Restaurants across California are in various states of re-opening, with some doing takeout only and others open for both takeout and outdoor dining. Take advantage of the long summer days and pick up takeout for a picnic after work or at the weekend (some restaurants open for early dinner service; some serve all day).
Here’s where to find delectable takeaway picnic fare and where to eat it in the Bay Area, Los Angeles, and San Diego.
MICHELIN Plate, MICHELIN Guide California 2020
Pick up Caribbean bites at this restaurant in Old Oakland where Barbados-born Chef/owner Sarah Kirnon and her friendly staffers welcome you warmly. Sandwiches are the easiest to tote—skillet fried chicken or skillet fried eggplant (both with sweet potato and yucca fries)—and there are daily specials like Wednesday’s jerk chicken with rice, peas, avocado salad, and crushed plantains. Zingy ginger lemonade will quench your thirst on the 20-minute walk to grassy picnic spots Snow Park and Lake Merritt.
This Embarcadero restaurant is a collaboration between One MICHELIN Starred Angler and Two MICHELIN Starred Saison. The Smokehouse is an accessible barbecue joint slinging southern-learning comfort fare. Grab a sandwich (pork belly, pastrami, barbecued jackfruit), build your own feast from a la carte items (cabbage slaw with wild fennel vinegar, buttermilk biscuits) or go whole hog, literally, with one of the chef meals: meats, sides, sauces, and tastes-like-summer embered caramel frostys. Picnic at Ferry Park (eight minutes’ walk) or Salesforce Park (10 minutes’ walk).
Spread out a most decadent picnic from The Lobster in Santa Monica, which specializes in its namesake crustacean, imported from Maine. Order it grilled or steamed and put together a very photogenic vignette with a handful of sides: rich butter-poached lobster mashed potatoes, snappy green beans and grilled asparagus, and truffle parmesan fries to round out the indulgence. Tuck in at Palisade or Tongva Parks, both right next door.
There are a staggering nearly 400 dishes on the menu at this Thai restaurant in Little Armenia, including 150 offerings on the spicy Southern Thai menu. The restaurant is a 10-15 minute drive from picnic spots in Griffith Park (some areas are currently closed so research ahead). Curries are delicious, as are the more picnic-friendly and refreshing salads like papaya salad with tiger prawns or pomelo with shrimp, onion, and ground peanuts. Noodles without broth (think crab meat noodles in a zingy lime sauce) or wings are good too.
Both of these restaurants are in Little Italy. Picnic in Waterfront Park (10 minutes’ walk) or in Balboa Park (five to 10 minutes’ drive).
Hearty sandwiches are the picnic pick of choice here. Herb & Wood itself is open for dinner (takeaway or on their patio), but their casual offshoot next door, Herb & Eatery, is open all day Wed-Sun. In addition to two-hand sandwiches like an elevated tuna melt made with tuna confit on chewy sourdough, there are salads that transport well and bottled cocktails to go.
Three blocks down from Herb & Wood is this modern Japanese restaurant whose tidy bento boxes and bowls make for easy picnic provisions. Cloak & Petal open weekdays from 4pm and at weekends from noon, so you can pick up a katsu chicken bento (with chicken gyoza, rice, seaweed salad and crab rolls) or shrimp tempura bowl for an afternoon or evening picnic (to-go cocktail pouches, sake, and Japanese and local craft beers also on offer).
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