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Walnut Creek Magazine

It’s All About Al Fresco: Where and How to Picnic in San Francisco

Jul 18, 2020 05:19PM ● By Fran Miller

Washington Square Park, North Beach, San Francisco. Photo, Dan Miller


With indoor dining currently on pause, Bay Area residents seek safe alternatives for enjoying an al fresco adventure. The answer? A picnic. Picnics are a great way to indulge in your favorite to-go cocktails and takeaway meals. Here are a few of our favorite San Francisco picnic destinations, and some restaurant/take-out recommendations for a safe and delicious socially-distanced outing:

The picnic spot: Washington Square Park, North Beach

Giovanni Italian Specialties, steps from San Francisco’s glorious Washington Square Park, is the perfect spot for grab-n-go focaccia sandwiches, pasta salads, Italian sodas, espresso drinks, and creamy soft serve ice cream from Straus Family Creamery. Top your cone or dish with rainbow sprinkles, chocolate, shaved coconut, or Corto olive oil & fleur de sel. (Yes, and it's delicious.) Pick-up your dinner items at the same time; their fresh pasta is made in-house daily, and pizza kits feature dough, sauce, and cheese. 

Photo, Dan Miller

A Giovanni Italian Specialties lunch. Photo, Fran Miller

World Pizza Champ Tony Gemignani

Grab a slice from either Tony’s Pizza Napoletana or Tony’s Coal-Fired Pizza & Slice House (also steps from the park) and a seasonally-inspired-cocktail-to-go from Tony’s Pizza Napoletana’s walk-up window, where on weekends bar manager Elmer Mejicanos picks the freshest ingredients from local farmers markets to create new cocktails, mixed and shaken on the spot.

  • Tony’s Pizza Napoletana: Mon-Tues noon-8pm, Wed, Thurs, Sun noon-9:30pm, Fri-Sat noon-10pm
  • Tony’s Coal-Fired Pizza: Mon-Tues noon-8pm, Wed-Sun noon-9:30pm

Capo’s is 13-time World Pizza Champ Tony Gemignani’s second pizza concept in North Beach, where guests can also find small, shareable plates like the Nduja Crostini, Hot Calabrese Fries, and Fried Ricotta Stuffed Squash.

The picnic spot: Alta Plaza Park or Lafayette Park 

Noosh in Pacific Heights, near both Alta Plaza Park and Lafayette Park - each with spectacular Bay views - is open for takeout, outdoor dining (first come, first served), and curbside pickup every Wednesday-Thursday from 11am - 6pm and Friday-Saturday from 11am - 8pm. Order ahead here or have your meal delivered through Caviar and DoorDashThe ‘Noosh Deli’ offers a selection of brand-new menu items alongside fan favorites as well as a full beverage menu that includes seasonal craft cocktails, wine, beer, coffee, and more. Try new dishes like the Beets + Greens Salad and the Manoosh, an Armenian-inspired cheesy flatbread roll – plus Noosh’s classic lineup of Chubby Pita Sandwiches and house-made spreads. 

The picnic spot: Rincon Park 

ROOH SF, an 18-minute scenic walk to waterfront Rincon Park via Herb Caen Way, serves progressive Indian dishes, wines, cocktails, and beer and is open for takeaway, delivery and outdoor dining. The beverage program draws inspiration from the Ayurvedic sense of taste or “rasa” using a blend of unique Indian ingredients, homemade shrubs, spices, and artisanal spirits. Cocktails-to-go include: Paan Old Fashioned (bourbon, gulkand, areca nuts, bitters), Somrus (gin, pandan, cynar, sweet vermouth), and Beet Kadhi (vodka, beets, citrus, thyme). 

Saison Smokehouse whole pastured smoked chicken. Photo: Chris Presutti

It's a four-minute walk from Rincon Park to Saison SmokehouseSaison Hospitality’s newest venture - a take-out-focused barbecue concept based out of Angler at The Embarcadero. Full of comforting dishes like pastrami brisket, spice rubbed pork ribs, Grandma’s buttermilk biscuits, and collard greens with braised ham hock, the menu is a collaboration between the culinary teams at Angler and Saison, and great for summer celebrations. The Embered Caramel Frosty is a fan favorite, perfect for warmer weather. Beer, bottled cocktails, wine, and non-alcoholic beverages are also available. Pre-order via Tock for take-out, or enjoy on Angler’s patio (pre-order still required). Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 3pm - 8pm.

The picnic spot: The Ferry Building’s Back Plaza 

The Ferry Building Plaza. Photo, Marc Fiorito

The San Francisco Ferry Building recently debuted an expanded, appropriately distanced outdoor dining area where guests can safely enjoy gourmet, locally made takeaway food and drink from the marketplace. The building’s front and back plazas now accommodate up to 228 guests at 76 tables, each separated by a minimum of 10 feet, with a dedicated janitorial staff disinfecting and bussing tables in between parties. Grab summertime favorites like Humphry Slocombe ice cream, oysters and Rosé from Hog Islandburgers and soft serve from Gott’s Roadside, and more. Boulettes Larder has also opened up its back patio, where the team is serving up seasonal cocktails, wine, beer, and small plates. Outdoor tables are open to visitors every day except for Saturday from 10:30am - 7pm to allow for the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market.

Happy picnicking!

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