The warm weather is a clear signal that summer is just around the corner, and that means a lot of outdoor fun.
Picnics are one way to enjoy the Bay Area weather, and the East Bay has a variety of parks and trails to enjoy some fresh air. But picnics don’t have to be a big production. With the various eateries around town, you can easily grab some delicious bites and hang out in a nearby park with friends or a special someone.
We’ve pulled together a few recommendations on where to get easy-to-travel grub and suggested parks to lay out on the grass — all in an effort to help you plan your next unplanned picnic. (And don’t miss the special offer to Nosh readers from Homeroom To Go, below.)
The Pasta Shop at Rockridge Market Hall
Your one-stop gourmet shop can be found at The Pasta Shop, which has a large deli section with prepared foods and a wide selection of cured meats. Coppa, prosciutto, calabrese — they’re all there. In other words, you’ve got a great foundation for a charcuterie platter. The cheese department and selection of Acme bread and Semifreddi’s bread also make for the perfect picnic snacks. The Pasta Shop is at 5655 College Ave. (at Shafter Avenue), Oakland. Open Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Connect with the store on Facebook and Twitter. (If you’re nearer to West Berkeley head to the Pasta Shop at Fourth Street.)
Nearby park: Temescal Regional Recreation Area at 6500 Broadway (near the junction of highways 24 and 13). It’s got swimming, reserved picnic areas and, importantly, bathrooms. Park hours: 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Tokyo Fish Market
This popular, independent Japanese grocery store in Berkeley is known for its fresh fish selection, but don’t miss the deli that serves up Japanese-inspired delicacies such as Hawaiian tuna poke and barbecued chicken teriyaki. Tokyo Fish Market‘s refrigerated section includes several bento box options — traveling Japanese meals with items divided neatly into different compartments. Tokyo Fish Market is at 1220 San Pablo Ave. (at Harrison Street), Berkeley. Open Monday-Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Nearby park: Shorebird Park at 160 University Ave., a quick drive over I-80 to the Berkeley Marina. This quaint park has awe-inspiring views of the Bay Bridge and San Francisco, plus a children’s play area, picnic tables with BBQ grills, and the Shorebird Nature Center. Park hours: 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Howden Market has colorful deli stocked with pre-made salads and sandwiches, and a refrigerated area with more easy-to-eat picnic items like dolmas and hummus. Or pick up some of the many organic chips and snacks for some afternoon grazing. Howden Market is at 1630 Webster St. (at 17th Street), Oakland. Open Monday-Friday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Connect with the store on Facebook and Instagram.
Nearby park: Snow Park, at 19th and Harrison streets, is just a few blocks away. It comes complete with a volleyball net, mini golf course and putting green, and it is within walking distance of the west end of Lake Merritt.
Homeroom To Go
You’ll be the hero with your friends when you arrive to a picnic with a mac-and-cheese platter from Homeroom To Go, the convenient order and pickup location of the ever-popular Homeroom restaurant. Platters come in small or large, and can be made with a variety of mac-and-cheese flavors — everything from Jalapeño popper and bacon to Sriracha. Veggies and salad platters are available for your vegan guests. Special offer for Nosh customers: Homeroom To Go will take $10 off online orders of $100 or more before June 1. (Use the code NOSH10 when ordering online.) Homeroom To Go is at 4007 Webster St. (at 40th Street), Oakland. Open Tuesday-Sunday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Connect with the restaurant on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Nearby park: Mosswood Park, at Webster and MacArthur, is extra convenient for nearby residents or those using public transportation. The grassy park also includes a baseball field, tennis courts and a dog run.
Oori Rice Triangles
Japanese rice triangles are an easy and transportable snack, which make them perfect for a last-minute picnic. Oori Rice Triangles on Solano Avenue in Albany offers a variety of the snack with fillings such as salmon, unagi, short rib or chicken teriyaki. For those looking for a more substantial meal, you can upgrade to a large rice plate. Oori Rice Triangles is at 1247 Solano Ave. (at Masonic Avenue), Albany. Open Monday-Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Nearby park: Indian Rock Park, at 950 Indian Rock Ave. in Northeast Berkeley, is a unique picnic spot with a mini rock climbing area. It’s also got a dedicated eating area with BBQ grills and a view of the Bay to boot. Park hours: 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Summer Kitchen Bakeshop
Summer Kitchen Bakeshop, a quaint Elmwood bakery and eatery, serves up sandwiches, pizzas and salads all day long. During the summer, it even serves up picnic-style fried chicken ($13 per pound) on Fridays and Saturdays. Don’t forget to grab a cupcake for dessert. Summer Kitchen Bakeshop is at 2944 College Ave. (near Ashby Avenue), Berkeley. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Connect with the restaurant on Facebook.
Nearby park: Willard Park, at 2730 Hillegass Ave., is a tiny, neighborhood park in Southeast Berkeley complete with a picnic area, tennis courts, childrens’ play area and bathrooms. Park hours: 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
The Cheese Board Collective
This long-running cooperative in Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto is packed on Saturdays with people waiting for the special pizza, but if you’re in a hurry, dash into The Cheese Board‘s shop next door. You can easily put together a picnic snack of cheese, olives and spreads, along with house-made breads and pastries. (Well, it’s quick and easy if you don’t get overwhelmed by the nearly 300 varieties of rotating cheese options.) The Cheese Board Collective is at 1504 Shattuck Ave. (at Vine Street), Berkeley. The cheese counter is open Monday from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., Tuesday-Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Connect with the collective on Facebook and Twitter.
Nearby park: Codornices Park, at 1201 Euclid Ave., is a tranquil hillside park across the street from the Berkeley Rose Garden. In addition to an amazing giant slide, the park offers softball fields, a basketball court, picnic areas with BBQ grills and hiking trails. Park hours: Open from dawn to dusk.
Benjamin Seto is the voice behind Focus:Snap:Eat, where he dishes on food at restaurants and shops in the Bay Area, in his kitchen, and from his culinary adventures.