clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile
A shot of the inside of Tahona Mercado.
Tahona Mercado is believe-the-hype-worthy.
Tahona Mercado | Instagram

These 15 Shops Are the Go-To Places for Picnic Basket Essentials

San Francisco’s exceptional spots for cheeses, cured meats, sandwiches, and wine

View as Map
Tahona Mercado is believe-the-hype-worthy.
| Tahona Mercado | Instagram

Sitting on Ocean Beach, when the wind isn’t blasting sand into anyone’s face as they try to take a bite of their Palm City sandwich, is a peaceful and gorgeous experience. Picnicking around San Francisco, moreover, is a cheap, repeatably surefire way to have a fantastic afternoon in the Paris of the West. The city is the must-go destination for whales this year, apparently, making Otis Redding-inspired dock-sitting all the better as the summer yawns into existence. (Plus, the odds of riding the most recent COVID wave, or the looming monkeypox situation, are way lower outdoors.)

It’s the ideal time to find a park or a beach to tan while enjoying some natty wine. Honorable nods to unsung Assembly Cafe, nee Bi-Rite’s old Civic Center cafe, for ultra affordable and San Francisco-themed items like the Jerry Garcia salad and the Danny Glover burger, and neighborhood staple Gratta Wines’ specialty market in the Bayview. Of course, local grocers like Other Avenues and Luke’s Local are terrific places to top off on essentials, too. As you get ready for the (hopefully not too) warm and rare San Francisco summer days, it goes without saying that all 15 picnic suppliers on this list are crucial additions to the list.

Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; it may pose a risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial COVID transmission.

Read More
Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

Little Vine

Copy Link

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.

Lucca Delicatessen

Copy Link

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.

Molinari Delicatessen

Copy Link

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.

Cheese Plus

Copy Link

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.

Le Beau Market

Copy Link

Le Beau is a Nob Hill specialty market masquerading as a corner store, with a wild origin story. 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.

Tahona Mercado

Copy Link

Steven Sadri and Emily Thompson are masters of their craft, showing people the many wonders of mezcal and a good time. The husband-and-wife duo partners with tons of local producers throughout the Bay Area to showcase the regional delights while importing any spirits they deem a significant find. Carrying rare and delicious drinks and food, like their in-house made grilled little gem taco, topped with toasted peanuts, queso fresco, and salsa macha, isn’t even the main draw; the owners are just so dang charming.

Limoncello's

Copy Link

Limoncello 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. The beloved sandwich shop announced plans to expand with a second shop on the corners of 24th and Bryant Streets, lucky for the Mission.

Fatted Calf

Copy Link

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.

Lucinda's Deli & More

Copy Link

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.

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 — and opened their sophomore location Hotline to much fanfare.

Palm City Wines

Copy Link

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).

Royal Cuckoo Market

Copy Link

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.

Guerra Quality Meats

Copy Link

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.

The Epicurean Trader

Copy Link

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.

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.

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.

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.

Delica

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.

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.

Le Beau Market

Le Beau is a Nob Hill specialty market masquerading as a corner store, with a wild origin story. 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.

Tahona Mercado

Steven Sadri and Emily Thompson are masters of their craft, showing people the many wonders of mezcal and a good time. The husband-and-wife duo partners with tons of local producers throughout the Bay Area to showcase the regional delights while importing any spirits they deem a significant find. Carrying rare and delicious drinks and food, like their in-house made grilled little gem taco, topped with toasted peanuts, queso fresco, and salsa macha, isn’t even the main draw; the owners are just so dang charming.

Limoncello's

Limoncello 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. The beloved sandwich shop announced plans to expand with a second shop on the corners of 24th and Bryant Streets, lucky for the Mission.

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.

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.

Queens

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 — and opened their sophomore location Hotline to much fanfare.

Palm City Wines

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).

Royal Cuckoo Market

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.

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.

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.

Related Maps