The Best Coffee Shops in San Francisco
Because you need them more than ever right now.
One day locals and tourists will once again be able to meet and socialize at this SF institution that is known for once being a gathering place for artists, poets, and Beat writers. Sadly, that day is not today, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still stop by and get an espresso and a biscotti to enjoy outside.
Will it be impossible to get the Miley Cyrus song out of your head for the rest of the day after you stop by this tiny shop on Union Street? Yes. But it’s totally worth it for the hand-crafted pour-over coffee, Marla’s hot chocolate, and Sunshine Cafe donuts.
Sextant was founded by a first-generation Ethiopian who works with farmers across Ethiopia, Kenya, Colombia, and more. It was named after the tool used by sailors to navigate, as a symbol of how coffee was first transported out of Africa, as well as the commitment to finding the best beans possible. All of the beans are roasted in SF and are “neither too light or too dark,” so if you’re feeling a little like Goldilocks, this is the spot to hit up.
Another great spot to hit up on your way to the beach, this Vietnamese-inspired coffee shop is all about the golden latte, but it’s also one of the best options for when you’re craving Vietnamese iced coffee, which after reading this, you now probably are.
We’d certainly be in trouble if we left this hole-in-the-wall shop by Ocean Beach off of this list. That’s because Trouble has the best cinnamon toast you’ll ever eat in your entire life and delicious coffee to go with it. There’s a small parklet outside, but it might be hard to socially distance -- just something to keep in mind when planning for maximum cinnamon toast enjoyment.
Most of the things Pinhole is loved for -- its colorful kaleidoscope-esque paneled wall and murals (perfect for Instagram), local art, and community-first vibe -- aren’t possible to truly enjoy right now, but you can still enjoy the friendly staff while getting your Linea coffee and delicious pastries (Mochi doughnuts, anyone?) to-go or, coming soon, to enjoy in the parklet that’s being constructed outside. Bonus for the non-dairy folks: They have oat milk, which is all the rage these days.
A joint-venture between Four Barre and Josey Baker Bread, the (absolutely worth it) $5 to $8 toast-serving Mill -- is known as much for its coffee as its fresh baked bread made with whole grain flour that’s stoned in-house (they’re making extra right now since everyone’s eating at home). It’s pretty much impossible to go there and not grab some to take home. Right now the popular pizza night is on hiatus, but will “hopefully return in a few months.” Something to look forward to.
This spot used to be a humble coffee bar where night owls could go to get a cup until 10pm and though it is now both a restaurant and a coffee bar, the coffee part of the operation is still clearly a big priority. The love for coffee starts by serving coffee drinks with beans roasted by Sightglass, but don’t forgo the pastries (made in-house) or urban trail mix.
Equator Coffee started as a coffee roaster out of a garage in Marin County in 1995. Today, as the first California coffee roasting B Corporation, they have multiple locations in the North Bay and SF with a focus on sustainable and transparent practices. Unfortunately, the SoMa outpost is currently closed since no one’s really going to work in office buildings these days, but you can still get your lattes, pour-overs, and tea (there’s a big selection), as well as breakfast sandwiches, croissants, and other pastries at the Fort Mason location, which (fun fact) used to be the gatehouse of the former military base.
Hayes Valley, Castro, Mission, Upper Haight
It wasn’t that long ago that Ritual was “just” a pop-up shop made from a shipping container. Now it has five locations, including four in SF, so it won’t be too hard to stay close to home while getting your energy boost. If you want to linger, the Hayes Valley location is a good option since there’s a fair amount of outdoor seating in the parklet it’s right next to, but whichever location you go to, you can feel safe as Ritual has implemented detailed social distancing guidelines, including cues painted on the sidewalk, cones, and more.
Lower Pac Heights and Tenderloin
As soon as Jane opened up its first cafe on Fillmore Street, it was packed with people on the hunt for breakfast sandwiches, healthy salads, all kinds of expensive toast, and coffee (custom blended and roasted in-house) and tea (also custom blended in-house) drinks to go with it. Once it opened up the Tenderloin location, things got even better because with that space came an entire line of house-made breads. Right now you can get all of that and more for takeout or delivery.
If you’re looking for a new spot to hang out, Ocean Beach is one of the best places in SF to be outside while also easily socially distancing from other people. Of course, it can be really cold there, in which case you’ll need to warm up with a cup of coffee, which you can procure from one of Andytown’s two Outer Sunset locations. And since you’re there, you might as well get one of the popular breakfast sandwiches made with bacon, ham, soft egg, cheddar, and mayo on griddled pan de mie. Andytown roasts its beans in-house, and boasts a straightforward coffee selection, with one exception: The Snowy Plover, a shot of espresso, ice, sparkling water, and a dollop of cream. And no need to stress too much about COVID: Andytown has implemented lots of safety protocols to ensure that your gluttonous coffee experience is the best that it can be.
Russian Hill and SoMa
Saint Frank Coffee was named one of the 21 best coffee shops in the country and is known for its specialty coffee made with beans sourced from small scale farmers around the world, which are most popularly manifested in espressos and pour-overs. Obviously, you can’t hang out inside right now, but outdoor seating is coming soon for the Polk Street location. Want to try to replicate Saint Frank’s coffee drinks at home? Right now you can get everything you need from beans to almond macadamia milk by the quart to take with you.
Mission and Potrero Hill
This café was named one of the best indie coffee shops in America by Food and Wine, and it lives up to the hype. Coffee nerds will celebrate knowing that they’re sipping an espresso from a café featured on the “Barista” documentary and non-coffee nerds will just be stoked about the freshly roasted beans, nitro cold brew, and Dynamo donuts. In case that doesn’t sell you: Founder Andrew Barnett was the judge at the World Barista Championship, so you know they’re passionate about creating the perfect cup.
SoMa, Lower Haight, and Mission
Sightglass has become synonymous with San Francisco's independent coffee scene. The operation all started in 2009 with a small cart and a few Chemex pots and has grown significantly. The siblings who run the business value green coffee and travel to the countries they source from before roasting the beans in-house. Right now all three locations are open from 8am to 3pm and serving almost the entire menu, plus pastries from Neighbor Bakehouse.
Before you go exploring in Golden Gate Park (also a great option for getting outside without sitting on top of everyone else -- looking at you Dolores Park), get your coffee fuel at Flywheel. Each cup is made to-order, the beans are roasted in-house, and the founder was raised on a coffee farm where he picked and roasted, so you know he takes this stuff seriously.
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