The Best Coffee Shops in San Francisco

The Great San Francisco Coffee Shop Tour

Has going from coffee shop to coffee shop in order to find a place to get settled in for a few hours ever been your full time job? In the past two months, putting myself in a place that helped my focus and concentration has been crucial. I am used to stuffing myself as tightly as I can into the corners of any establishment, to hide what is on my computer for some yet still undetermined reason. Fortunately for me and for all of us, San Francisco, California is a great place to find a spot like this.

As a result, I have compiled a list of short reviews for each of the places in San Francisco that I have been frequenting recently. I have learned the etiquette of attending these fine establishments. Above all, If you’re going to do the coffee shop circuit like I have, understand your relationship to the business and be courteous. No one wants someone to take up space in their place of business without contributing anything.  Whether it’s for coffee, snacks, or just the space, give them five dollars. I’ve been asked to leave because I’ve entered a place and just sat down without spending any money at all. I was that guy. Don’t be that guy (or girl). It’s tacky.

My purpose: to determine which place seems to be the most accommodating for my nomadic and remote needs, and then help you decide which place would be a great for you.

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The Mill ★★★★

Grove & Divisadero 

The Mill is what the average young San Franciscan pictures when they want to spend time in a “space”. Faux Scandinavian chic and minimalist, ideal young bloggers environment, with bleached white walls with the simple wood fixtures to hold more succulents and terrariums that you can count. It might as well be straight out of an Ikea ad. This place is great. More tattoos than you can probably count.

The International ★★

Haight and Waller

Location could be considered somewhat dubious. The layout is open. It doesn’t have any nice corners to stuff yourself into. Poorly lit in the back.

Black Sands ★★★

Haight and Pierce

Clean, modern. Technically not a coffee shop, it’s a brewery. But it’s an excellent chic establishment to buy an iced tea and snack at in the AM. Shares the new trendy vibe becoming more and more common in the SF boutique and minimalist food scene.

Cafe du Soleil ★★

Fillmore and Waller

Classic sunny French cafe, well lit, old fashioned. Layout is pretty bare — just an open floor with a dozen or so tables laid out in a grid fashion. Color scheme and atmosphere really creates a place you’d visit in Paris or the Riveria.

The Verve ★★★★

Market & Church

Modern, relaxed, friendly. Narrow lounging area split between a primary table or two and a long comfy one-sided booth with knee level coffee tables for you to work leaning forward.

Vinyl

Oak and Divisadero ★★★

Cafe by day, wine bar by night. Sultry, dark design with drape coverings on the windows and black paneling create an insulated and private feeling. Was an initial favorite of mine.

Snowbird ★★★★

9th and Irving

Clean and simple, low ceilings. Furbished wood surfaces, stiff and narrow benches with mini single tables. Great.

Only one outlet and it’s in the very front (remember we’re here to work). This is tough because the best spot of the store is easily the dark back corner with it’s two cushioned lounge chairs, which are, more often than not, completely unoccupied. Was also a favorite, but no matter what you always need to mix it up eventually.

 

The Beanery ★★★

9th and Lincoln

Thin, stiff wood paneling, pleasant customer service. Had one of my most productive days here. Seating consists of one lengthwise wood bench booth with small single tables.

Simple Pleasures ★★★★

35th & Balboa, Outer Richmond

This place is great. Old fashioned, very bohemian — what the International would be if it had character/personality/creativity. More than one nook or cranny to squeeze into.

Glassface Starbucks ★★★

Union & Laguna, The Marina

It’s just a Starbucks. But, something about the risen L shaped cushion benches with backs that stretch all the way to the ceiling and with direct overhead lights casting down upon you like spotlights provide just the right balance of comfort and focus.

 

Cafe la Vie ★★★

Octavia & Hayes, Hayes Valley 

Small, warm — best on early overcast mornings. There is a glass faced fireplace in the back which would make this place a great winter time spot, maybe even with an open faced store front!

 

Beanstalk Cafe ★★★

8th & California, Inner Richmond

Boutique Victorian — sterile color scheme. This cafe and Ashley’s fall in to this category of style that relies strongly on contrast in color between black and white. There are a lot of right angles and orderly shapes in each, in addition to multiple types of seating, from couches and old armchairs to benches, to suit various levels of comfort.

 

Blue Danube ★★★

Clement & 4th, Inner Richmond

The cousin of The International and Simple Pleasures – older, bohemian, lodge-style cafe with eclectic clutter.

Java Beach ★★

La Playa & Judah, Outer Sunset

Has an edge of the word sense to it. You really feel like you’re very far out from the bustle of the urban area next to the light breeze and sand banks adjacent. Lodge-style cafe.

 

Ashley’s ★★★★

7th and California, Inner Richmond

I bet that this is Beanstalk Cafe’s rival. They act like they don’t notice each other on opposite corners of the block, but you know that these two establishments are shooting furtive glances back and forth at one another. At any rate, Ashley’s has a boutique Victorian style to it, and is accommodating with multiple types of seating.

And the winner of the San Francisco Coffee Shop Tour is:

Snowbird! Congratulations. Thank you for all the help and hospitality you’ve provided in the past weeks. You’ve served as an important place for me and hopefully many others to help us concentrate on all the important stuff on our computers.

Visit the sites of the top SF coffee shops below:

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