantage of that mythical SF summer sun (whenever it does actually arrive) and have a picnic in one of our favorite spots - Golden Gate Park, Alamo Square, or Dolores Park. And to make your outdoor meal even easier, we’ve put together this guide with the best markets, restaurants, and delis to pick up food from nearby.
No picnic is complete without dessert, and Tate’s Bake Shop Chocolate Chip Cookies are the perfect way to finish your outdoor meal. Dunk them in your coffee, make a DIY ice cream sandwich, or just eat them pure and simple. Grab your blanket, a cooler, and some Tate’s Bake Shop cookies on the way - you’ll find everything else you need below.
We’re willing to bet you’ll end up spending a sunny afternoon in Dolores Park at some point this summer. Hanging out and people watching while you dodge flying footballs and try to find the truffle man is as much a part of life in SF as having a light jacket with you at all times.
Bi-Rite Creamery on the corner of Dolores Park, will always have a line, and for good reason - the ice cream is incredible and also the store is very small. Luckily, the lines move quickly, and it’s worth waiting to get some of their divine soft serve or regular flavors like balsamic strawberry, salted caramel, or toffee coffee. Combine it with your favorite Tate’s Bake Shop cookies and win the picnic with ice cream sandwiches for dessert.
We could write endless love letters about Stonemill Matcha’s incredible chicken katsu curry. Walk over and order anything that comes with their perfectly golden-brown katsu - we like the curry plate with rice or the pork katsu sandwich - and carry it back to the park. While you’re there, get an iced matcha for some Tate’s Bake Shop cookie dunking too.
This fast-casual Cuban spot is a great place to order from, especially once you look up from your intense game of Picolo, realize it’s 3pm and you haven’t had lunch. They do excellent cubanos and rice bowls with things like roasted pork shoulder, kabocha squash, or beef, as well as some solid empanadas.
Golden Gate Park
Golden Gate Park is a San Francisco gem - a vast grassy oasis filled with wildlife, lakes, and flowers that make for the perfect picnic scenery. Almost any corner of the park will do, but we like to set our blanket up near the Conservatory of Flowers for a colorful summer bloom backdrop. After you’re done eating, head to the de Young Museum or join in with those rollerblade dancers dressed from the ’60s.
The wine bar in the Outer Sunset is home to one of our favorite 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.
Café Bunn Mi
Like a trusty friend, Cafe Bunn Mi is always there whenever we need something good to eat, and a lot of their menu is easily transportable too. They have vermicelli and pho, but we rely on the crispy duck banh mi to get us through any day of wasting away a sunny afternoon in the park.
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 that time you accidentally dropped your phone into Stow Lake, 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.
Historic Alamo Square lends incredible views of the city, including the famous, over-photographed Painted Ladies. Plus, there’s plenty of green space, flowerbeds, willows, and walking trails to find the perfect picnic spot.
Lucinda’s is a small deli with excellent sandwiches that are the platonic ideal of a picnic food. Each sandwich is made with a soft yet crispy roll, and is packed with tons of fillings. You can’t really go wrong here, but the mortadella, which comes with tapenade, bagna cauda mayo, provolone, hot pepper chili relish, and more is a flavorful, well-balanced masterpiece. For dessert, pair your potato chips with Tate’s Bake Shop cookies for some sweet and salty goodness.
Burgers are normally the kind of thing we’d advise against for a picnic. But a 4505 burger is different. It’s a wider, flatter burger that travels remarkably well. The patty comes with lettuce, onion, gruyere, and special sauce on a griddled sesame seed and scallion bun that we suspect might be the secret to it holding up so well.
You can put together your entire picnic spread pretty quickly with just a visit to Souvla. Get some of their fluffy pita lamb wraps, a chicken salad, and some Greek wine to go with it. Don’t forget the yogurt soft serve too - it’s perfect for dunking some Tate’s Bake Shop cookies in for dessert.