A picnic is an excellent compromise for those who want to dine away from home, but don’t want to be in an al fresco crowd, but there are some special considerations when it comes to packing a picnic basket: What will travel the best? What will provide the least amount of hassle to eat while seated on the ground? And, perhaps, most importantly, what’s on the way? This map of places in San Francisco to pack your picnic basket will help with all those considerations, with travel-friendly treats from all over the city that go far beyond the basic six-pack and bag of chips. And if you’re still trying to figure out where to take that basket, look no further.Read More
20 Prime Places to Fill Up Your Picnic Basket
San Francisco’s exceptional spots for cheeses, cured meats, sandwiches, and wine
1. Little Vine
Small but mighty, Little Vine punches above its weight when it comes to selection, quality, and customer service. Owned by the same folks as Russian Hill wine bar Union Larder, this retail shop boasts an encyclopedic array of bottles and fresh sandwiches to go. Cured meats, stinky cheese, and wines are all top quality.
2. Lucca Delicatessen
San Francisco is a city that loves a serious sandwich, and this old-school Italian-American deli has been setting the bar since 1929. Everyone has a favorite special, from the #1 Italian Combo with salame, ham, mortadella, and provolone, to the Pat Burrell roast beef with pepper jack and peppers. The party platters of meats, sandwiches, cheeses, and deviled eggs make for crowd-pleasing picnic fare.
3. Molinari Delicatessen
An 1896-founded delicatessen that’s as well-preserved as its meats, Molinari is a North Beach institution fully stocked with housemade salami plus cheese, olives, and a bounty of Italian imports. Its longstanding sandwich ordering process has changed in the pandemic, but it’s worth the wait.
This Japanese deli in the Ferry Building (shop #45) is a treasure trove for mix-and-match lunch fare, with abundant bento boxes, salads, rice bowls, and sushi. Even better for prospective picknickers are the tidy, pre-packed katsu sandwiches — choose from shrimp, crispy pork, or mustardy egg salad between two slices of pillowy milk bread.
5. Cheese Plus
This shop is cozy, but the selection is vast, and the knowledgable mongers at Cheese Plus have been at it for more than a decade. Let them stock you up with dairy, crusty bread, and wine for your next outing. Or, if you’re really on the go, grab a gourmet sandwich from their deli in the back. The Caprese is a favorite thanks to fresh mozzarella, as is the Cow Hollow, made with roast beef and double-creme brie. Plan ahead, and order online here.
6. Le Beau Market
Le Beau is a Nob Hill specialty market masquerading as a corner store. Locals appreciate the grocery selection while visitors to the neighborhood swear by the sandwiches. For a quick, hit-the-road breakfast, try their breakfast box: A to-go box stuffed with french toast, eggs, sausage, and potatoes.
Limoncello’s is an institution, known for super stacked sandwiches, gourmet Italian products, imported wines, and owner Jalal Heydari’s relationship with the store’s Pacific Heights neighborhood. Earlier this year, the beloved sandwich shop announced plans to expand with a second shop on the corners of 24th and Bryant Streets, lucky for the Mission.
8. Fatted Calf
The meat case at Fatted Calf is a sight to behold, and its pates, rillettes, and beef jerky are among the finest in the game. This place is equally good for heading to the backyard to grill or heading out of town, in which case you’ll probably want their pulled pork sandwich to go.
9. Lucinda's Deli & More
This subterranean bodega on the border of Alamo Square offers some of the city’s best sandwiches, with an oft-changing menu of meat-stuffed monsters like a mortadella with a haunting hot pepper chili relish and a tissue-thin-sliced soppressata with artichoke cream cheese. Lines get long at peak times, so order pickup online or stop by at off hours for a socially distanced experience.
10. Rainbow Grocery Cooperative
Rainbow’s worker-owned co-op has been a beacon of healthy eating since 1975. A stroll through its aisles can make Whole Foods feel suspiciously like Safeway. Almost everything at Rainbow comes in bulk, and they’ve got roughly 10,000 kinds of granola, so grab a bag of that before heading off for your day hike. One thing to note: Rainbow doesn’t sell meat, so the only cold cuts they sell are the vegan kind.
Clara Lee and Eddo Kim opened their Inner Sunset market Queens in 2019, a year after starting out as an online delivery version of neighborhood Korean delis common to NY and LA. Queens superette, as Lee and Kim call it, sells pantry supplies, marinated meats, Korean side dishes, and Asian heirloom produce. The pair now offers what is basically a monthly picnic basket delivery — the Natty Wines & Snack Things club delivers four bottles of wine and Queens snacks and provisions to pair with the wine to your home every month (and gets you a retail discount in-store).
12. Luke's Local
With a tightly edited selection of bread, cheese, produce, and dips, corner market Luke’s Local has everything you need for the snacky part of your picnic. There’s also a deli counter with some of the best customer service in town for to-go sandwiches, or cold cuts if you prefer assembling your own charcuterie board.
13. Palm City Wines
San Francisco, CA 94122
The gigantic hoagie sandwiches at Palm City have quickly become the stuff of legend, reason number one to stop by on your way to a Golden Gate Park picnic. The second reason is their extensive selection of beer and wine to go, as well as their endless patience in making sure you grab the perfect bottle. Third is that their to-go salads come already dressed, an imperative in a picnic setting (who can even deal with those leaky plastic containers of dressing or tossing a salad with plastic utensils from inside a takeout box).
14. Bi-Rite Market
Crammed full of cheese, wine, bread, fruits, and gleaming produce — not to mention people, who pack into the tiny store like artisanal sardines — Bi-Rite is a popular pre-road trip (and pre-Dolores) fueling station. The family-run business has expanded with a second location at 550 Divisadero Street (at Hayes Street), and both locations offer a stunning array of food, not to mention top-notch sandwiches: The vegan hippie or achiote chicken will take you where you need to go.
15. Other Avenues Grocery Cooperative
Before Rainbow Grocery was even a thing, Other Avenues was holding it down in the Sunset. It remains the oldest co-op in the city, which means that everyone who helps you as you assemble cheeses, breads, chips, and spreads for your picnic is a co-owner of the business. Their selection of vegan cheese and cold cuts is one of the best in town, making it a perfect stop for the plant-based crowd.
16. Royal Cuckoo Market
San Francisco, CA
The same fine spirits that go into the drinks at the Royal Cuckoo Organ Lounge, the much-loved Mission/Bernal bar, are available for purchase at this charming store, which arrived in 2014 from the same owners. You’ll also sense the care — and eccentric sensibilities — that go into the bar in the market, from the high quality groceries they stock to the tasty grilled panini sandwiches they serve to the jazz on vinyl they typically play.
17. The San Francisco Wine Trading Company
This Parkside wine shop has been closed to walk-in business for most of the pandemic, although they plan to go back to shopping as usual after July 4. But in the meantime, local delivery is free for orders over $150, and curbside pickup is available for its extensive selection of wines and spirits. Order by phone at 415-731-6222 or online here.
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18. Guerra Quality Meats
Guerra’s has been holding it down since 1954, and this classic butcher shop is now in the third generation of the family. Resist the temptation to stock up on steaks, chops, and grind while you’re there (you’re picnicking, not stocking up on perishables) and head straight to the lunch meats — or place an order at its popular sandwich counter, with pulled pork and brisket on big rolls.
19. The Epicurean Trader
The Epicurean Trader is fully stocked with meats, cheeses, snacks, and small-batch spirits in both of its stores in the Marina and Bernal Heights. The owners say they’e tried everything in the store and stand by it all, from wine to flowers.
20. Golden Gate Wine Cellars
Golden Gate Wine Cellars’ specialty is small, boutique producers, and while its Ocean Avenue location is closed to walk-in customers, curbside-pickup, limited local delivery, and shipping is available. Orders can be placed online, by phone at 415-337-4083 (don’t text, it’s a landline), or email at FRANK@GGWC.COM.
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