San Francisco's coffee culture is legendary and on par with cities like Rome, Buenos Aires and Paris. Cafes form the vital social backbone of most neighborhoods and many are just as much cultural centers, performance venues and even living rooms for the city's creative class as they are local businesses. Here is my list of the best cafes and coffeeshops in San Francisco, not only will you enjoy an excellent cup of joe but you will get a real taste of San Francisco's fascinating and eclectic local scene.
The oldest cafe on the west coast, Cafe Trieste feels like it still has one foot firmly rooted in the old world. This landmark coffee shop in the heart of North Beach
is always bustling with a friendly mix of locals and visitors and every Saturday afternoon the Trieste family itself puts on a live Opera concert replete with accordions and Italian mandolins. Cappucinos and lattes are freshly made with the cafe's own house roasted beans, but it is the cafe africano - a strong glass of half espresso and half steamed extra rich milk - that is Cafe Trieste's signature espresso drink.
601 Vallejo Street, (415) 682-2605 www.caffetrieste.com
Image Courtesy of Brainwash Cafe
With open mic on Tuesdays, stand-up comedy on Thursdays and live local music on the weekends and other weeknights, Brainwash is a social focal point of the booming South of Market District. Located just a few blocks from Yerba Buena Gardens
, Brainwash is a great place to grab lunch, as they serve a full menu, or a pint in the evening while enjoying the free entertainment. It is also a popular and packed destination for morning caffeine addicts. And if you need to wash some dirty laundry as well, then you might just think about moving in.
1122 Folsom, (415)861-FOOD www.brainwash.com
3. Cafe la Boheme
A Mission District
institution, Cafe la Boheme has been around since the 1970's, long before the waves of dot-com bubbles turned the area into a playground for the young and affluent. Boheme still maintains the revolutionary vibe that the area once embodied, with photos of poets and social leaders from both the Bay Area and Latin America on the walls and openly political discourses at every table. Live music packs the house several nights a week and many prominent San Francisco non-profit organizations hold gatherings here, including Glide Memorial Church
3318 24th Street, (415) 643-0481
4. Momi Toby's Revolution Cafe
Photo by Ocean Malandra
Just a short walk up from the chaotic Civic Center
, Momi Toby's Revolution Cafe is the favorite hangout of the hip Hayes Valley neighborhood crowd. A gorgeous hardwood interior, French style sidewalk seating and house-made foccacio sandwiches have won the hearts of all that visit. Sunday nights Momi Toby's hosts live jazz and the entire corner packs up with area residents. Poetry, art openings and other events also happen here with frequency.
528 Laguna Street, (415) 626-1508
5. Caffe Roma
Photo by Ocean Malandra
If people watching is your thing, then Caffe Roma is your headquarters while visiting San Francisco. The stylish North Beach Italian cafe has outside seating both on bustling Colombus Avenue and on tamer Stockton Street, the latter greeting the morning sun and the former perfect for getting a front row seat on the area's always-thriving Nightlife Scene
. Caffe Roma also serves the highest quality coffee in the city and roasts its beans on-site - ask the friendly Italian-American owner about observing the process. Authentic Italian cookies, sodas and even a good selection of Italian vinos are icing on the cake.
526 Colombus Avenue, (415) 296-7942 www.cafferoma
6. Cafe du Soleil
Photo by Ocean Malandra
Exuding Parisan charm and situated on one of the sunniest corners of the city, Cafe du Soleil is the kind of place that you end up whiling away entire afternoons in even if you just came for a to-go coffee. Inside, high ceilings and family style seating along massive wooden dining tables makes for easy social interaction while the fresh baked goods and house-made salads are always a hit. The hip denizens of Duboce Triangle, the area roughly bordered by the Mission district, the Castro
and the Lower Haight
, give the cafe a bohemian vibe that is purely San Franciscan.
200 Fillmore Street, (415) 934-8637
7. Java Beach
Located at the very end of the N Judah Metro line and right across the street from spacious Ocean Beach, the chilled out vibe at Java Beach feel more like a small surf town than an urban cafe. A cozy wooden interior and garden outside seating usually feature the casual locals, often with their dogs, lazing away a foggy afternoon before or after a walk on the beach or in nearby Golden Gate Park
1396 La Playa Street, (415) 665-5282 www.javabeachsf.com