The 49 square mile city runs on caffeine like a junkie hooked on crack. Riddled with hundreds of cafes and with new ones springing up each week, a hot cup of Joe is indeed the holy grail of the city. Unlike the generic, blah mega-chains, all these cafes are unique, trendy, offer great coffee plus a hoard of other beverages (dairy substitute always available) and yummy food for breakfast to even dinner! The counterculture of SF cafes has attained somewhat of a cult status where anything goes from a quiet moment of introspection to germination of many a start-up. This is my attempt to showcase a slice of the city’s obsession with caffeine through the beauty and serenity SF cafes, which are synonymous with good food, a quiet getaway from the madness of the city, and a place to connect and converse. Much more than coffee, SF cafes represent a way of life. Here are my top 5 SF cafe recommendations to grab a drink and a bite to eat when in San Francisco. Also, don’t forget to check out my SF post on fun, cheap and free things to do. Finally, for all things food related, check out my partner post with Travel Dejavu on sampling local flavors in different countries in this blog post here.
SF CAFES: MAZARINE COFFEE
Starting the list with Mazarine Coffee, a new entrant to the cafe circuit in the city and quietly tucked in one corner of Market street (720 Market), a stone’s throw away from the craze of Downtown SF. Once you enter, you are immediately transported to an oasis of calm where you can stop and savor their beverages and made to order fresh sandwiches and salads. This cafe in inspired by the Mazarine library, the oldest public library in Paris, France which is not evident from the clean-lined industrial chic decor till you enter the quirky bathroom plastered with Penguin book cover tiles (being a testimony to the bibliophilic nod). Grab some lunch with chai latte (made with soy milk for my lactose intolerant belly), a melt-in-your mouth ginger molasses cookie, and made to order avocado toast and grilled cheese sandwich. They also have cute outdoor seating space with bright, cheery red chairs.
SF CAFES: CAFE ST. JORGE
Cafe St. Jorge (pronounced Hor-Hay), a charming Portugese cafe (the only one of its kind) in San Francisco is in the Bernal Heights neighborhood, which is cramped with good eats.The decor is delightful and beautiful white tags with blue floral borders (a nod to its Portuguese roots) are scattered every where. Get the hummus sandwich or avocado toast for a light lunch and wash it down with some almond milk (lightly sweetened with dates) or spicy ginger juice. As with all other SF cafes, this too has non-dairy substitutes for lactose intolerants or vegans. Also, did I mention, it has a cute seating area outside to enjoy the heavenly CA weather in winter?
SF CAFES: PRECITA PARK CAFE
Another gem in the Bernal heights neighborhood, harming Precita Park cafe ( because its directly opposite its namesake park), like many other SF cafes, serves breakfast (brunch on weekends), lunch and dinner and has plenty of options for all dietary choices in both food and drinks as well as fresh juices and smoothies. Settle down with a veggie sandwich on hummus and a seitan sandwich with chipotli aioli, with sides of chips. For those with a sweet tooth get one of their cookies and a small chai in soy milk (they also have almond milk for those who are soy-averse). The food is great, service was swift and the chic, interior decor is fun to look at. A great place to grab some grub if you are walking your pooch or are in the neighborhood.
SF CAFES: NOURISH CAFE
Vegans rejoice because SF cafes can serve all raw and vegan grub too! Nourish cafe is another entrant to SF’s thriving fresh, raw and vegan market and is tucked away in the beautiful neighborhood of Presidio heights. They serve soups, salads, sandwiches, tons of smoothies, juices and amazing desserts-all vegan and/or raw. I highly recommend their “tuna” sandwich made of “nut” tuna which tastes even better than the fish version. Check out their raw desserts and cacao balls as well for a sweet treat after lunch.
SF CAFES: RÉVEILLE COFFEE
What started off as a food-truck serving a cup of Joe has now spiraled into a mini chain with cafes all over the city, but the Reville Cafe outpost in the newly developed Mission Bay neighborhood, remains the headquarters with a chic interior, pretty round pink outdoor tables and a full brunch menu which is contemporary American. What adds to its charm is a stoic German made Probate, where lucky customers can catch some serious coffee roasting. Start off with some guava jam-cream cheese cubano popover to kick off brunch which is melt-in-the-mouth sumptuous. Wash down house made brown rice porridge with nuts, fruits and almond milk or a mushroom hash with toast and sunny side up eggs with your beverage of choice such as Fentiman’s rose lemonade. The portions are good for brunch and food is very tasty. The cafe has an impressive selection of drinks apart from the usual lattes and chai, including wine and beer. This is a great place to meet for brunch, hang out with your pooch or soak in some sunshine.
SF CAFES: YAKINIQ CAFE
YakiniQ Cafe in Japantown, much like it’s name has some really unusual treats to offer. The cafe is famous for its sweet potato latte, which is sweet potato puree made into a latte (infinitely better than a pumpkin spice latte) and can be prepped hot or cold, with or without dairy. They also have breakfast and lunch items to offer and lots of goodies for those with a sweet tooth-such as cheesecakes, macarons, pastries and mousse cakes. Apart from the sweet potato latte, they do serve their other speciality yuzu honey tea plus other kinds of lattes such as matcha green tea and nutella lattes (am yet to try the latter), but trust me the sweet potato latte is the ultimate deal and is my number one duty to haul my visitors there for a taste of this ambrosia. The cafe, although dimly lit, is comfy to the Y and has several seating areas divided into table/chairs and couches with sofas. The coffee table at the center is strewn with books and crayons for you to indulge in your childhood and color/sketch away. Plus there is a bookcase where you can recycle old books. Finally, there is a very cool chessboard there as well if you want to give those rusty brain cells a jog while sipping on your hot cup of Joe (latte/coffee/hot chocolate). Service is great and the baristas are very friendly and accommodating to your dietary needs. There is a small outdoor seating area (with a table and two chairs) in case you want to enjoy a cup of coffee or a bite or two with your pet. Yelp reviews and info on the cafe here.
SF CAFES: CAFFE GRECO
Finally, we zip to North Beach/Little Italy which is dotted with cafes all over. In a frothy foam of cappuccinos, espressos and macchiato, one that stands out is Caffe Greco, serving up coffee, fizzy drinks, hot chocolates, savory lunch items (sandwiches and salad) and their famous Italian desserts and gelato.Barring the one downside of being a cash only business, everything else is two thumbs up for this cafe, which is another local favorite. I love their decadent Tiramisu (hands down the best in the city) which is sinfully rich yet light and airy and their delectable, crunchy and chewy Panforte. I am not a coffee person but people swear by their cappuccinos and mochas. The cafe has plenty of space, lots of cool vintage posters on the walls and is open till late to accommodate your late night sugar craving. Another must stop by destination in North Beach for sure and my favorite place to take out of town-ers. Details and Yelp reviews here.
Like this post? Pin it here