Summer in LA marks the opening of a new sports season: professional picnicking. Between the Hollywood Bowl, movies at Cinespia, concerts at the Santa Monica pier, and all the various other outdoor evening activities, outdoor meal assembling is a skill that comes in pretty handy in this town.
But if you can be bothered to make 12-ingredient salads and bake pies for every screening of Kill Bill, you’re a better person than we are. In this situation, we usually head to one of these spots pre-event and pick up enough salads, sandwiches, and cured meats to feed an army. It’s the easy way to be crowned picnic champion of the year.
This Thai Town neighborhood hangout has many good things to add to your picnic box. If you want to build your own, we like the grain bowl, charcuterie, and egg salads. But the best decision you could make would be to opt for their cold fried chicken basket. Along with the chicken, you get slaw, potato salad, a biscuit, and pie for dessert. We will probably be ordering this even when we don’t have a picnic to attend.
If you want to make this easy on yourself, just go to Uncle Paulie’s. They do very good Italian-style deli sandwiches (we like the artichoke caprese with added hot peppers), a few salads, sliced cold cuts, and some very tasty cookies. Their hours are highly unpredictable, so give them a call first if you don’t want to possibly end up with packaged ham and a sad baguette from Gelson’s.
Watching Jaws in a graveyard is cool no matter what, but the experience gets even better when it’s also an excuse to legally drink outside. So before you go watch a mechanical shark eat a lot of people, head to Silverlake Wine. Even if all you know is that you want something cold and pink, the helpful staff will find a bottle that your friend Michel (who grew up on a vineyard in Bordeaux) will be happy to drink. Plus, Guerrilla Tacos parks outside on Thursdays, in case you want to pick up tacos for dinner too. Not that the tacos will actually make it to the picnic.
Mozza2Go is the takeout version of Pizzeria Mozza, which lets you eat their insanely good pizza whenever you damn well please. For a picnic, you’re going to want the Pizza e Antipasti option, which includes five pizzas, antipasti, biscotti, and jealous looks from all the people around you at Hollywood Forever who settled for hummus straight out of the container. Sure, the pizza might not be hot by the time it gets into your mouth, but you eat it like that on most Sunday mornings anyway. Also of note: you can get the Mozza butterscotch budino to-go. And you should.
While we generally go for the meatball sub at this casual Italian spot in Beverly Grove, it’s a poorly-considered soggy mess waiting to happen. Instead, get the prosciutto sandwich, a salad, and some arancini (or one of the entree + dessert baskets they have for $19.50) that will make it to your outdoor viewing of Clueless intact. We also recommend having a gelato while you’re there as an appetizer.
You might spend a little while walking back and forth trying to find Reggie’s (tip: it’s in the Citibank), but once you’re inside this family-run deli in Echo Park, you’ll be in the presence of great sandwiches and super-fast service. They have all the traditional deli things - reubens, wraps, salads - so order what looks good, although you should probably make sure that includes the BEC on a bagel. And if you’re a person who can’t make decisions, there’s a great lunch special that includes a half-sandwich and soup or salad for $10.
The food at an outdoor event is important, but so is the booze. And if your priorities lean more towards the latter, Hi-Lo is a good spot to hit. This next-level neighborhood market has a big selection of beer, wine, and stronger things, and all kinds of snacks to help you stay upright (and awake through the LA Phil concert you thought would make you feel like an adult).
There’s a reason we (and everyone else remotely close to Venice) keep going back to brave the carnival that is Gjusta: the food is too damn good to stay away. And if you’re picking up some stuff to-go, you can skip all the craziness by calling ahead to order one of their excellent rotisserie chickens (and add in some of the salads from the deli case without having to wait). Once you get to your show, you can all pretend like you’re cave-people as you sit on the ground picking apart a roasted bird with your hands. Except cave-people didn’t have access to excellent chimichurri and harissa to smother all over their chicken.
Yes, this is where everyone gets their picnic supplies. No, that doesn’t make it any less good. Joan’s on Third knows exactly what it’s doing. They’ll put together a box for you, or you can build your own with the store’s huge selection of sandwiches, salads, cheese, and meats. You don’t even have to stop at the liquor store - they have plenty of wine here too. Do not skip dessert. Under any circumstances.
Need an easy option? Swing by Larchmont Wine and Cheese. If you’re there before 5pm (and they haven’t already run out of bread), you can pick up a sandwich. If not, you won’t get a sandwich, but you will load up on cheese, charcuterie, and all the wine. Neither route will result in disappointment.
Stop in for one of Cape’s daily specials (if you see the lobster rolls, act fast), or get one of the super helpful staff members to help you put together a seafood spread. They also do party platters - and crab claws will impress anyone. Just don’t forget an insulated bag for safe transportation.
There’s a chance you’ve heard about this place because all the sandwiches are named after NPR hosts, or because it’s in a colorfully painted shipping container off the LA River. But you should really know about Wax Paper because the sandwiches are incredible. You could order anything here and feel like you made the right choice, but if you’re feeling overwhelmed, get the Larry Mantle. It’s their version of an Italian, and every character in the outdoor version of Godfather: The Musical you’re about to see would approve of it.
It’s another place with ‘market’ in its name, so you probably know the drill by now. They do boxes with sandwiches, salads, and wine. But they really win us over by throwing in wine glasses and a corkscrew with every box that includes wine - because we haven’t ever brought three bottles of wine to the Bowl and forgotten a corkscrew. Nope, not ever.
Picnics and sushi might not seem like a great combination, but Sugarfish is perfect for outdoor eating (because there’s apparently nothing these people haven’t figured out). Takeout boxes are handily compartmentalized and easily stackable, and there’s no dealing with paper plates when everybody has their own Trust Me box. Stop at the Hollywood location before the Bowl or a cemetery screening.
There are three Larders - Brentwood, West Hollywood-ish, Beverly Hills - and all have the drop-in-and-take-out thing down. They have a range of boxes, or just go in and mix and match some salads, sandwiches, and pastries.
You might feel weird walking into a convenience store and asking for “birthday candles” when you actually want a reuben, but this password-protected sandwich spot has some solid deli classics once you get inside. Along with your sandwich, you should order the ham-filled macaroni salad that’s nothing like the one from your high school cafeteria. Tinfoil also has beer available in the password-free zone, if you need some IPA to get through that Phish concert you’re being dragged to.
We could, and have, spent hours at the cheese counter at Wally’s. Show up at the picnic with a Wally’s bag and you’ll be the automatic MVP.
Of course Bay Cities is on the list. The Godmother is the ultimate takeaway sandwich - there’s nothing particularly sloppy in it, so no soaked-through roll once you’ve unfurled the blankets. Pick up some cannoli while you’re at it.
There are all kinds of things to eat at Froma - dips, pizza, salads - but we get one thing and one thing only. The Alpino sandwich. This, plus a bottle of wine, and Froma has your ideal outdoor meal covered.
This little spot in Eagle Rock has a daily-rotating menu of sandwiches that you’ll need to get in quick for before they run out. But even if you miss out, you can’t really be disappointed here - the cheese case is enormous, and there’s a fridge full of tasty snacks and plenty of wine to take with you.
We’re not here to hide our love of California Chicken Cafe. We’re here to share it. Because with its Hollywood Forever-adjacent location, this spot’s chicken-centric wraps, salads, plates, and sides make for a tasty and convenient picnic. Don’t miss out on the broccoli pasta salad (and don’t pretend you’re not excited that it involves ranch dressing).