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SF cafe with free wifi and good lattes + food?

sf2nyc Jul 20, 2008 04:01 PM

Hi SF Hounds,

Here's my story and request -

I'm applying to business schools this fall, and need a cafe where I can work on my applications (so free wifi), get a salad/sandwich for lunch, and some great lattes/cappucinos/chai...you get my drift. Does it exist? I'd prefer not to go the Peets and Starbucks route.

I have a spot in NYC (Grounded on Jane St. - in case any of you are visiting, I highly recommend it), but I have to believe there must be something comparable in SF.

I'm coming back to visit family in CA for 2 weeks and getting anything done with family at home is challenging, at best. Hence, I need a spot where I won't get the evil eye for lingering for hours (I'll keep ordering caffeine every few hours of course). Any ideas?

I'm pretty much open to anywhere in SF.


  1. pavlov Jul 24, 2008 06:11 PM

    I miss Canvas.

    Kaleo Cafe, 14th - 15th avenues inner sunset on Irving. 12 ft waterfall, mellow hawaiian music. Ukele lessons monday. Free wi fi.

    The coffee isn't the best.. self serve drip coffee from airpots. No real "barista" but the coffee,espresso, mocha, cappucino (I am amped right now... sitting here) are all good enough.. at least for the free wifi.


    1. w
      whiner Jul 24, 2008 03:11 PM

      901 Columbus -- I love it.

      1. j
        junesix Jul 24, 2008 10:05 AM

        I like Golden Gate Perk. It's small, quiet and has very little foot traffic. The coffee is good (I think they serve Illy). They make sandwiches but the best is the Korean food - delicious bibimbap! And since you're Kearny Street, you have access to an entire street full of international cuisine.

        1 Reply
        1. re: junesix
          rworange Jul 24, 2008 02:58 PM


          Golden Gate Perk
          401 Bush St, San Francisco, CA 94108

        2. JulesSF Jul 23, 2008 04:22 PM

          I am still excited about my newest find in NoPa:

          Apollo Coffee not only serves great organic coffees, teas and yummy pastries in an airy modern space, but for lunch or dinner I also highly recommand the hot panini sandwiches - maybe along with a nice glass of wine, once it's time to turn off that laptop and call it a day ...

          Wi-fi is free, outlets are available - though I have to agree with some Chowhounds about the offset "power/space-use-versus-order-ratio" that unlimited free wi-fi seems to cause at some coffee shops lately ...

          Apollo Coffee
          1064 Divisadero Street, San Francisco, CA

          1 Reply
          1. re: JulesSF
            artemis Jul 23, 2008 04:58 PM

            of course! why didn't i think of that?! i blame bar study and heartily second this recommendation.

          2. Atomica Jul 22, 2008 07:46 PM

            Oh my goodness. How could I forget? Socha on Mission St. @ Valencia! Wifi, lovely space, quiet, wonderful lighting, open 8AM to 11PM, good coffee, and yes, good food. Salads, sandwiches (bread made inhouse), bagels, pizza, and sweet and savory baked goods (really excellent muffins). I have friends who work out of Socha quite a bit (alternating with Nervous Dog farther south on Mission--they have horrible food, but it's a pleasant place to hang out). What jogged my memory is the comment on wine and beer. Socha serves wine and beer too.

            Socha Cafe
            3235 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

            1. s
              sugam Jul 22, 2008 10:09 AM

              I would recommend going to Nook. Its the perfect little cafe with excellent salads and sandwiches. They have big windows and 4 small tables out on the sidewalk under the trees next to the cable car line.

              1500 Hyde St, San Francisco, CA 94109

              1 Reply
              1. re: sugam
                Windy Jul 22, 2008 06:12 PM

                Also, if I remember right, they have happy hour (wine and beer).

              2. Carrie 218 Jul 21, 2008 06:49 PM

                On the occasions when my in-house Wifi died (before I got TWO services), I would head over the Cafe Murano. Good couches and tables, free wifi, nice sandwiches (I like the Parma; prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, sun-dried tomatoes. $6.95), and free electricity.

                My ex-BF practically LIVED there and they don't even mind if you take a nap on the couch...

                Cafe Murano
                1777 Steiner St, San Francisco, CA 94115

                2 Replies
                1. re: Carrie 218
                  dreamsicle Jul 21, 2008 09:37 PM

                  I think Bittersweet Cafe has free wi-fi now as well. They use Blue Bottle beans in their coffee and espresso drinks. Don't think they offer salads or sandwiches, but it seems like they have homemade soups now ... plus there are always the chocolates and the pastries.

                  Bittersweet Cafe
                  2123 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94115

                  1. re: dreamsicle
                    Carrie 218 Jul 23, 2008 06:02 AM

                    I stopped by Bittersweet last night to double-check. Yes, they offer a single soup everyday (which was gone by the time I was there at 6:30 p.m.) but nothing else savory at all.

                    I found it odd that they would offer soup amongst all the sweets and nothing else, but since it was sold-out, maybe they are doing well with the concept and will consider expanding into other savories!

                2. c
                  chipman Jul 21, 2008 03:19 PM

                  Cafe Roma on Bryant, across from the Hall Of justice has good coffee, just ok espresso, but also offers fresh sandwiches, salads, and pastry. They do have free wi-fi.


                  1. pavlov Jul 21, 2008 02:48 PM

                    I really, REALLY miss Canvas. So much. Ugh.

                    Farley Bar "Farley's" in Sausalito... is that the Farley's we are speaking of? I know that bar serves espresso and offers free wifi anywhere on their property, basically.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: pavlov
                      artemis Jul 21, 2008 04:21 PM

                      i think it's referring to farleys coffee in potrero hill, across the street from chez maman and papa. a chill place, and there's hazel's sandwiches next door, which i think were pretty good.


                    2. s
                      sugartoof Jul 21, 2008 03:00 AM

                      San Francisco really excels at the cafe you can sit all day with a healthy snack kind of thing. You shouldn't have trouble finding options.

                      Ritual was my first thought, but the food is limited.(2nd location has salads, but it's usually open to the street, and noisy)

                      Check out Coffee Bar on Bryant St., Farley's in Potrero Hill, Dolores Park Cafe, Mama Art Cafe, The Beanery, The Greenhouse aka Pearls, Duboce Park Cafe, Momi Tobys, L's Cafe, Progressive Grounds, Royal Grounds in the Richmond, Reverie where Craigslist Craig hangs out, 901 Columbus Cafe, Nani's Coffeehouse, and Emma's Coffeehouse.

                      Depending on if they have wifi, there's Thorough Bread, Cafe Flor, the Boulange chain, Bean Bag on Divis, Frjtz, Higher Ground in Glen Park, Cavalli's in North Beach on Stockton, Squat and Gobble chains, Cafe Gratitude, Herbavore, Mario's Bohemian...and really the list is endless.

                      11 Replies
                      1. re: sugartoof
                        Windy Jul 21, 2008 07:18 AM

                        Farley's, Frjtz, and Thorough do not offer wifi.

                        Ritual has salads at Flora Grubb?

                        1. re: Windy
                          Atomica Jul 21, 2008 07:21 AM

                          They must be thinking of something other than Ritual, because Flora Grubb is neither open to the street nor noisy.

                          If Thorough offered wifi, that would be so perfect. I wonder if the coffee spot a couple doors down from them does. Then you could pop over for a sandwich at Thorough.

                          1. re: Atomica
                            Windy Jul 21, 2008 07:33 AM

                            Muddy Waters, which is a few doors down from Thorough, does at all its locations.

                            1. re: Atomica
                              sugartoof Jul 21, 2008 11:13 AM

                              Oh maybe it's not a ritual offspin after all. I'm thinking of a place on a side street that also has a red flag. It's a mostly wood interior. I want to say it's up the block from Lucca. Anyway, whatever that place is called, there's that.

                              The Muddy Waters near Thorough can be okay when it's empty. It can look like a Burning Man rehab clinic pretty quickly though.

                              1. re: sugartoof
                                Xiao Yang Jul 21, 2008 11:40 AM

                                If you are thinking of the Marsh Cafe, it's a spinoff of the Marsh Theater. Yelpers seem to thing it's the Anti-Ritual Cafe (in a good way). Yes, free wifi.

                                1. re: Xiao Yang
                                  sugartoof Jul 21, 2008 02:13 PM

                                  Marsh Cafe is another idea......

                                  ....but it turns out I was thinking of Revolution Cafe, which I've always associated with Ritual for the very fact that it starts with the letter 'R', serves coffee, and both have quasi communist themed logos. Oops. Anyway, Revolution Cafe is on 22nd, and it does have free wifi.

                                  1. re: sugartoof
                                    Windy Jul 21, 2008 05:47 PM

                                    Revolution has good hot chocolate too, and wine and sometimes live jazz. Unfortunately the open air seating means you inhale a lot of smoke.

                                    1. re: Windy
                                      Xiao Yang Jul 21, 2008 08:25 PM

                                      I'll remember that. As an ex-smoker, I like a little whiff of second-hand smoke now and then. But I think Gavin Handsome is trying to bring an end to that. Ah for the days of a Caffe Trieste doppio and a Gauloise Bleu!

                          2. re: sugartoof
                            Xiao Yang Jul 21, 2008 11:24 AM

                            Cavalli's has free wifi, as does Justa Bite, the aforementioned Eguna Basque and Cafe Roma, that I can think of off-hand in North Beach. Mario's has a subscription service provider. I don't think La Boulange in North Beach has wifi, but I think you can pick up Cafe Roma's signal from there.

                            1. re: sugartoof
                              sf2nyc Jul 22, 2008 08:37 PM

                              Thanks for the long list of recos sugartoof! I will certainly check some of them out. Any particular faves?

                              1. re: sugartoof
                                sf2nyc Jul 22, 2008 09:13 PM

                                Thanks sugartoof! I will certainly check out some of the places you mention. Any particular faves you recommend?

                              2. rworange Jul 21, 2008 01:39 AM

                                I've read Oakside Cafe is excellent for just such a situation

                                On Fourth near the train station and across from the Ball Park, Philz is good.

                                1. s
                                  sf2nyc Jul 20, 2008 10:27 PM

                                  Wow. Thanks all for the quick responses. I never knew laptop theft was so commonplace in cafes in SF. Granted I never understand the people who tell you to "watch their stuff" while they go to the restroom, I havent seen any stealing from cafes in NYC. Good to know, as I'd be quite oblivious and perhaps not so pleasantly surprised.

                                  From the responses, I'm a bit worried about Ritual now. Panera is okay, but I would really prefer something not chain-esque. I think I will give Nani's and Eguna Basque a go. Unless anyone has any other suggestions?

                                  Xiao Yang - I do like the outdoors, but I need someplace to plug in as my computer battery can't last more than 1.5 hrs.

                                  Thx again....

                                  14 Replies
                                  1. re: sf2nyc
                                    walker Jul 20, 2008 10:31 PM

                                    I see a lot of people way toward the back at Ritual and I believe there is little risk at the back.

                                    1. re: sf2nyc
                                      Windy Jul 20, 2008 10:35 PM

                                      There's no need to worry about Ritual (although they no longer allow you to plug into the outlets). And it's not loud on weekday mornings--more serious work crowd than weekends or evenings. But you have to go elsewhere to eat.

                                      Here's my coffee wars followup from last year.

                                      You might also check out CoffeeBar on Mariposa and Florida and Thinker's Cafe on 20th and Connecticut (good chicken salad).

                                      It's increasingly rare to find a SF cafe without wifi; the hard part is a place with good coffee and decent food.

                                      1. re: Windy
                                        walker Jul 20, 2008 11:03 PM

                                        Ritual no longer lets you plug into outlets -- ever??

                                        1. re: walker
                                          Windy Jul 20, 2008 11:10 PM

                                          They haven't in at least a year. Except possibly at the couch in the front window.

                                          1. re: Windy
                                            Xiao Yang Jul 20, 2008 11:22 PM

                                            It makes sense to me. A coffee shop has to make the nut, and needs a little turnover. And why give away free electricity? Four Barrel, I've heard, does not plan to have free wifi at all. From what I can see, some of those guys with their laptops out aren't doing any serious work, they're just showing off their plumage. Why should a coffee shop subsidize their mating ritual?

                                            1. re: Xiao Yang
                                              psb Jul 21, 2008 12:49 AM

                                              >It makes sense to me.
                                              i dont think anybody either considered this mysterious or outrageous.
                                              in fact what i thought was kinda lame was when people would pry off the
                                              weekend only covers to the outlets [the original plan before sealing them
                                              off full time].

                                              >And why give away free electricity
                                              i'm sure providing power and free wifi has an effect on
                                              "linger times" but w.r.t. to the electricity subsidy
                                              for laptops, in john mccarthy's words
                                              "He who refuses to do arithmetic is doomed to talk nonsense"

                                              how much do you think 2hrs of laptop power costs?

                                              even at california KWH rates. the ritual roaster "loyalty card"
                                              is more than an order of mag bigger "gift"/subsidy.

                                              if i work for 2 hrs on a laptop in your cafe, 5 days a week around the
                                              year and buy a $3 drink every time i am in there, at the end of the
                                              year, i will have given you $750 and you will have given me <$5 in
                                              power. that's less than a comped dessert ... think of it like a bar buyback.

                                              >From what I can see, some of those guys with their laptops out
                                              >aren't doing any serious work ...

                                              >Why should a coffee shop subsidize their mating ritual?
                                              do happy hours with say "free" food get your goat too?

                                              1. re: psb
                                                Xiao Yang Jul 21, 2008 09:37 AM

                                                "He who refuses to do arithmetic is doomed to talk nonsense"

                                                You're not "giving" anybody $750. A coffee shop has expenses, does it not? In an extreme case there might be a 50 percent profit margin for a coffee house (though I doubt that is possible with SF's labor and overvead costs), which means they'd be yielding 75 cents in profit for every hour you occupy a seat. The power consumption cost may be minute, but it adds insult to injury. (If you are only there for two hours, you shouldn't need an outlet anyway.)

                                                That's not an attractive business model, either for the owner or the non-laptop patron that ends up indirectly subsidizing the "office" space of the laptop-squatter.

                                                It's no wonder Jeremy Tooker is down on free WiFi.

                                                1. re: Xiao Yang
                                                  Ruth Lafler Jul 21, 2008 02:19 PM

                                                  Ah yes -- the right to subsidized office space. That's in the constitution, right? What a sense of entitlement some people have!

                                                  If a coffee house used to allow people to plug in and no longer does, presumably they have a reason for their change in policy. The cost of the electricity (not just yours, but everyone else's) might be one factor. Another factor might be excessive server charges from people uploading and downloading large files. But the fact that someone who is plugged in and not limited by battery power can stay indefinitely might be another. Buying one $3 cup of coffee shouldn't entitle to a customer to take up a table and keep it from being used by other customers -- customers who might go elsewhere if they can't find a table -- for a whole day.

                                                  And speaking of customers going elsewhere, while some people may enjoy turning their coffee house into an office, other people don't enjoy walking into a coffee house and finding the same atmosphere as the office they just left: people sitting by themselves working at computers. If more than half the tables are being occupied in that manner, then you might as well still be at work yourself! Coffee house owners want to run coffee houses -- convivial places where people can relax and enjoy themselves -- not quiet rent-a-workspace-for-the-price-of-a-cup-of-coffee operations.

                                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                    psb Jul 21, 2008 02:41 PM

                                                    no dispute that buying a $3 cup of coffee doesnt entitle you to take
                                                    up space for hours on end, but the marginal cost of the electricity
                                                    is not the issue ... do the math ... it is trivial. buying a $3 cup of
                                                    decaf doesnt entitle you to take a 2hr nap afterward either, and
                                                    the issue isnt whether you are snoring or not or charging your

                                                    yes you can be obnoxious bandwidth-wise, but i suspect the real
                                                    issue is whether the user is doing "bad things", not marginal bw

                                                    who is feeling entitled to subsidized office space?
                                                    the only thing coming close to that were the people who pried
                                                    off the outlet covers.

                                                    1. re: psb
                                                      Xiao Yang Jul 21, 2008 03:46 PM

                                                      "but i suspect the real issue is whether the user is doing "bad things"

                                                      Ritual Coffee House as Net Nanny???

                                                      I think the real issue is turnover (or lack of opportunity for same), and I don't blame computers per se, but general lack of consideration for others, and it's not just the Me-first Millenials. I always had a problem trying to get a seat at Caffe Trieste throughout the 60's because of the people who sat there all day wirting the Great American Beat Novel or reading the NY Times cover to cover -- on Sunday.

                                                    2. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                      Windy Jul 21, 2008 05:45 PM

                                                      I believe the primary reason Ritual started covering the outlets was turnover--people would stay all day and you couldn't get a seat, even if you shared a table. They have plenty of business so they can afford to set restrictive policies, including reducing the amount of seating and replacing it with sacks of beans.

                                                      Other less crowded cafes want to attract regulars and are more willing to supply outlets.

                                                      Jeremy was always the coffee guy, not the cafe guy.

                                                      Regulars at Ritual spend plenty. I always have--no one is getting a single cup and spending the whole afternoon.

                                                      1. re: Windy
                                                        sugartoof Jul 21, 2008 07:07 PM

                                                        Yeah you nailed it. The upside is the policy has decreased the dorm cafe feel there, and made it easier to get a seat.

                                                        1. re: Windy
                                                          Atomica Jul 21, 2008 07:56 PM

                                                          What I can't stand is all these single people with laptops taking over 4-tops for hours on end. I think they (Ritual, I mean) need to heavily encourage table sharing.

                                                2. re: Windy
                                                  Atomica Jul 21, 2008 07:16 AM

                                                  I think that rule applies only on weekends. Is my information old?

                                          2. m
                                            Mohit Jul 20, 2008 09:50 PM

                                            and the menu: http://www.naniscoffee.com/

                                            1. m
                                              Mohit Jul 20, 2008 09:45 PM

                                              I'd tell you to head for Nani's Cafe - not only does it meet your requirements - it's quiet and they have yummy sandwiches but above all - the two guys who run it are super super nice..
                                              2739 Geary Blvd
                                              between Masonic and Wood St
                                              (between Emerson St & Wood St)
                                              Ph:(415) 928-8817
                                              Mon-Fri 7:00 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
                                              Sat 8:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
                                              Sun 8:30 a.m.-3:00 p.m.

                                              1. Xiao Yang Jul 20, 2008 08:25 PM

                                                Another thought: If you're working daytime on a nice day, you might try the outdoor tables at Rulli Cafe in Union Square. There's free WiFi in Union Square (sponsored by the city) and Rulli has decent paninis and other noshes, plus good honest Euro-roast coffee (not that "3rd Wave" stuff). Some odd people around, but you'll find them at Ritual, too.

                                                1. Xiao Yang Jul 20, 2008 07:12 PM

                                                  Free Wi-fi seems to be pretty much SOP for indy coffee houses in SF these days, so the key is to find coffee and food you like. I was partial to Eguna Basque in North Beach for a good strong and fast wifi, a macchiato and a light lunch (if you consider a Croque Monsieur "light"), but I see they've repositioned themselves as a crepe restaurant though still with free wifi.



                                                  1. a
                                                    artemis Jul 20, 2008 06:38 PM

                                                    panera has been a real winner for bar study and has free wifi. they don't mind at ALL if you sit there all day and nurse a tea or coffee (free refills too!). i have never gotten even a hint of a look. instead, all smiles. and though you have to get up to order your food, you don't have to stand around waiting for it to be ready. they bring it to you, and they bus your table when you're done eating. there are electrical outlets everywhere; they know what's up.

                                                    the coffee is not good, but the tea is (and have as many tea bags as you like). and some of the food is pretty good too. is it chow? um... well, it's usually tasty, reasonably priced, and it gets walked to your table. would i go there for a sandwich alone? no. would i sit there for nine hours and eat two meals there? absolutely.

                                                    you can get there easily on the N or T. on weekends, park down the block from caltrain because the hourly zones don't apply.

                                                    1. w
                                                      walker Jul 20, 2008 06:09 PM

                                                      Try Ritual on Valencia near 21st Street; and, they have the very best coffee, in my opinion.

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: walker
                                                        artemis Jul 20, 2008 06:49 PM

                                                        it can get pretty noisy at ritual, which some people can't handle if they are trying to study/get work done, though some people thrive on it. also, the past two times i have been there (months ago and several months between each incident), someone has run in from the street and grabbed someone's laptop and run out, escaping with the property. in the most recent event i saw, the person was sitting at the table with her laptop in front of her and had just leaned down to get something out of her bag on the floor. in that moment, her laptop was stolen. maybe i'm bad luck, who knows. too bad, since it really is very good coffee.

                                                        though i wouldn't walk away from my laptop at panera (when ordering, take laptop and valuables, leave books), i am not worried about looking away either.

                                                        1. re: artemis
                                                          psb Jul 20, 2008 07:17 PM

                                                          i have been to ritual more than 50 times (probably approaching 100) and have
                                                          never seen a laptop theft there. on the other hand, i know somebody who was
                                                          stabbed and had his laptop boosted at a different mission cafe.

                                                          so i'd say:
                                                          1. the odds of getting your laptop stolen there is "low"
                                                          2. this is probably a "mission phenomena" and not that specific to RR

                                                          ritual coffee is decent, but if we're getting to "very best", i'd have to give
                                                          the nod to the Blue Bottle "chemistry lab" by the Mint.

                                                          note: lately the back half of the RR cafe space is filled with coffee bags ...
                                                          the number of seats has been cut back ... on the other hand, what's
                                                          left is still bigger than a lot of small cafes.

                                                          ritual also has reasonably long hours ... but again the issue there
                                                          is "meal food" is not an option, and the snack food is only ok.

                                                          i've been in the market for late nite + food + free wifi cafes too ...
                                                          and frankly i think you have to prioritize ... especially if you
                                                          are going to add location is SF, parking ease etc. e.g. free wifi
                                                          might be non-negotiable, but so-so coffee might be ok.

                                                          there is a cafe around on northbound/east side of guerroro between
                                                          16th and 17th that has ok sadwiches, ok coffee, free wifi ... i dont remember
                                                          their name. i think sugarlump on 24th quite bad coffee and would avoid them,
                                                          if coffee is a big priority.

                                                          i guess you could invest in a high gain antenna and just pick up a free
                                                          wifi signal in the neightborhood :-)

                                                          1. re: psb
                                                            xanadude Jul 21, 2008 10:12 AM

                                                            Cafe Petra is the one on Guerrero.

                                                      2. psb Jul 20, 2008 05:32 PM

                                                        maybe Cafe Los Cubanos in Laurel Heights.
                                                        [i havnt been in a while and i know they cut back their late night hours,
                                                        but assume they still have free wifi + ok food and coffee].

                                                        also parking is easy in that area.

                                                        there is a lot of food near ritual roasters, but the food options there are limited.

                                                        1. m
                                                          ML8000 Jul 20, 2008 04:25 PM

                                                          Try this: http://www.wififreespot.com/ca.html

                                                          Or enter free wifi san francisco in google...you'll get plenty of listings.

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