San Francisco Cafes

NOTE: I started this page when I was working from home, which in practice meant working from cafes. A lot. Now I’m on maternity leave I still frequent cafes but linger less. I’ll keep adding this micro-reviews but do double check with somewhere like Yelp, which, while incredibly annoying from the perspective of reviews, is pretty accurate in terms of hours Because, you know, you have a baby and the next thing you know your favourite places have changed WITHOUT TELLING YOU FIRST. Humph. In other words, get inspired but don’t trust my every detail here.

Blue Bottle at the Mint Plaza
Location: er, Mint Plaza. Off Mission Street between 5th and 6th (that would be opposite Mezzanine for clubber types)
Coffee: Blue Bottle, duh. Locally roasted over the water in Oakland. They have lots of fancy-schmancy brewing machinery, like the Japanese siphons and the chemistry-experiment style slow cold drip. Try the New Orleans Iced, or the Gibraltar (not on the menu). They also sell their beans and other coffee paraphernalia.
Detoxing: Kind of limited options really. There’s nice sparkling water… And the hot chocolate, now made with local Tcho chocolate (they recently switched from Recchiuti) is divine. Don’t consider their decaf really decaf if you have a weak constitution – it’s about half-caf in my opinion.
Retoxing: small selection of beers. But it’s all about the coffee.
Pastries: nice cakes and cookies. No patisserie.
Other eats: a boutique breakfast and lunch menu. If you can ever get past the doorstep, airy Acme toast with whipped butter and jam, you’re a better person than me.
Wi-fi: I believe not. You can try and linger here but at peak times you will face the death stares from the queue which is always always out the door.
Mac count: See above; all those who dare to pull out a computer are almost certainly ipad users.
Scene: local workers, coffee tourists, out-of-towners shopping. If you’re a real local, you go to the kiosk in the Hayes Valley.

Coffee Bar
Location: Florida and Mariposa (between 17th and 18th and Byrant and Alameda)
Coffee: Mr Espresso
Detoxing? Great selection of teas and tisanes. They sell their own fresh pressed juices too if you need a green or orange hit.
Retoxing? Beers by the bottle of the local (Anchor, Lagunitas, Speakeasy) variety plus a few mainstream Belgiums, wines by the glass.
Pastries: Delicious range of patisserie and cakes. Anthony’s cookies also available. At one time they also had Dynamo Donuts but I couldn’t swear to that any more.
Other eats: Good salads and sandwiches. They post their specials on twitter each day. There’s a significant lunchtime crowd both to eat in and take away so plan accordingly.
Wi-fi: Fast. Free.
Mac count: very high. 80% or so
Scene: students, techies, home-workers. Trendy without being overwhelming.

Craftsmen and Wolves
Location: Valencia St between 18th and 19th
Coffee: Sightglass
Detoxing? Walk out the door. Now.
Retoxing? They recently acquired a beer and wine license. Hurrah! There are a few small tables outside on Valencia St with lights strung above. Hours and hours of people watching, people.
Pastries: The whole point of this place. Whimsical, beautiful, sometimes fussy. The scones and muffins are killer. I’m less of a fan of their croissants, but I’m a bit of a purist. And then there’s the famous Rebel Within: a whole egg baked inside a muffin. It’s what California makes of the Scotch Egg as far as I can tell. Go crazy.
Other eats: They offer sandwiches, a seasonal breakfast frittata, and other tasteful morsels. They also sell bread after 11am.
Wi-Fi: Hm, not actually sure. It’s not really a worker-centric place although it’s quiet enough on weekday mornings that you could nab a spot, get on a sugar high, and crank out some words.
Mac count: the computer count is generally negligible. More of an iPad joint.
Scene: foodies, food tourists, sugar junkies, families.

Dolores Park Café
Location: 18th and Dolores, on the southwest corner of the park.
Coffee: Sightglass and Equator.
Detoxing? You’ll be ok here. Smoothies, juices, herbal teas, hummus etc.
Retoxing? You’ll also be ok here. Beer, wine, happy hour and the perfect outside spot to soak in the craziness of the park – if you can find a seat.
Pastries: a decent enough selection. Quite a few gluten and dairy free options. More mainstream than artisanal but sometimes that’s what you want.
Other eats: many. Good sandwiches, soup of the day, hummus plates etc. I’m in love with the bacon sandwich on rye (number 6).
Wi-Fi: yes but they’re not so into lingering workers. No outlet access. Death stares after a while.
Mac count: occasional. There are workers here, but it’s more a place to hang out.
Scene: locals, park goers, moms and kids taking a playground break, students.

Epicenter Cafe
Location: Harrison between 3rd and 4th (around the corner from Whole Foods on 4th)
Coffee: Barefoot Roasters
Detoxing: bring your willpower! They do have juices and teas but the coffee is good here (and smells it) and they have a really thoughtful beer list.
Retoxing? Hurrah! See above. There’s a happy hour Monday through Friday, 5-8pm, with $1 off wine and beer.
Pastries: patisserie, cookies, usually a house-made cake or two. All good.
Other eats: slightly quirky but good salad and sandwich options. A more substantial evening menu that I’ve never tried.
Wi-fi: fast and free.
Mac count: medium. You won’t get a death stare when you pull out your PC.
Scene: start up folks, SOMA workers, randoms.

Ritual
Coffee: Ritual! One of San Francisco’s prime roasters.
Detoxing? There’s chai. And, uh, water.
Retoxing? Not here. But you’re in the Mission. You don’t have to go far.
Pastries: are fine. The scones are pretty good, and the pastries above decent. Vegan donuts? Yeah, as good as they sound.
Other eats: nope.
Wi-Fi: plentiful and in demand.
Mac count: high. Not quite as high as the tattoo count, but still high.
Scene: hipsters, coffee fiends, bleary-eyed parents (before 8am), cyclists.

Stable Cafe
Location: On Folsom, between 17th and 18th
Coffee: De La Paz
Detoxing? Teas and aguas frescas for the hot days.
Retoxing? I’m pretty sure they serve beer and wine. They close early (4pm) at which point the shared space at the back turns into the super fancy Saison restaurant.
Pastries: more on the cookies, cake and pie side than patisserie. From Batter Bakery and Kika’s Treats.
Other eats: really great lunch and breakfast options: usually a quinoa salad, quiche, soup of the day, panini and salads. Fresh and healthful. The aforementioned Saison is next door in the evenings if you want a special dining experience.
Wi-fi: good and free; requires a password that they will happily give you.
Mac count: on the lower side. This is more of a coffee and lunch spot than somewhere where people bed in for the day, which makes it much more pleasant all round. There’s also a lovely outside space which is great for reading on warmer days.
Scene: architects, students, Potrero Hill locals. Nice and mixed.

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