Basket Case: Packing a Picnic and Picking a Spot

When cramped city life becomes too much to handle, why not combine the two things San Franciscans love most: great food and the great outdoors. Whether it's a simple grassy knoll, a majestic island or a gorgeous (if chilly) beach, it's all nearby, and made all the better by a perfectly prepared picnic; here's where to get the best picnic supplies and where to take them.

Updated: May 07, 2009

Where to Go

Stern Grove

19th Ave, San Francisco, CA 94116

A canopy of trees shelters this shady oasis on 19th Avenue and Sloat from the cacophony of the busy intersection, proving that it is possible to enjoy a quiet, natural setting in the middle of the city. The park features abundant picnicking spots and a popular dog run, but its defining characteristic is the free Sunday afternoon music festival that takes place throughout the summer.

Angel Island Assn

Angel Island, Tiburon, CA 94920

Just a short ferry ride from San Francisco, this little bay destination that served as our own Ellis Island is an ideal spot for the adventurous type who wants to add a little hiking to an afternoon of sunning and snacking. Look up the departure schedule ahead of time, and leave half an hour to fill your basket with goodies from the Ferry Building first.

Ocean Beach Apartments

Great Hwy and Fulton St, San Francisco, CA 94121

While SF is not a layout-in-your-bikini sort of beach town, you can enjoy sun and fog alike at this long strand along the city's western edge. To take advantage of the beach's finest perks--fire pits for barbequing, allowed off-leash dog area, occasional cute surfers--bring your marshmallows and blankets and set up camp at the area on the edge of Golden Gate Park near the windmill.

Dolores Park

Dolores St, San Francisco, CA 94110

This grassy Mission hill is a sunny day favorite for everyone from hippies to hipsters, but with some of the best views (and warmest weather) in the city, it makes an obvious choice for a lunchtime picnic. Stop for provisions at nearby Bi-Rite or Tartine, or simply wait until one of the various street-food-slinging carts comes by.


Presidio Park, San Francisco, CA 94123

The view that launched a thousand campy SF postcards can be found here in the Presidio, where the Golden Gate Bridge stretches across the landscape seemingly inches from the water's edge. Crissy Field makes a stellar spot to walk the dog or go for a run--bring sustenance with you, or stop by the Warming Hut for a snack break.

Where to Stock Up

Lilah Belle's

3801 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94114

Call in your order to this Castro take-out operation and they'll have your meals--pre-packaged (yet gourmet and healthy) dishes like herb-roasted chicken, shrimp with brown rice and caprese salad--ready to go. And while the ready-to-heat options may do well if you're picnicking in your living room, you'll probably want to stick with salads and desserts if your plan is to eat outdoors.

Ferry Building Marketplace

1 Ferry Building, San Francisco, CA 94111

It's impossible to pick just one of the Ferry Building Marketplace's many vendors to spend your budget--better to spread it out and enjoy a little something from everyone: gingerbread cupcakes from Miette, coffee from Blue Bottle, fresh baguettes from Acme, a creamy chevre from Cowgirl, salumi from Boccalone and whatever's in season from Farm Fresh to You.

Nijiya Market

1737 Post St, San Francisco, CA 94115

For a Japanese-style picnic (perhaps to take to the tea garden in GG Park?) stop by this Japantown grocery store to pick up some of the pre-made goodies: salmon teriyaki bento boxes, onigiri (rice balls), seaweed salad, croquettes and huge sushi rolls for a fraction of the price you'd pay in a restaurant. If you're really living it up, grab a bottle of sake or a couple of Asahi beers to go.

De Lessio Market & Bakery

302 Broderick St, San Francisco, CA 94117

This Civic Center bakery-meets-deli has a killer salad bar perfect for a one-stop picnic shopping trip. Choose from both salad fixings and warm dishes like grilled chicken and hearty pastas--you'll pay by the pound, though, so if you're on a budget, lay off the cheesy polenta (which is amazing, by the way) and go for the greens.

Tartine Bakery & Cafe

600 Guerrero St, San Francisco, CA 94110

Spend the morning seriously hiking around some of the city's peaks and you can fully justify a calorie-rich picnic lunch from Tartine. Everything--from croque monsieurs to quiches to decadent pastries--in the cases is delish, but for a real treat, opt for one of the hot cheese sandos: our favorite is the pecorino with lemon, sage and crushed almonds.

La Torta Gorda

2833 24TH St, San Francisco, CA 94110

Burritos are de rigeur for to-go meals (especially in this city) but the Mexican sammies at this 24th Street shop are just as filling, just as good and much more unexpected if you're bringing picnic grub for that special someone. The junior size is reasonable for one person, but go for the regular and you'll have enough to share with your date on the grassy knolls of Dolores Park.