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8 places where you can pick up the perfect picnic grub

Picnic foods Photo by PIXTA Pan-Asian Collection/Alamy Stock Photo

Picnics are the new chic summer dining option. Fill up your basket at one of these gourmet spots.

Even with safety precautions and travel restrictions keeping us close to home this summer, fun local adventures are still very much a possibility. Perhaps a car ride and an easygoing picnic are in order, providing an enticing opportunity to get out of the house, support a local restaurant, and indulge in an array of incredible eats. Here are some favorite places around Southern California to stock up on supplies.

1. Joan’s on Third

Two locations: 8350 W. Third Sreet, Los Angeles, and 12059 Ventura Place, Studio City 

323-655-2285 and 818-201-3900;

Joan's on Third in Los Angeles

Joan's on Third in Los Angeles

All of the essential fixings for a gourmet picnic can be found at this beloved café and market. From an array of delectable deli salads to seriously stacked sandwiches, you can pack your basket full of eats for a sizable lunch, while counting on yummy leftovers later. For sandwich selections, there’s a hearty short rib and a beloved turkey club, but if you’re hankering for a classic BLT layered with copious amounts of crispy bacon, juicy tomato, and cool lettuce, you won’t be let down by this superb version. Fresh-from-the-oven cookie and cupcake options abound for dessert, while the playful candy menu, which includes Swedish Fish and Gummi Bears, ensures top-notch road trip snacks for driving to and from your destination. 


2. Esters Wine Shop and Bar

1314 Seventh Street, Santa Monica


Esters Wine Shop and Bar in Santa Monica

Esters Wine Shop and Bar in Santa Monica

Who says a happy hour celebration can’t happen over a take-away meal? This esteemed wine shop’s fanciful food to-go menu can provide a culinary spread of light pre-dinner fare. The upscale experience begins with jarred snack options, including luxurious lavender almonds and zesty curry cashews. Chef’s choice cheese and charcuterie plates include an assortment of sweet honey, dried fruit, and grainy mustard. Bring it all together with curry meatballs and avocado toast to create your own customized tapas bar atop your picnic blanket. For those who consider salt a favorite food group, the indulgent salted potatoes, served with a “mojo verde” dipping sauce, are made for you. 


3. Broad Street Oyster Company

23359 CA-1 #3874A, Malibu


Broad Street Oyster Company in Malibu

Broad Street Oyster Company in Malibu

While driving the iconic Pacific Coast Highway through Malibu, there may be no better cuisine to pair with the stunning ocean views than fresh seafood. If you agree, point your GPS towards Broad Street Oyster and its selection of seafood shack classics. Even better? The drive-thru window accommodates safe order and pickup of your freshly shucked oysters, so you don’t even have to step out of your car. The peppery clam chowder is a triple threat—hearty consistency, sizable clam meat, and savory chunks of smoky bacon. The lobster roll, served warm or chilled, is best consumed at an oceanside parking spot overlooking the beaches, across the street. 


4. Communal

Two locations: 2335 University Avenue, San Diego, and 2221 Fern Street, San Diego

619-363-7737 and 619-313-0679;

Communal on Fern Street

Communal on Fern Street

To-go meals are convenient, comforting, and quite often, very romantic. An ideal picnic date for two can begin with this coffee and flower shop’s Meals for 2 options. These takeout-only meal deals cover food and drink for a hungry group (two–four) on a budget. Breakfast options include sweet Nutella and strawberry–topped toast or a savory bagel sandwich layered with avocado, herbed cream cheese, and zesty dill. Floral lattes such as Rose Vanilla and Lavender Honey provide two good reasons to begin your day here. Those who would like to include flowers as a surprise will be happy to know that a vibrant bouquet can be ordered online and picked up alongside your meal. The late-day dinner option is equally inviting, with pizza, salad, and wine for two or four—tailor-made to be consumed al fresco at nearby Balboa Park.

5. Lucky Penny

127 Anacapa Street, Santa Barbara


Lucky Penny in Santa Barbara

Lucky Penny in Santa Barbara

For those who like to veer away from the traditional sandwich picnic spread, look no further than this outstanding pizzeria in Santa Barbara’s wine-tasting Funk Zone neighborhood, a few blocks from the pier. Wood-fired Neapolitan-style pies maintain their crispy crusts long after they’ve been pulled from the oven, making these pizzas a terrific take-away food. The Salty Surfer is topped with sweet, smoky chunks of pineapple alongside flavorful prosciutto, while the Little Gem Caesar salad, doused with an avocado vinaigrette, complements platefuls of slices quite nicely.


6. On the Mark

111 N. Palm Canyon Drive, #155, Palm Springs


On the Mark in Palm Springs

On the Mark in Palm Springs

This locally owned wine and cheese shop should be your first stop before embarking on a peaceful drive across the desert terrain. Aisle after aisle of imported olive oils, intriguing vinegars, and distinctive jams can be as intimidating as they are exciting. Luckily, the staff couldn’t be more friendly and helpful with their guidance, including crafting robust cheese platters tailored to your liking. No matter how adventurous you decide to be, be prepared for a gorgeous tray overflowing with exciting accompaniments such as Marcona almonds, snappy cornichons, and a variety of olives. Heartier appetites need look no further than the sandwich offerings, where deli meat staples such as roast beef and oven-roasted turkey are topped with tangy aioli, relishes, and spreads. 


7. Panino

Six Locations: Downtown Santa Barbara, Los Olivos, Solvang, Montecito, Goleta, and Santa Ynez

Panino on the Central Coast

Panino on the Central Coast

With multiple shops throughout Santa Barbara’s bucolic wine country, this sandwich-and-salad destination is a must for any traveler seeking the perfect food for a picturesque drive. There’s an array of sandwiches filled with roasted chicken, tuna salad, and black forest ham, yet it’s the numerous vegetarian options that make this menu a crowd-pleaser. The Greek features a house-made kalamata olive tapenade layered with feta cheese and crisp cucumber, while the unique English Stilton combines sliced pears, pungent blue cheese, sweet cranberries, and crunchy walnuts for a unique sandwich experience.


8. Tokyo Fried Chicken Company

122 S. Atlantic Boulevard, Monterey Park


For many, a bucket of crispy fried chicken is the quintessential centerpiece to a picnic meal. And while delicious chicken eateries are plentiful across SoCal, this off-the-radar Japanese fried chicken mecca is well worth seeking out. The glorious, crackling crunch is present with every bite, but what’s astounding is how well these pieces maintain their crispness long after they cool; meaning this chicken is just as delicious at room temperature as it is fresh out of the fryer. Rich notes of garlic and soy are present in the batter, while the meat retains moist tenderness. When it comes to side dishes, Tokyo Fried Chicken provides the best of both worlds with creamy potato salad and zingy coleslaw beside bolder options such as curry creamed corn and shishito peppers.


AAA Travel Alert: Many travel destinations have implemented COVID-19–related restrictions. Before making travel plans, check to see if hotels, attractions, cruise lines, tour operators, restaurants, and local authorities have issued health and safety-related restrictions or entry requirements. The local tourism board is a good resource for updated information.

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