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San Francisco's Best Cafes

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At these standout cafes, you'll find great coffee, terrific people-watching, and delicious nibbles.

1. Coffee Bar

Courtesy Coffee Bar

This is a place where great coffee, food, art, music, and people-watching converge in a wonderful way. The large window-walled space lets in lots of light and has various options for seating: at the various counters or communal tables, on a couch, or within the sunny patio. Patrons come to work on their laptops, take informal work meetings, catch up with friends, or grab a coffee and go. Soups, sandwiches, and pastries are all delicious. Address & Phone: 1890 Bryant St.; 415-551-8100.

2. Ritual Coffee

Courtesy Ritual Coffee

Most days this mission coffee house feels more like an office than a java joint, with dozens of freelancers snuggled up to their laptops while sipping coffee. Lined with small wooden tables and a few leather couches here and there, Ritual is just the place to settle down for an afternoon of reading, working, or chatting. Ritual roasts its own beans, so the coffee is super fresh. Snacks include a variety of sweet things, including vegan options. Address & Phone: 1026 Valencia; 415-641-1024.

3. Blue Bottle Coffee

Courtesy Blue Bottle Coffee

It would be hard to find another café in San Francisco that takes coffee as seriously as the folks at Blue Bottle Café. Beans are roasted in house and each cup of java is brewed individually. Try the smooth tasting New Orleans style iced coffee made with chicory. Edibles include fresh pastries, granola, and Belgian waffles. Address & Phone: 66 Mint St. or at the Ferry Building Market (store #7).

4. Caffe Trieste

Courtesy Caffe Trieste

Word has it Francis Ford Coppola wrote the screenplay for The Godfather at this quintessential North Beach java joint. Family owned for nearly 40 years by the very musical Giottas, Trieste’s tradition of live performance is strong. The family presents weekly concerts that range from opera to Italian folk and pop. It’s no surprise this authentic, atmospheric spot is a haven for artists and writers.  Address & Phone: 601 Vallejo St.; 415-392-6739.

5. Four Barrel Coffee

Courtesy Four Barrel Coffee

This hipster hangout stands out for its space as well as the coffee and pastries. This cavernous café has beamed ceilings, concrete floors, impressive roasting machines in the back, and art-filled walls. The incredibly delicious confections made by Dynamo Donuts, which come in varieties like chocolate chipotle, lemon thyme, and apricot cardamom, are a huge draw.
Address & Phone: 375 Valencia; 415-252-0800.

6. Caffe Museo

One of the top reasons to visit the Museum of Modern art is to stop in its attractive, light- filled café that opens onto the sidewalk in warm weather. The airy, streamlined space is a terrific place to savor a cup of coffee and something sweet to eat (full lunch options are served as well). To go with your java, choose homemade chocolate biscotti, an outsized cookie, or fruit crumble. Address & Phone: 151 Third St.; 415-357-4500.

7. Sugar Cafe

Courtesy Sugar Cafe

Cozy banquets, leather couches, and a gas lit fire make this sleek spot especially appealing. By day Sugar is a coffee bar serving fresh pastries and snacks; at night the place becomes a cocktail lounge. Floor to ceiling windows look out onto the bustle of downtown; free WiFi is available. Address & Phone: 679 Sutter St.; 415-441-5678.

8. Warming Hut Cafe and Bookstore

The Warming Hut’s location in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge at Crissy Field ensures a captive audience. But the coffee, snacks and sandwiches are so well made here it’s hard to decide which the bigger draw is: the view or the food. When the fog rolls in, this is just the place to warm up with a cappuccino, hot chocolate or hot mulled cider. The fact that the café doubles as a gift/book shop and makes memorable grilled sandwiches doesn’t hurt, either. Address & Phone: 603 Mason St.; 415-561-3040.

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