In my immediate circle of friends, weekend days at Dolores Park are a frequent tradition that never gets old. On any given Saturday in this, one of the city's warmest spots, we gather on picnic blankets with bottles of wine and delicious eats to share with friends--or perhaps to enjoy on our own while soaking up some rays and diving into a good book.
Park Day is not only a relaxing and enjoyable way to spend a day in the Castro neighborhood, and it can also be a thriftier way to have fun. While the City By The Bay has many wonderful places to dine, a day at Dolores is a great way to enjoy an SF day without making your wallet cry.
So, what are the best places nearby to stock up for a day on the green?
Here's a starter guide to where to shop for the ultimate Park Day:
For The Beverage Run: More than likely, you hit up the Safeway on Church Street or one of the many other grocery outlets in the Castro district before you hit the park. But, what happens when you are mid park sesh and need to restock your supply?
May we suggest hitting up Guerrero Market & Deli, just down the street headed into the Mission proper.
"Hopheads" will love this spot for its stock of microbrews. Wine and other sips are also found here.
But this locale is also great for picking up a late afteroon-early evening nosh, boasting some of the tastiest sandwiches in the area. This place gets extra points for being open until 10 PM and reportedly making sandwiches until 8 or 9 PM.
For When You Don't Mind Standing In Line: MyCastro has sung Bi-Rite's praises in the past, and rightfully so. While the wait can be a turn-off, there is really nothing better than this Castro District institution for grabbing a scoop before a hot day at the park.
Once you make it through the line that mimics those at Disneyland, there are frozen treats and baked eats to fit everyone's fancy. Whether you want something exotic--like a few scoops of balsamic strawberry ice cream--or you're in the mood for a classic yet decadent brownie sundae, ice cream is the perfect additive to a long day of sunbathing in Dolores Park.
For When You Want Something Fancy: Yes, Park Day is meant to be a bit of a money-saver. But what about when you're craving something a bit sweeter and fancier than the usual picnic fair?
We have two spots that fit such a need.
Craftsman & Wolves on Valencia is an award-winner for a reason. Like Bi-Rite it can get pretty crowded, but its pastries-to-go will make the quick trip up the street to the park and are sure to make your tastebuds dance.
Sweet and savory croissants? Confections topped with peanuts and mushrooms? You'd be crazy not to at least want to try.
Of course, if you want something a bit more traditional, not quite as spendy and still a little fancy for your Dolores Park play date, the institution that is Tartine Bakery is just around the corner. Nab one of their affordable and delicious breakfast pastries or post up for a passion fruit lime bavarian--a personal favorite--before heading to the park.
For "Park Day From Afar": While sprawling out on the grass and laughing at the shirtless boys attempting to tightrope walk is beyond entertaining, sometimes you need to grab a bite to eat and sit outside of the park day crowd.
For such instances, there is plenty of dining in the area surrounding Dolores.
A favorite pick: For traditional American fair, chow down at Dolores Park Cafe. This locale is directly across the street from the park and has outdoor seating, so you get all the people-watching perks of Park Day, without having to pick a place to spread out your picnic blanket.