From tech workers to Beat poets, café dwellers in San Francisco can be seen before sunrise and after sunset typing away, reading, and sipping some high-quality coffee. With so many choices, navigating the city’s coffee scene could be a difficult ordeal. Here are seven of the best cafés in a city that is serious about coffee quality.
Cafe, American, $$$
Day or night, the indoor-outdoor café Blue Danube attracts a diverse array of coffee lovers, writers and Richmond District neighbors. Decorated in vintage chairs and hanging chandeliers, the café is one of the most unique in the city. Offering mimosas, coffees and a selection of juices, Blue Danube is the ideal place to kick back and read. Inside, you’ll find a large bookshelf with journals full of drawings and poems from visitors throughout the years. If there’s nothing intriguing on the shelf, a few doors down is Green Apple Books, one of the most popular used bookstores in the city. Wi-Fi is available, for a fee.
With six cafés all over San Francisco and in Napa Valley, Ritual Coffee Roasters is a burgeoning coffee joint that is popular among locals. An independent chain of shops that roasts its own coffee, the Ritual cafés offer a place to get lovingly made cups of joe in their typically art-filled settings. One of the cafés, located on Valencia Street in the Mission District, is quickly becoming a staple of the neighborhood. Ritual Coffee Roasters puts coffee at the forefront of their business but the company also knows how to have a little fun. In 2017, the chain began offering marijuana-infused cold brew on the menu — a very San Francisco way to start the day.
Serving San Francisco-based Sightglass coffee, Matching Half Café in Western Addition is a neighborhood café that has evolved into a must-go breakfast and lunch spot. The café – which offers an array of food options including breakfast sandwiches and kale salads – is located on the ground floor of a Victorian-style building on the corner of MacAllister and Baker. Morning visitors can expect a line for the shop’s popular menu items but the line moves quick. A popular stop for neighbors walking their dogs, it’s not unusual to see an array of pomeranians, dobermans and (San Francisco’s unofficial dog) corgis in the outside seating area.
The first Andytown Coffee Roasters opened at 3655 Lawton in the Outer Richmond District of San Francisco in 2014. In a short period of time, the café has grown immensely popular among locals. Currently, Andytown has two locations and a roasting facility based in the city. Serving baked goods and coffee made with care, Andytown is committed to creating a space that feels like home, so it’s no surprise that the café has grown to become a beloved part of the neighborhood.
On any given day, visitors at Cafe International can see a live band playing in the corner, smokers outside enjoying a morning espresso, and businesspeople grabbing a quick lunch before heading back to work. A staple in San Francisco’s Lower Haight neighborhood, the shop is known for its large and colorful mural and the eclectic feel of the decor. Located on 508 Haight St between Fillmore and Steiner, Café International is the ideal place to meet locals, enjoy live jazz, or try your hand during one of their open mic nights.
The midcentury’s Beat Movement brought revolutionary poets to coffee shops all over San Francisco. Few places from the Beat Generation’s café-dwelling era remain standing in the city, but Vesuvio in North Beach is one of them still abuzz with writers, poets and tourists coming to check out City Lights Bookstore next door. Primarily a bar that offers a variety of cocktails, beer, and wine, Vesuvio also takes their coffee very seriously. Visitors can grab a table upstairs to watch the busy hordes of people below.
Seattle may be the birthplace of Starbucks, but San Francisco has Blue Bottle. Blue Bottle, headquartered in nearby Oakland, California, was founded in the early 2000s. The company grew at such a pace that eventually Nestlé acquired it. There are many locations throughout San Francisco (and in other cities including New York and Los Angeles). The Sansome Café in the Financial District is indicative of the Blue Bottle style: marble interiors, a historic building setting, and churning out masterfully made espresso drinks for a line of customers.