The Best Local Places to Get Outdoor, Picnic-Friendly Foods

Despite the fact that dining outside has been our only option for eating out over the past year, making us all wary of potentially chilly eating situations, can we all agree that the best time to eat outside in Marin is still in those few balmy days of late spring before the fog rolls in for the summer? Local restaurants have got you covered when it comes to eating alfresco, with sandwiches, salads and much more designed for a stretch of time on the sand or the grass. Fine china optional.

D.G. Cafe

San Anselmo DG Cafe, roast beef sandwich

Morning diners may be sated with a fresh croissant and a latte from this sliver of a restaurant, best enjoyed at nearby Creek Park in downtown San Anselmo. But owner Clive Nisse built picnic packages right into the menu, making it easier than ever to grab your choice of sandwich or salad (we are partial to the very veggie Imagination Garden), paired with chips and a soda. All you have to do is find a spot in the sun. 415.295.7500

Lou’s Takeaway

San Rafael Lou Takeaway, chilled chicken noodles

Bicyclists returning from a ride along San Rafael’s Lucas Valley Road are already in on the not-so-secret eats from Anthony (Lou) Rizzi’s petite restaurant. Though the menu changes frequently, Lou swears he is bringing back the chilled chicken noodles once the weather warms. Fresh wheat noodles, roasted peanuts, pickled long beans, Sichuan peppercorns and herbs are packaged in a deli cup with the toasted sesame dressing on the side for last-minute tossing. Best enjoyed oceanside, if you can. 415.226.7994

Marche aux Fleurs

Bay area restaurant, Marche aux Fleurs

On summer’s shortest night or any warm evening, savor the European-inspired fare from Holly and Dan Baker’s place in Ross. Vegetable tian with asparagus and hen of the woods mushrooms is the essence of spring, while avocado crostini on housemade focaccia feels timeless. Tuesdays bring fried chicken with cornbread and coleslaw, but you already knew that, right? 415.925.9200

Side Street Kitchen

Point Reyes Station Side Street Kitchen, bay area food

Aim for the rotisserie chicken with roasted Yukon Gold potatoes or rotisserie tri-tip sandwich if you are unfamiliar with the fare at Sheryl Cahill’s Point Reyes Station restaurant. Once the thrill of the spinning grill is sated, dive into a plate of chilled lentil salad or chicken liver pate with crackers. An iced matcha latte makes a perfect pairing. 415.663.0303

Way Station

Fairfax WayStation, bay area food and restaurants

Nothing says takeout quite like barbecue, a food basically designed to eat with your hands, outside over a paper plate. There are plenty of options from this former gas station on the western edge of downtown Fairfax but we lean into the Hot Mess Sandwich, a spicy mix of pork and brisket, stacked tall with fresh coleslaw. A mug o’pickles makes a worthy side and a gluten-free bun is available. 415.300.3099


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Christina Mueller

Christina Mueller is a long-time Bay Area food writer. She hails from the East Coast and has spent way too much time in South America and Europe. She discovered her talent as a wordsmith in college and her love of all things epicurean in grad school. She has written for Condé Nast Contract PublishingSunset, and the Marin Independent Journal, among others. She volunteers with California State Parks and at her child’s school, and supports the Marin Audubon SocietyPEN America, and Planned Parenthood. When she is not drinking wine by a fire, she is known to spend time with her extended family.